Dee Bradley Baker On The Bad Batch Season 2 And The Return Of Commander Cody [Exclusive Interview]

"The Clone Wars" TV show was a stunning animated series that improved on all the big mistakes made by the "Star Wars" prequels, getting audiences to care about Anakin, introducing Ahsoka, and making the fall of the Jedi feel tragic and inevitable. Then there are the clones, who become truly standout characters in that show. That was due in no small part to Dee Bradley Baker, the unsung hero of the "Star Wars" prequel era. The actor managed to make every single clone feel like an entirely different person with distinct and personality and motivation.

Baker one-ups himself in "The Bad Batch," the spin off to "The Clone Wars," in which Baker essentially plays the entire cast. Of course, you wouldn't tell from judging how different each character sounds from one another.

Going into season 2, the show is changing its status quo. Jumping forward a few months after the destruction of Kamino, Omega and the Batch have grown to be more of a unit and rely on one another. Meanwhile, we see the return of some old friends and enemies as the clones start to reckon with the fallout from the war and their current role as enforcers for an oppressive empire.

/Film got the chance to speak to Baker about season 2 of "The Bad Batch," the return of Commander Cody, and more.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Cody returns

Now that a season has passed, are you more comfortable with the characters? Has that affected your performances in this season?

Yeah, it becomes a little bit easier to jump into these characters with these guys, and as they add more and more characters, which the second season does, to keep it afloat and to keep it distinct and to keep everyone as their own clear character. So yeah, it's getting a little bit easier as they up the ante all around.

This season, there are also some returning characters, like Cody. How was that, revisiting that character, but at a completely different point in his life?

It's really exciting to bring back Cody. I know there are always a lot of fans for Cody, and his story is particularly interesting in how that plays out, so it was really great to jump back in. I haven't run into Cody for quite a while now, but he's definitely back in a way that's going to be very exciting for the fans.

There's a bit of a conflict between clones realizing that they're doing bad things, and within the Bad Batch in terms of whether they should be doing more. How does that affect your performances for each of the clones?

Well, it's a very interesting background that's playing out with these clones, both with the Bad Batch and the other clones like Rex, as you've mentioned, where they, first of all, need to find their footing in this completely flipped situation in the galaxy. And then, beyond just finding their footing and being able to sustain themselves, the question is, "What are we to do? Where are we to put our focus? Is it merely to be just staying alive and surviving, or selfish gain? Or is there a larger story that's playing out that needs to be attended to?" And this increasingly becomes the focus of the second season, which makes it bigger and better and a lot more thrilling.

A new Batch

How do you add that to your performances for each of the characters? How do you play with that sort of internal struggle that we don't see physically?

Well, the beautiful thing about how they play out in the script, in the storytelling, is that it is not all just action. It's not all just an immediate survival situation, that there are larger political issues that are playing out that bear very directly on the lives of these characters. So you have scenes where it's very low key and they're just talking through it, or it's a very emotional scene. And it's small, so from my standpoint as an actor, there's a greater range of dynamic in terms of what story is playing out and the acting required for the story that's being told. So it's a much more interesting, increasingly subtle and affecting kind of a story because of that.

We see now Omega being more integrated in the group, and even though she's still a kid in a situation that is not meant for kids to be in. How does that affect the dynamic between her and the Bad Batch?

Well, it's interesting to see how Omega is maturing, and also how her relationship and the dynamic of the Bad Batch is also filling out and establishing itself; that they're not only training her and teaching her, but they're also increasingly relying upon her, not only to solve problems and to help out with tasks, but also to envision where they're going and what they're doing. So increasingly, she is viewed and treated in a more adult manner as she grows into, well, what is her family. And so, that becomes increasingly interesting as well in the second season. [laughs]

But not a permanent one

The dynamic of the Bad Batch changes a lot this season, even in terms of memberships. How does that affect them?

It's interesting to watch the dynamic of the Bad Batch change as they lose characters or as they gain characters. And for Omega, this is the central reference point for her life. And so, being a child, she deals with these things in a much more direct emotional manner. The Bad Batch themselves are trained soldiers. They're definitely affected and feel the tide of change as it affects their group, but they don't have it up on the table, front and center, like Omega does. That continues to play out in really interesting ways, in really affecting ways, I would say, as she handles and manages the comings and goings within the Batch.

As you say, the members of the Batch don't really express themselves outwardly. How does that affect your performance? The fact that you're only using your voice, but adding that internal struggle.

Well, the beautiful thing about doing this show is that it's collaborative. I am the vocal performance, but there's a few hundred other really wonderful artists that bring their talents to bear on every single frame of this. And I was watching this carefully, too — there's a lot of acting that happens that is not just me. They block out the animation before my performance, and then they craft the animation to my performance, so it's generating from that.

But there's a lot of visual reaction and internal movement that's happening that's really beautifully animated and lit and blocked out and shot by the entire team. So the acting in this is a very collaborative effort and the results are quite cinematic. They're really quite beautiful, and it's really fun to be an actor in such a collaborative manner. It's very different from on-camera, and I think the fans and the people that view this new season are really going to be impressed by the range of what they get to experience and the places that they get to go in this new season.

"Star Wars: The Bad Batch" season 2 premieres on Disney+ on January 4, 2023.