Disclosure: I was provided with an all-expense trip to LA by Walt Disney Studios to attend these events. All opinions are 100% my own.
Kelly Marie Tran walked into the room and immediately you could see the shock and the gratitude on her face and she embarks on a whole new exciting chapter of her life. We touched on just what the role of Rose Tico and being a part of the Star Wars family means to her in this wonderfully candid interview.
She started by confirming those emotions to us as she walked in ………. “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.”
Can you tell us how you got started in Star Wars?
At the time… The first audition I had was back in 2015 and at this point I had been pursuing acting for about seven years. Up to then, for one reason or another, it took me years to just get 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, 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.
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. I want to have fun with Rian in taking his direction. It was a five month audition process then the final test was in London in full hair and makeup.
How’d you find out you got the part?
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. Driving over to this meeting, and just feeling how almost I feel now. Like, I just have the goosebumps. He’s gonna be, like, you have it, or it’s gonna be, like, look, nice try kid.
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 soo casual. Then Rian got there, and he was, like, oh, Kelly come on up and we go into this room. At first there’s a little 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…(and she did). 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. Like, 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.
I never thought that I would actually get there. And so I never thought, oh, this is what I’m gonna do when I get there. There was definitely moments of just being so horrified. Then 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.
What did Star Wars mean to you growing up?
That is a funny question because I think I’ve heard Daisy say this, too. Star Wars is such a family oriented thing and a lot of parents had seen the original movies and passed that on to their kids. My parents, when the first movies came out, were still in a different country. My parents are both Vietnamese refugees, they aren’t from this world at all. They don’t work in entertainment. This is a very, like, weird thing that I think I am having trouble understanding.
So growing up I didn’t watch Star Wars. I was aware of it. I never really saw it. And I think that that gave me this kind of wonderful freedom. When I was auditioning for this movie I never thought to myself, oh, how can I make this more like something I had seen? 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 those original films. You watch them now and they’re still incredible, and how innovative they were during the time, and the idea that they were so groundbreaking when they first came out. I do think that they continue to do that in this film. In ways this film will also be groundbreaking.
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?
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. 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.
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.
What is it like to be part of the Star Wars merchandise?
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.
You’ve been trying to put yourself out there more. Walk us through that process…
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… myself. I really wanted to center myself, and really think about why I got into this in the first place and what does that mean?
I tend to overanalyze everything, but I do think it’s important to consider what you put out in there… into the world. There’s so much noise now. There’s so much of… look at me! Look at me! 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 because I was scared of being seen and being honest in that way. I think we talked about this before in the press conference, but I think that Carrie was such a great example of that, of just being seen always openly, honestly, unapologetically and not being ashamed of who she was. I think 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.
How has this role changed you?
I think that I don’t know how to date anymore. I think I had trouble dating before, but now I’m just kind of, like, if you’re talking about personal life, I feel I’ve never in my life had to think to myself, what would it be like if I had to question every person that wanted to date me in the future?
I love this character. I think that she’s amazing. I think that she’s different. I think that a lot of the things that she goes through in this movieI 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 because 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, like, 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, and if you keep going, and you put your head down, you just ignore the parties, and ignore all the people that don’t believe in you, I just think it’s possible, and I always have.
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. 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. She’s so good at what she does. And I think that she knows… Which is something… 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.
I think Rose is one of those people that really does understand that those people who are out there on the forefront of the action cannot be there without everyone else behind them, right? You’d be fighting the First Order and your ship would just fall apart and this is, I think, a metaphor for real life. A lot of the things that I’m doing now, like… You think I look like this in real life? Like, no way!
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. The way I look at it is four or five people, and, and even this movie, Rian wrote it. All the people that created the sets, and the creatures, and, and the stunt team teaching us how to fight! Like… Everyone who’s kind of out there in the forefront in this, like, shiny place that everyone gets to see. There are hundreds of people behind them that put them there. So I, I love that Rose is kind of this metaphor for that, and I think she understands that.
She also wanted a “crying” one since she joked about how emotional she was.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Official trailer – In theaters December 15, 2017
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