Alum Athena Portillo: From 'Star Wars' Superfan to Executive Producer

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

VARIETY -- As Portillo grew up, she knew that she wanted Star Wars to be a part of her career. She studied Journalism while going to school at San Francisco State University and got her foot in the door at Lucasfilm with an internship for a newsletter produced by the licensing division. After awhile she moved into visual effects, still longing to be involved in actually producing Star Wars content. That’s when an opportunity opened up in Lucasfilm’s new animation division. But the position wasn’t for a Star Wars property; it was for the animated feature Strange Magic. And that’s when a little Star Wars magic happened.

In addition to Strange Magic, Lucasfilm Animation was also working on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the franchise’s first foray into television animation, spearheaded by Dave Filoni.

Filoni noticed Portillo’s unique license plate, “Jedi 96,” teasing her that she was working on the wrong project. “He’d tease me about my license plate and asked ‘What does the 96 stand for?’ I’m like, ’96 is when I started my career in the entertainment industry,’ and he said, ‘You are such a nerd. I don’t know why you’re working on a show about fairies. You should be working on Star Wars.” Awhile later, an opportunity opened up. “I started working on Clone Wars with Dave in January of 2007, and I have been working with him ever since.”