A couple months ago, WonderCon finally gave fans their first serious taste of the upcoming animated series Star Wars Rebels. The big news out of the show’s panel was Kevin Kiner’s return as the show’s composer (including a sneak peek at the show’s theme music) and for the first time, a look at a completed action sequence from the series itself.
But the most memorable moment, at least for some of us, was the appearance of the Perales family of California, fully and immaculately costumed as nearly the entire cast of the show we were just then really starting to learn about. Mom and dad Liz and Sal Perales played the roles of Sabine and Kanan, respectively, accompanied by kids Lizzy and Axel as Hera and Ezra, and even their teddy bear joined the fun with her own Chopper-inspired cap. The whole thing was perfectly amazing—so much so that they were invited onstage at the panel to show off, prompting a nervous “hope you like the show” from creator Dave Filoni.
Sometime later I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Liz and Sal on Twitter, and I finally had the opportunity to learn more about the family that launched a thousand snapshots. They were gracious enough to answer my questions, and even provided some exclusive photos to accompany this interview. For more pics be sure to check out Rogue Rebels, their official cosplay Facebook page. When not running from the Empire, Sal also works as a musician, and his personal website can be found here.
Might as well start at the beginning: Sal, the bio on your website suggests you’ve been a Star Wars fan since childhood. What are your favorite SW memories growing up? And Liz, were you an early adopter as well, or does Sal get the credit there?
Sal: I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know what Star Wars was. I’m pretty sure my first memory is walking into the theater into what must have been a Star Wars matinee late with my mother. My father had a tape he recorded when I was two years old in which we reenacted Return of the Jedi scenes. I just remember watching Jedi and Empire constantly while playing with my Star Wars toys.
Liz: Sal gets the credit on this one. Sal introduced the movies to me because I was desperate to find a way to change my passive managerial style. Princess Leia and Vader became my role models for managing people because I wanted to be a strong woman so I watched Princess Leia over and over because she was a strong confident woman. I remember quoting to my employees “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
I know the two of you have cosplayed together before; was WonderCon your first time as a family? How did that aspect of your fandom develop, and how much time do you spend crafting any given outfit?
Sal: I think our first time as a family was last years SDCC. Liz and I were Aayla and Vos respectively and the kids were Jedi younglings. We have done many events since then together. I sort of always had a Quinlan Vos halloween costume that I eventually turned into something better and cosplay worthy. We started cosplaying because we could use our love of Star Wars for charity and community events and do it as a family. We spend a great amount of time making our costumes. We aren’t very experienced with costuming but we pay very close attention to details and researching our references. Now that we belong to cosplay groups we talk to other costumers about learning new techniques or ideas to make our outfits better.
Liz: Sal & I have two children, Lizzy & Axel. I believe is our duty as parents to teach our children that in order to continue to grow as individuals we must help others through volunteering either at charity events or in community events. So, when I learned that we could continue to do charity events as a family but now dressing up like our favorite Star Wars characters my mind was blown. The whole family looks forward these events every weekend : )
It’s great to hear that you mix your cosplay with positive efforts like that–and very admirable from a parenting standpoint. What kinds of charity events do you participate in, exactly? Any causes close to your heart that you’d like to plug?
Sal & Liz: We are members of a few Star Wars fan groups that make a lot of appearances for charity or community. One weekend we’ll do a birthday party for a donation to a charity, the next we could be at a marathon for a photo op. It really varies. Last weekend we were at the Paul Biane Star Wars Day which was great fun for everybody. We really had the chance of a lifetime at Benton’s Make-a-Wish in which we were able to train a young boy as a Jedi. It was more than an appearance because we actually taught him Jedi philosophy and lightsaber techniques in character. Another was an appearance we made at a young girl’s house named Shay. Shay was diagnosed with brain cancer and was only five years old when we visited her. We joined a small troop of characters which more than half were women. They wanted to show her that women could be strong heroes as well. She really seemed to connect with my kids and our teddy bear Victoria. Sadly she passed soon after our visit but her parents have started a charity in her name. www.ShayStrong.com is a charity that helps raise awareness of pediatric brain cancer and sends care packages to other children and families who have suffered from brain cancer. Her family is wonderful and we’ve tried to stay in contact with them to continue to champion Shay’s cause.
I can only go by the photos on this, but having grown up with an older sister myself, it’s especially cool for me to see how much all four of you seem to be into it—sometimes with family cosplay it’s very easy to spot the person who got dragged into it kicking and screaming. How has Star Wars fandom been a bonding experience for all of you?
