From Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones to Captain Phasma in Star Wars, Gwendoline Christie has created iconic roles in television and film. One of the things that drew Gwendoline Christie to Star Wars was precisely because Captain Phasma was polar opposite from Brienne of Tarth – oh, and Phasma’s shiny armor too. Gwendoline Christie sat down with us during THE LAST JEDI press event, and was so thoughtful about her work and characters. Continue reading for more of Gwendoline Christie’s contrasts between Brienne of Tarth and Captain Phasma as well as her thoughts on the portrayal of women in the Star Wars universe.
At its core, Star Wars is a foundational story of good versus evil. The story resonates today because our world is a changing and evolving place but retains the simplicity of that dichotomy. Gwendoline Christie noted, “I love Brienne of Tarth, a character with a strong moral compass who gets to be the hero for just a moment. In Star Wars, I get to play a character that is just the opposite of that – Captain Phasma has the need to destroy, be powerful, violent – is something totally different.”
That type of power, violence, and malice is not typically seen in female characters and drew Gwendoline Christie into the role. “You get to see women being strong not just because they are acting like men,” said Christie, “I’m delighted that something as legendary as Star Wars has decided to be modern and reflect our society as it is.”
Without revealing much Gwendoline Christie hinted we will see much more of Captain Phasma’s character arc in THE LAST JEDI. She added, “in the first film Phasma is an enigma, she has a threatening presence, compounded by the suit of armor, and we want to see what’s behind the mask. For THE LAST JEDI, we see more of Phasma, we see her resilience, her need to fulfill an overriding sense of revenge.”
It’s clear Gwendoline Christie has empathy for Captain Phasma, and wants to understand what brought the character to this point. “People behave in a malevolent way because they are fearful,” explains Christie, “the fear overtakes them and manifests as a total loss of empathy that makes them think about only themselves, their own needs, how they feel attacked, and how they are going to fight back. At this point it’s about the needs of an individual, and not the needs of a group.” Time will tell if we learn just what has made Captain Phasma so afraid.
The striking costume design is a large part of the character of Captain Phasma. “The costume designer on The Force Awakens (Michael Kaplan) was from the original Blade Runner,” Christie explained, “and it (Phasma’s armor) was just so shiny.” However, the costume also informs the acting. In this case, the armor entirely blocks the senses, makes you rigid and uncompromising, challenges walking, and requires great strength and force just to move. Gwendoline Christie noted, “Captain Phasma has a degree of strength that has to exist muscularly, and there’s a certain amount of strength and flexibility that you need as an actor.”
Developing that strength and flexibility requires training that re-united Gwendoline Christie with C.C. Smiff, swordmaster and stunt supervisor on Game of Thrones. “C.C. Smiff taught me to sword fight on Game of Thronesat the start of the show. Brienne of Tarth is a woman with a different strength and configuration than Gwendoline, and C.C. Smiff put me on a path so that training is a part of my life. Now I’m reunited on a Star Wars film with the person (Smiff) that gave me the courage that I can do more than I ever thought I could do. He was the person that made me enjoy the training, and gave me the spirit to commit fully.”
Speaking of people with spirit who committed fully to life, Gwendoline Christie ended our discussion reflecting on Carrie Fisher.
“She (Carrie Fisher) was very significant. I was first shown a new hope when I was 6; and that character was very different. She’s really interesting, smart, funny, courageous, bold, and doesn’t care what people do. That was instrumental to me as a woman who doesn’t feel like they fit into that mold. You can be inspirational, be yourself, without making a big compromise; playing the character Phasma in The Force Awakens I was excited that her femininity was not defined by the shape of her physical elements.”
Gwendoline Christie brings Captain Phasma’s destructive force back to the screen when STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI opens on December 15.
A version of this story previously appeared on AdventuresbyDaddy.com.