Kelly Marie Tran is not only a newcomer to STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, but to any film, period, and she made quite an impression on director Rian Johnson. During Johnson’s Q&A on twitter he said, “I’m most excited for people to meet Kelly Marie Tran, who plays this new character Rose. Kelly is an amazing person and she is so good in the movie and I love the character Rose. I can’t wait for people to meet her.” During THE LAST JEDI press junket, we met Kelly Marie Tran, and could instantly see what Rian Johnson was talking about. Continue reading for our interview with Kelly Marie Tran, what it’s like to be cast in STAR WARS as your first film, and what had her sobbing all over the table during our talk.
Kelly Marie Tran’s road to STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI was a long one. Her first audition was in 2015 and started a five-month process that included a screen test with John Boyega. “I never thought I would get the part,” Tran explained, “and that allowed me to be relaxed and just have fun with it.” When Rian Johnson called Tran back to the studio to offer her the role, she was stunned. Tran elaborated, “I was treading water for so long, I never thought I would get to the end of the lake. I had imagined this moment for so long, and thought I would be so ecstatic. I was silent. I never thought about what I was going to do when I got there.”
At that point, Tran broke into tears. Looking down at the table linens she said, “I cried all over this, I hope they get another one.”
Part of the reason she was so emotional was because she’s a relative outsider to the entertainment world. “My parents are Vietnamese refugees,” Tran explained, “they don’t know entertainment.” Throughout filming she had to lie about being in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI. Tran said, “for 4 months I told my parents I was in Canada making an independent film.” However, if she missed her family, she quickly regained a new one. “Being on set just felt like home,” Kelly said, “everyone was so welcoming and open; it felt like a family.”
So who is this new character Rose Tico? Kelly Marie Tran described her as an every-woman. In Rose Tico, we see the people who support the stellar pilots like Poe Dameron who get all the glory, and learn more about the role they play in the Resistance. Tran said, “Rose Tico is a mechanic, she doesn’t have any special powers, she’s not a princess, she’s just a character running around in the background. Rose portrays the idea that anyone can rise to the challenge and have an important role to play.”
Rose Tico has an older sister named Paige (played by Veronica Ngo), who is a gunner and fights beside Poe Dameron. Kelly Marie Tran says, “there’s a part of Rose that wanted to be a part of that, but Rose is really good at what she does. Rose is one of those people that understands the people on the forefront of the action wouldn’t be there without the people in the background.”
Kelly Marie Tran appreciates all the people working in the background. “Do you think I look like this in real life?” she jokes with us, “I have 4-7 people working to make me look good in the forefront. Everything you see, on screen, everywhere, there are 100s of people behind them that got them there.”
Tran is also aware of the pressure of playing a strong Asian female role-model. “I knew what it was like growing up in a world where I never saw myself in anything,” Tran says. Besides physical appearance, Rose Tico is someone Kelly Marie Tran can relate to on many levels. “A lot of things Rose goes through in her personal life I can relate to,” Tran says, “my parents are not of this world, I’ve had to work multiple jobs, been in a position where I cannot pay off student loans.” She went on to say how the role has forever changed her.
“I never thought I would be in a position to be in a movie like this, and have a choice about projects,” Kelly says. So after Star Wars, she ran away for 7 months to figure out the implications of the role and what she wanted to do. “I didn’t want to be seen,” said Tran, “and I was scared to be on social media for a long time.” However, there was another member of Tran’s new Star Wars family that served as an inspiration – Carrie Fisher.
“Something about Carrie [Fisher] that I really look up to is how much courage it takes to be yourself on a public platform,” Tran explained, “and that’s something that I am trying to do.” Carrie Fisher has become a role model for Kelly Marie Tran, and helped Tran accept and be herself. “I want to try to be as much like Carrie,” Tran said, “if we are OK with our flaws, the world would be a better place. Kelly Marie Tran ended with a thought about Carrie Fisher shared by many. “Carrie Fisher will always be an icon as Leia, but also as Carrie. She will live on forever.”
Something tells me the Star Wars galaxy has just gotten another strong, female icon. See why Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico is Rian Johnson’s favorite character when STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI opens on December 15.
A version of this story previously appeared on AdventuresByDaddy.com.