Liz: I think it has united us as a family even more. We all work on building our costumes together and during the events we all have fun. Sometimes it can be stressful when we have to make sure the kids are ready for an early event or because the little one does the same amount of roughhousing and getting dirty as he does in any other clothes.
Sal: I think we all have fun portraying our characters and meeting new people in them. We all have our favorites and part of the fun is brainstorming ideas for who or what we want to be next. I think the kids are really happy when they get to wear a costume of a character that they really connect with and to be recognized as them.
While we make an effort to cover the whole spectrum of fandom, Eleven-ThirtyEight will always have a special place in its heart for the books and comics of the Expanded Universe. Having seen your Quinlan Vos/Aayla Secura cosplay, I suspect you’d agree. Tell me a little about what the EU has meant to you; how long have you been following it and how big are your bookshelves? How do you feel about the decision to tell a different story in Episode VII?
Liz: To me it doesn’t make a difference. They are all still great stories and I’m looking forward to whatever is coming.
Sal: I will always remember the Legends. But I completely agree with the need to tell a new Star Wars story. It’s what we want. The Legends are wonderful stories that I think of as anywhere from inspiring and fantastic to the occasional less than stellar. The way they have gone about in calling them Legends really makes the statement that they love and respect what was built as well. I still suspect we’ll see a lot of Legends becoming canon in the same way that a lot of EU became canon with Clone Wars. And the move forward in keeping everything one unified timeline is what we fans have wanted for decades. I can’t wait for the new stories and I’ll always keep my favorite Legends close to me canon or not. There’s still plenty of room on my bookshelf for new Star Wars right next to the old.
Obviously you’re all very excited for Rebels, but what are some of the kids’ favorite characters so far? Are they fans of Ahsoka and company from The Clone Wars? And Sal, do they ever read your books and comics with you? I for one would kill to have had a parent with an EU collection growing up.
Sal: It really varies. Axel is a big fan of both Boba Fett and Jango Fett. He really seems to like bounty hunters. He also likes Tomcat from Jedi vs. Sith and obviously he loves Ezra. He seems to gravitate toward younger characters, maybe costuming has something to do with that. Lizzy has always loved Ahsoka. She also really likes Darth Bane, Jaina Solo, and Princess Leia. I have so many favorite EU stories that I really try to share it with them. Often on a long drive I’ll toss on an audiobook. I love to read stories to my family. In fact I really take it next level and I’ll do voices for every character, sound effects, the whole nine yards! Nowadays Lizzy will jump in and she’ll do all the girl voices and I’ll read all the boys. We listened to Path of Destruction in the car and Lizzy liked it so much she asked me for the other two. Surprisingly the one I read to most is my wife. Every night I’ll read her to sleep with a comic book. Right now we’re really liking that new Star Wars comic series!
Another thing I’ve talked about a lot is the need for greater diversity among Star Wars characters. As a family of color, is race something you’re conscious of when choosing to cosplay as Quinlan or Sabine or Kanan? Was it heartening to see such a diverse cast of characters in Rebels, and do you think Star Wars has a responsibility to move in that direction?
Liz: I honestly didn’t think about that when choosing our characters. For Aayla I just thought she was a kind, wise, and strong Jedi who was somebody who was inspiring. With Sabine I really like that she’s smart, feisty, she has an artistic side to her, and she is fighting the oppression of the Empire and although it’s a new character I can already tell that she is someone who helps others. One of the things about Star Wars is you can be a hero no matter who you are, or a villain for that matter. I paint myself
blue for Aayla so I could easily paint myself a darker skin tone if I wanted to. With today’s technology I can change my eye color, hair color, and even put Lekku on my head. That’s all part of the challenge.
Sal: I am actually very happy with diversity in Star Wars. Especially compared to other Hollywood movies. Star Wars is one franchise that has heroic men, women, aliens, and even droids. I think Filoni said it best when he said he never set out to make strong female characters, he just made strong characters that happened to be female. It doesn’t really factor into my costume decisions too much because I feel I connect with my characters personalities and appearances.
Lastly, do you have any ideas yet for future costumes, or are you sticking with the Rebels gang for a bit? And where can fans expect to run into you later this year?
Sal & Liz: We will be at SDCC for sure but I guess just check our FB page for anything else. Future costumes.. maybe. I always wanted to be the guy that just does all of Quinlan Vos’ costumes but I always thought I might make a good Jariah Syn…. Liz has always wanted to do a Stormtrooper…. Lizzy is about a young Jaina’s age…. Axel’s Ezra hair also matches another young bounty hunter….
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Thanks once again to Sal and Liz for speaking with me, and more importantly, for being hands-down the very best kind of Star Wars fans. If these guys are the future of this fandom, we are in excellent shape.