Meeting Taylor Gray, voice of Ezra Bridger from Star Wars Rebels, you quickly realise he is immensely likeable. The sort of person that makes friends easily, speaks confidently and intelligently, and has the bearing of someone much older than twenty-four. Perhaps it is a by-product of living the charmed life of a member of the Star Wars family, and all that entails, having granted him experience beyond his years. Appearing at the Wales Comic Con on 21st April 2018, I asked Taylor about Rebels, and some of the other things he is involved in now that Ezra’s story has apparently come to an end.
What’s a normal day like for you? “There’s no such thing”, Taylor laughs, “acting is always something different.” Taylor gets up early to surf, off the coast of California, before driving to work. The trip to the set is spent mentally putting on the character of the person you’re portraying, like a costume. “Arriving you head straight to your trailer and wardrobe, and get dressed, to become whoever it is you are that day. At the end of the day you can put your clothes back on and go back to being Taylor again. Doing Rebels was one day a week, working with the cast altogether in the studio, and that was four years like that.” The next thing Taylor is doing, is based in Utah for two months shooting a live action drama called ‘In The Vault’, which just got picked up for a second season.
Were you able to give input into the character of Ezra in Rebels? “At the very beginning we collaborated on the creation of Ezra. He hadn’t existed and therefore it’s a brand new character to bring to life. After the first season it was amazing working with Dave Filoni the creator, a genius, hes such a great director.” Taylor is speaking quickly now, bubbling with enthusiasm at the mention of Ezra, and positively beaming as he recalls Dave Filoni. “You would have a line or a scene and do it a certain way, he would say ’embrace that, run with your instincts, you know this character now’. All the lines were there but you had the creative freedom to change things up as you see fit. it’s a nice creative trust, in the collaboration, in your actors.”
What is it like acting into a microphone? “It’s a bit weird because my background is all live action I was so nervous coming in to start. On the show (Rebels) a lot of people come from a live action background.” Taylor smiles as he recalls his time on Rebels. “The very first day I remember we recorded the first scene and I was doing all the lines and I would look at everyone as I had been trained to do. I’d say my line and look at Sabine, and look at Kanan. They said ‘great take everybody but Taylor would you mind looking at the microphone when you say your lines’.” “It was a learned thing, to understand you had to say your line into the microphone for them to pick it up. I had to learn how to bring across emotion. The way I had been taught, you have so many tools to use in a performance, but in voice acting no matter how much I convey it only comes through in your voice so I had to learn how to have the emotion come through from my voice alone.”
What has playing Ezra meant to you? “Taylor started playing Ezra when He was 18. “You’re trying to become a man, become a complete person, the best person you can be, and if that’s not the path of the Jedi…it’s a great parallel.” “I’ve learnt so much from the character of Ezra, and that’s a testament to the writing of Rebels. How to be a selfless person. I bring parts of Ezra to my life, and parts of my life to Ezra. It’s been a bit of a symbiotic relationship, it’s meant a lot. It was such a fun time.”
Ezra’s defining moment is his struggle with the dark side. By the beginning of season three we can see Maul’s influence is starting to take root. I asked Taylor what he thought about that storyline. “Everything is based in reality and that’s part of why Star Wars is so big, we can all see ourselves in that.” Taylor describes the stories taking place in a far off galaxy with creatures we’ve never seen before, and the issues that we’ve all dealt with as people everyday and the enjoyment of watching it in that way, with those characters and those stakes. “I think we’re all tested at times by what the dark side may be, and there are easier paths, easier ways to go about life. While you may have more immediate results it doesn’t beget overall happiness and satisfaction.” He explains that is something we see Ezra learn, but when you’re young, as a child you may not understand things to that extent. “It was a huge storyline and a huge part of his growth. He could have gone off that way and he didn’t and that’s what made him into a much stronger Jedi.”
Taylor has enjoyed a fantastic start to his career, working on one of the biggest properties in the world. It can’t hurt to have Star Wars on your C.V. What does the future hold for this star on the rise? “My background is in live action so that’s also where most of my work since Rebels has been.” Rebels was the first voiceover work Taylor had done, and he is starting to do a bit more. “I’ve just done a new virtual reality video game, Chiaro and the Elixir of Life for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. I must have recorded about five thousand lines of dialogue because it’s a role playing game, so there’s consequences of all the various choices the player can make.” He also plays a sorcerer on the Netflix reboot of She Ra (sister of He Man). “She Ra was kind of a big deal so hopefully it will be again. It’s fun to act, and get out there, I look forward to every job.”
Do you have any of the Ezra toys and things at home? Taylor laughs again and says he does. “You come home and find Lucasfilm has sent you a box with some of those things in.” So you don’t have to go shopping for your own action figure yourself? Taylor smiles, “That would be a little weird.”