Ming-Na Wen (MULAN, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.) is a HUGE Star Wars fan – so much so that she even brought up The Star Wars Holiday Special in The Bad Batch MidSeason Press Roundtable! Several Star Wars fan sites, including ours, gathered together on June 22, 2021 through magic Zoom technology to discuss Ming-Na’s role as Fennec Shand on Star Wars: The Bad Batch. We also had a roundtable session with writer Jennifer Corbett and director Brad Rau (separate article here).
Wen plays the fierce, manipulative bounty hunter in multiple Star Wars properties. She first portrayed a live-action Fennec in The Mandalorian Seasons 1 and 2, and now reprises her role in voice acting as a 20-years-younger Fennec for The Bad Batch. No stranger to voice-acting, Ming-Na is best known for her role as Mulan in Disney’s MULAN (1998). She is Disney, Marvel and now Star Wars royalty.
Ming-Na Wen on Star Wars Fandom
Talking with Ming-Na was like having a slumber party with your closest Star Wars friends. She is a Star Wars fan through-and-through. Prompted by Bryan Young (Star Wars Insider), she shared a story about her first experience on set for The Mandalorian.
“The Force, it became a religious experience. When I got on the set of the Mandalorian and that Volume lit up and it was Tatooine with the binary sunset, you should have seen how much I freaked out. I asked the AD to take a picture of me looking at the twin suns. I cried, I literally cried.”
When George Bate (Star Wars Holocron) asked what other medium (besides a Disney+ series) she would like to see Fennec, Ming-Na paused for a moment, then a goofy grin spread across her face.
“Anything, anything at all. Bring back the Holiday Special! Of course, If I got to participate in any cinematic release of a film in the future that would pretty much make me pea in my pants! I’m just excited to see the dolls and the toys coming out. I’ve collected Star Wars toys since I was little, so this is insane, it’s unbelievable.”
I think all of us would feel the same about that level of involvement in Star Wars! On a side note, we were so giddy that Ming-Na mentioned The Holiday Special, as we specialize in it! But enough about her fandom, let’s get down to business (yes that was an intended Mulan reference) and dive into Ming-Na’s voice acting process for Fennec.
Bringing Fennec to Life Through Voice Acting in The Bad Batch
Knowing how much a fox informed her hair, attitude and wardrobe in The Mandalorian, I asked Ming-Na Wen how foxes informed her voice acting. We were then treated to a sultry representation of Fennec from Ming-Na herself. Her answer is transcribed below, but I urge you to watch the video clip as well, so you can hear her dulcet tones.
“I watched a lot of videos of foxes, especially fennec foxes. There’s a slinkiness to their walk and they’re loners. And they listen – the fennec fox has huge ears. They’re very very alert and aware. Fennec can read people really well, except for that one time with Toro…[from The Mandalorian episode 5]. So for the voice I wanted to kind of give a little bit of that quality to her. There’s a more elongated, slinky rhythm that came from the fox. So when she talks there’s a little bit of an exaggeration and a stretching of words here and there and whenever she does speak there’s a pointed reason for it.”
Digging a little deeper into her process, Mark Newbold (Fantha Tracks) asked what she does differently to portray Fennec of the Mandalorian era and Fennec of The Bad Batch era – 20 years separate these stories on the Star Wars timeline.
“As actors we have to draw from ourselves and infuse our own life experiences and soul to a character to bring them to life. I know that the 22 year old me is very different from me now. But at the same time I’m still that geek nerd girl that when I get on a Star Wars set and see those new toys I geek out and freak out like I would if I was a teenager. So those are the elements I try to bring out in the younger Fennec. There’s definitely less experience, more ambition, more of a drive to prove who she is and make her mark in the world. Her energy and her focus and her tactics might be a little more raw and different. And I give her a slight pitch change but not too much. The difference between her and a more seasoned Fennec is in the energy.”
As with many projects created during 2020, the process had to be modified to contend with the pandemic. Dan Z. (Coffee with Kenobi) asked about this process.
“Because of COVID, they brought in all this equipment and I had to set it up in my home. And the only place I found to be really good for sound buffering was in my closet b/c of all the clothes. So I did this season of Bad Batch in my closet. So you have to bring this character to life with your imagination, when you’re surrounded by your clothes!”
Next time you watch The Bad Batch, pay attention to the nuances in Fennec Shand’s voice and listen for the slinkiness, elongated vowels, pitch and energy. Then imagine Fennec in a closet! Actors absolutely create art and do everything they can to contribute to the story.
Fennec Shand in the Star Wars universe
Many of us fans were upset when Fennec Shand was unceremoniously shot and left for dead by newbie Bounty Hunter Toro in The Mandalorian – Season 1 episode “The Gunslinger”. Her character had been so hyped up by that point in conventions and media that we instantly shared our collective disappointment in podcasts and social media. David Yeh (Endor Express) asked about this series of events. It turns out that Ming-Na Wen built upon this fan response and proved to be as sneaky as a fox when it came to the longevity of her character in Star Wars!
“When Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni offered me this role I was really excited because I’ve tried to manifest this moment my whole life where I get to be part of the Star Wars universe. But when I read the script [to “The Gunslinger”] and she dies I was just like, ‘oh…that’s kinda sad…’ But you realize, hey, this might be the only opportunity for me to participate. So I took the job, Dave directed and we discovered that we had both grown up in the same town and went to the same High School. I might have used that as a little bit of an edge to try to guilt him into keeping Fennec alive! But I’m really hoping that it’s between them loving the character, what I brought to it and the fans’ reaction to the character when the episode aired, that all this other stuff transpired. I’m so grateful and happy.
A hot topic right now, Teresa Delgado (Fangirls Going Rogue) asked how Ming-Na felt to be representing an Asian character in Star Wars.
“It’s kind of funny, Jimmy O. Yang always says, ‘it’s not really my choice to be representing. When you’re born Asian and you look Asian, you are representing by default.’ That said, I think it’s wonderful and I’m so thankful that the fans like her. I hope that this sort of success story will only encourage them to create more Asian characters and more diverse characters.”
We hope so too, and with that – we look forward to the future of Fennec Shand in Star Wars The Bad Batch. Does Fennec care about Omega? Will we see this? William Devereaux (Ion Cannon) wanted to know.
“[Fennec] is good at reading people and manipulating. And playing a certain quality to invite herself into that particular person’s trust. I’m not sure how sincere and genuine her care for Omega is, or does she just see her as a bounty or a gig she had to fulfill? I’d like to think there is a quality to that character that she connected with Omega in a certain way, but we’ll see…
That last comment was given with a sneaky grin, and we can only imagine what will transpire as The Bad Batch ramps up for it’s final 7 episodes of Season 1.
The Bad Batch is available now on Disney+, with new episode streaming every Friday through August 13. Be sure to check out our Midseason Press Roundtable session with writer Jennifer Corbett and director Brad Rau (separate article here).