Disclosure: This trip to LA and Disneyland for #TheLastJediEvent was sponsored by Walt Disney World. As always, the thoughts and opinions are my own.
It’s here y’all, it is finally Star Wars day! It’s been a blast sharing all of these interviews and behind-the-scenes from the Global Press Event (check out the links below). Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out in theaters everywhere today!
Today’s interview is all about Kelly Marie Tran AKA Rose Tico. She is a newcomer to the Star Wars franchise. But she is nothing short of amazing. Kelly was so incredibly authentic, and I could tell that she really was taking it all in. There are a lot of great life lessons she shared so it was hard to cut this interview down.
Her smile was infectious and I truly enjoyed the nuggets of wisdom she shared during this interview. I saw a tweet the other day that petitioned for her to be the next Disney Princess, and I have to concur with that.
I mean, how cute is she?!
The long journey to getting the role of Rose Tico
The first audition I had was back in 2015. At this point, I had been pursuing acting for about seven years. It took me years to just get a commercial agent, much less a theatrical agent. And 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…this is crazy. There’s no way I’m gonna get this. And so that feeling kind of traveled with me from the beginning to the very end. And 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.
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. I think that that served me in the end. It was a five-month audition process and it included a surprise chemistry read with John Boyega. The final test was in London with 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 trying to be present in all of it.
How did you find out you got the part?
I was still working my day job as an assistant. I got this call from my agent saying that Rian [Johnson] wanted to meet with me before the Thanksgiving break. This is November of 2015. I remember saying I had to go to lunch, and driving over to this meeting, feeling almost like I feel now. I had goosebumps and thought, ‘either he’s gonna be, like, you have it, or he’s gonna be, like, look, nice try kid.’
Going to that meeting, I was so nervous. I remember sitting in the waiting room and picking up the book that was on the table and casually reading this book. And then Rian got there, and he told me to come on up.
We go into this room, and at first, there’s a little small talk. Then he says… I want to offer you this role.
I had imagined this moment.
I’m gonna cry right now. I had imagined this moment for so long. And… Oh my god! This is crazy. 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.
And when it happened, I was so scared. I 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 that I would actually get there. There were definitely moments of just being so horrified. And then I finally got to set in London, after four months of not being able to tell anyone…and lying for so long to my parents and my family. I had to tell them I was living in Canada and that I was working on this small movie that no one had ever heard of. Finally, when we were there, and we were on set, it felt like home. It felt like I was in someone’s backyard making a small movie with my friends.
It 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 really work with people.
What did Star Wars mean to you growing up?
Star Wars is such a family-oriented thing. And so a lot of parents had seen the original movies and passed it on to their kids. When the first movies came out, my parents were still in a different country. They are both Vietnamese refugees. They aren’t from this world at all. They don’t work in entertainment.
This is a very weird thing that I think I am having trouble understanding. But they’re having a real hard time understanding. So growing up, I didn’t watch Star Wars. I was aware of it. I never really saw it. And I think that gave me this kind of wonderful freedom.
When I was auditioning for this movie I never thought to myself, How can I make this more like the characters that are so iconic to all these people? I had this gift of being able to look at that paper, and just be what I thought was honest, and what I thought Rian had written onto that paper.
Obviously after you get it, you watch all these movies, and there’s nothing but just amazement especially for those original films. You watch them now and they’re still incredible.
On what it’s like to be a strong female Asian role model in Rose Tico
The question was asked: 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?
I thought about that a lot. And it feels like such an honor, but also a lot of pressure. 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 everyday woman, essentially.
And these are 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, people like Poe 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. And if this character could mean anything, I really hope that she portrays the idea that even if you are someone who’s in the background… who’s not in the spotlight, who’s not a princess… you can still make a difference. You can still rise up to any challenge that comes to you.
On allowing herself to “be seen” more
Yeah! I absolutely can. Like I said before, I never thought that I would be in a position where I would be in a movie like this, and then possibly have a choice in terms of what projects I did next. I never knew that I would have a voice.
And so when I finished that movie, I ran away. For seven months I went to travel by myself. And I went to because I really wanted to center myself and really think about why I got into this in the first place.
There’s so much noise now. I didn’t want to be part of that noise if that’s possible. I just remember thinking how scared I was.
I wasn’t on social media for a very long time. And it’s because I was scared of being seen and being honest in that way. I think that Carrie [Fisher] was such a great example of just being seen always openly, honestly… unapologetically; not being ashamed of who she was.
I want to try as much as I can to be that way. I think that we live in a world where we tend to hide a lot of our flaws, and we try to put on makeup, and dresses, and all these things. If we all just were okay, and open, with all of our insecurities (’cause we all have them), and we’re all not perfect, then maybe the world will be better. So I’m trying to do that, and I’ll let you know how it goes!
How has this role changed you?
I love this character. I think that she’s amazing. I think that she’s different. A lot of the things that she goes through in this movie, I relate to on a personal level. I always knew what I wanted. I always believed in it. I always believed that if you work hard and you’re a good person, you will get where you want to go. I always believed that. But experiencing it is a whole different thing.
It’s really changed the way I look at the world. I really want people to know that if your parents are not in this world, if you have no connection to it, if it seems impossible, if you’re working four jobs to support it; you can’t pay off your student loan bill. If you’re worried about all that stuff and you still want to do this, keep going and put your head down. Ignore all the people that don’t believe in you. It’s possible. I believe that even more now.
Do you think Rose is envious of not being out there?
So she has an older sister named Paige who is in the forefront of the action. She’s a gunner, and she fights alongside Poe, who’s the hotshot pilot in the Resistance. I think that there was probably always a part of her that secretly wanted to be part of that. But I also think she’s really good at what she does.
I think is hard for people to realize. Right? We live in this world where everyone wants whatever’s flashy. Everyone wants to be in the front.
Rose is one of those people that really does understand that those people who are out there at the forefront of the action cannot be there without everyone else behind them.
You’d be fighting the First Order and your ship would just fall apart. This a metaphor for real life. You think I look like this in real life? No way! There are four to five, six to seven… there are a lot of people that get me looking like this. And it’s all the same thing!
I’m new to this movie world. A lot of times actors get so much credit for something that so many other people are working on. Even in this movie, Rian wrote it. All the people that created the sets, and the creatures; the stunt team teaching us how to fight! For everyone who’s out there in the forefront, the shiny place that everyone gets to see…there are hundreds of people behind them that put them there. So I love that Rose is kind of this metaphor for that, and I think she understands that.
Now can you see why I loved this interview so much? Afterwards, we got a few group shots with Kelly. And in one of them, she thought it would be fun if we joined in with her tears LOL
I loved chatting it up with Kelly Marie Tran. She was so much fun and I can’t wait for you to see her in action in The Last Jedi!
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