Behind-the Scenes of “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” with Writer Steven Melching
Recently Skywalking Through Neverland had the opportunity to speak with Steven Melching (writer on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Rebels, Resistance). Typically writers are more reserved and introverted. Not Steven! Melching revealed several cool tidbits and new information we’ve never heard before about fan-favorite animated Star Wars episodes.
Melching grew up loving stories, especially the ones taking place in a galaxy, far, far away. Unknowingly, at an early age, Melching prepared himself for his lifelong dream of writing for Star Wars. All those years spent developing his storytelling prowess helped Melching’s hard work pay off.
Melching would go on to build an impressive resume. Writing for Batman, Transformers, He-Man, TMNT, Power Rangers, RoboCop, and several Marvel titles. Eventually, Melching would find himself writing for his first love, Star Wars. Melching has writing and story editing credits on The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Resistance.
Steven Melching’s Introduction to Star Wars
Steven Melching has been a Star Wars fan since the earliest days. So when asked about his introduction to Star Wars, Melching looked back on that day with fondness and clarity.
“My earliest memory of Star Wars was when my dad showed me the local newspaper that had a still photo of R2-D2 and C-3PO (that famous publicity photo of them standing on the desert of Tatooine), and he said there’s this movie coming out called Star Wars. And we went into the movie, and as soon as it started, that first iconic shot of the Star Destroyer passing overhead, my jaw dropped and stayed dropped the whole 2-hours while watching the movie.”
Steven Melching’s Love of Storytelling
During the interview, in a fun moment, Melching pulled out his Alien Kenner movieviewer and reminisced about watching Alien as a child. When he spoke about the nightmares he had after watching the film, it became apparent how active Melching’s imagination really was. Melching also talked about voraciously reading anything and everything he could as a lover of stories, which fueled his later life as a writer.
“As a kid, I always loved stories. Whether I was reading stories in a comic book or a book or watching them on TV (I only saw a handful of movies when I was younger), but I just love stories. I love experiencing them. I loved dreaming them up when I was playing with my toys. Then after I saw Star Wars, it was like, yeah, I definitely want to do that! So I just started consuming everything I could about the making of movies and tv shows, and Star Wars in particular. There was a TV special, The Making of Star Wars, which is a terrific special that was hugely influential to me.”
How Did Melching’s Career Begin?
“I started in 1993 at my first professional work in animation for the X-Men: The Animated Series. I had a meeting with Catherine Winder, who was the first producer on the early seasons of The Clone Wars, and I met with her at a coffee shop, and we talked for about an hour and a half. It was a really good conversation, and I didn’t get the job because Henry Gilroy got the job, and rightfully so. A couple of months later, I was contacted by Catherine and Henry, wanting a writing sample, and long story short, they hired me to write a freelance episode. And the first episode I wrote was part 2 of the 3 part opening story, The Castle of Deception series, which became the movie ultimately. That’s how I got involved. Right place at the right time and maybe the right attitude.”
It’s always good to keep the right attitude, especially when you’re not enjoying something as much as you’d like. However, it’s still a job that is your responsibility, with your fingerprints on it, so why not put your best foot forward? It’s a quality Melching keeps throughout his career in animation.
Melching’s Greatest Contribution to The Clone Wars and his favorite Easter Egg…
“The one I’m probably the most proud of is Rookies. I’m so proud that those characters endured through The Clone Wars and now all the way through The Bad Batch. Another legacy from that show, the clones are listening to a radio broadcast, and they talk about dedicating a song to The 224th slugging it out, the mud jumpers slugging it out on Mimban. The 224th is a reference to my birthday February 24th.”
It’s safe to say Melching helped write some of the most emotional episodes of The Clone Wars.
The Clone Wars characters Steven Melching helped to create…
“It’s hard to say that I created the characters; I just like to say maybe I was the first one to write for them. I named Hevy and Echo, and Henry named Fives, as I recall, so getting to write those characters and seeing them continue. Clone trooper Denal is actually my middle name. I just flipped the syllables.”
Melch the Ugnaught…
“We were in the writer’s room for breaking that episode. Filoni is a little prankster, and we’re talking about this little ugnaught sidekick for Hondo, and he kind of gives me a sly look, and he’s like and his name is Melch! HAHAHAHA And he just cackles maniacally. So I get to be an ugnaught. So I go on the record, I did not name that character after myself. It was Filoni’s idea.”
Aah! The perks of writing for Star Wars. You get to be an ugnaught!
As a writer, you leave a little bit of yourself in your work. With that in mind, Melching spoke about his most personal episodes of The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Resistance.
“Rookies, I think, because that was when I really had to dig deep. All of the episodes that we had written or that had been written at that point for The Clone Wars were about the Jedi. So Rookies is really sort of an important episode in the evolution of The Clone Wars in that they were very early episodes in the show, so the seeds were always there for giving the clones distinct personalities.”
Steven Melching talks about writing on Star Wars Rebels…
Onto Star Wars Rebels, and one of the best moments in the entire saga, Twilight of the Apprentice. Melching talks about the writing process in this mind-blowing episode.
“I came on to Rebels in season 2 after The Clone Wars after they announced the new Star Wars show. They would fly up the freelance writers that they were going to use for that batch of episodes to Skywalker Ranch, and we would stay on the ranch property at the Inn. When we got to the season finale Twilight Apprentice, Simon was supposed to write that episode, but he was really busy, so they brought me in to help out with that two-parter and for that episode. It was a great experience getting to work on that, and I knew it was going to be.”
Many people will agree that Twilight of the Apprentice is some of the best Star Wars out there, and I’m one of them. Melching continued to talk about Dave Filoni’s deep understanding of the Star Wars universe.
“That is a testament to Dave Filoni’s deep understanding of the material. I don’t think there’s been anyone that understands Star Wars as well as Dave besides George himself.”
Speak, Maul, Speak!
“It was more about finding Maul’s voice and what he was going to be like at that point in his life, given everything that he’s gone through. And of course, Sam Witwer, who does the voice of Maul, gave an incredible performance. He’s always fun to work with.”
The pressures of writing the Star Wars Rebels finale…
“By that point in seasons 3 and 4, I was hired full-time as Story Editor to sort of be Henry’s full-time number two as he was the Head Writer/Co-Executive Producer, so I was very much involved in every story from season 3 and 4 in terms of brainstorming ideas with the core creative group, to helping manage the writers room and to help with rewrites and all that sort of thing.”
What advice does Steven have for up and coming writers?
“Whatever media you’re trying to work in, you got to finish the script and preferably more than one, and you know if it’s television, you’re probably going to want an original piece of a TV material like a pilot.”
What is Steven Melching working on these days?
“Recently my last show was Dota: Dragon’s Blood on Netflix, which is based on the video game, and we have a new season of that show coming soon. I don’t know when yet, I believe it would be before the end of this year. I’m working on another series that has not yet been announced, so I cannot say what it is, but I think it will be announced within the next week or two. And I host a couple of podcasts, ones called Cartoon Barroom, that I co-host of Ashley Edward Miller, who was the screenwriter of Thor and X-Men: First Class, as well as tv shows like Fringe and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. And I do another podcast with Ashley called The 4:30 Movie, where we curate a fantasy theme league of movies based on the old afternoon 4:30 movie that would be on when you got home from school.”
Be sure to check out the entire interview on episode 338 of Skywalking Through Neverland or listen below.
All episodes of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels are streaming on Disney +.