Kelly Marie Tran is the newest face of the Star Wars Universe and I couldn’t be happier for her. Relatively green to the industry and acting as a whole meeting her at the Star Wars: The Last Jedi Global Press Event was truly a joy. She had a few emotional moments during our interview and I love that about her. I hope she has the same exuberance throughout her career. Now let’s get to the interview:
Q: How are you doing?
Kelly Marie Tran: “You know? I am feeling a lot of emotions. I feel like I’m feeling every emotion on the spectrum. But it’s good. I’m just trying to take in every moment, and really be present here, you know.”
Q: Can you tell us how you got involved in the Star Wars Universe?”
Kelly Marie Tran: “The first audition I had was back in 2015. And at this point I had been pursuing acting for about seven years. And up to then, I… For one reason or another, I couldn’t get… I mean, it took me years to just get an, a commercial agent, much less a theatrical agent. Then it took me years to begin auditioning for commercials and then into TV. I never could get into the room for movies. This is probably one of the two or three movie auditions I ever was allowed to go to.
So that first audition came in, and I remember thinking, like, okay. Like… This is crazy. There’s no way I’m gonna get this. So that feeling kind of traveled with me from the beginning to the very end. It served me, because I was so sure in my mind, and in my heart, that I wasn’t going to get it, that I was free to be present and have fun.
There was none of this, like, oh my god, I’m gonna get this. There was none of that. It was, like, there’s no way in hell I’m gonna get this. I’m just gonna have fun with the people who are here. I want to have fun with John, like, at this test. I want to have fun with Rian. Like, in taking his direction. I think that that served me in the end. So, yeah. It was a five month audition process. It included a surprise chemistry with John Boyega. Then the final test was in London in, like, full hair and makeup. There was this set that they had built. It felt like we were shooting the movie. And the whole time… And still now, I’m just still trying to be present in all of it.”
Q: How’d you find out you got the part?
Kelly Marie Tran: “Yeah. So I was still working my day job. I was working at an office. I was an assistant. And… I got this email from my agent, or a call from my agent saying that Rian wanted to meet with me before the Thanksgiving break. This is November of 2015. And… So remember saying I had to go to lunch. Driving over to this meeting, and just feeling, like, how almost I feel now. Like, I just have the goose bumps, and I was, like, oh. Either he’s gonna be, like, you have it, or it’s gonna be, like, look, nice try kid. Just wanted to say, good job. Which was possible! And so… I was so nervous going to that meeting, and I remember sitting in the waiting room, and picking up the book that was on the table and being, like, I’m gonna casually read this book. I’m so, so casual. Then Rian got there, and he was, like, oh, Kelly. Like, come on up. We go into this room. At first there’s, like, a little o’ small talk. How are been? What have you been up to? Dadadadada. And then he says… I want to offer you this role. I had imagined this moment.
I’m, like, gonna cry right now. I had imagined this moment for so long. And… Oh my god! This is crazy. I’m sorry. I had imagined this moment for so long, and I thought that I would be so ecstatic, and I’d be jumping up and down. When it happened, I was so scared. I just was silent for a full minute. I was just staring at the floor, like, oh my god! I was treading water for so long, I never thought I would get to the end of the pond. Or the lake. Whatever it’s… I don’t know, I made that up just now.
I never thought that I would actually get there. So I never thought, oh, this is what I’m gonna do when I get there. And so yeah, there was definitely moments of just being so horrified. When I finally got to set and I got to London, I mean, after four months of not being able to tell anyone… And just lying for so long to my parents and my family, I had to tell them I was living in Canada. I was working on this small movie that no one had ever heard of. Finally when we were there, and we were just on set, it felt like home. Like, it felt like I was in someone’s back yard making a small movie with my friends, which was…Says a lot more about everyone else involved than about me. Everyone was so welcoming, and open. I don’t know that as an actor you could have a more fulfilling experience than that. Just the ability to collaborate, and, like, really work with people. So yeah. Does that answer your question?”
Q: So the character of Rose has done so much for diversity in film and changing our perspective of Star Wars. What are you hoping that Rose’s character accomplishes once we actually see her in action, for yourself and for future Star Wars generations, who now have a strong female Asian role model to look up to?
Kelly Marie Tran: “I thought about that a lot. It feels like such an honor, but also a lot of pressure. This idea that… I mean, I knew what it was like to grow up in a world where I never saw myself in anything. I would like to hope that in some way… this character is such an example of… someone who doesn’t necessarily belong in this world. She works in maintenance. She works behind pipes all day. She’s not a star pilot. She doesn’t have magical powers. She’s not a princess. She’s someone who is just an every woman, essentially and these people that… You don’t necessarily see in these stories, but that are so crucial to… the idea of the resistance. Without these people that are fixing the ships, like, Po couldn’t go fight the First Order! So of course they’re important. But no one ever really sees them, or talks about them. They’re always just running around in the background. If this character could mean anything,I really hope that she portrays the idea that even if you are someone who’s kind of in the background who’s not in the spotlight, who’s not a princess… you can still make a difference, and… You can still rise up to any challenge that comes to you.”
Q: What is it like to be part of the Star Wars merchandise?
Kelly Marie Tran: “Ooo! It’s bizarre. It’s really insane. I don’t know that I understand it at all. I feel like whenever I see something with my face on it, I’m just, like… That’s not me. It’s like a very… out of body experience. And because this movie hasn’t come out yet, and because I think I’m just, like, very normal looking, and I dress very normal in everyday life, I’ve never been recognized outside of being in association with the cast. Like, if I’m at an event like this, obviously people are, like, she must be this person because she’s with that person. But other than that, everything in my life is really normal. Like, I run outside, and I go to the grocery store, and no one’s ever recognized me. So having merchandise, and, and things like that, it doesn’t register with me still. I don’t know that it ever will. I’ll have to let you know.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
“In Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Skywalker saga continues as the heroes of The Force Awakens join the galactic legends in an epic adventure that unlocks age-old mysteries of the Force and shocking revelations of the past.” The film stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman. J.J. Abrams, Tom Karnowski and Jason McGatlin are the executive producers. Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in U.S. theaters on December 15, 2017.