FSM Media

by Dianna Ranere

Interview: Gwendoline Christie on Understanding Captain Phasma

Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

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. 

Gwendoline Christie aka Captain Phasma is a striking woman, not only in appearance but in wit. I had the pleasure of attending the Star Wars: The Last Jedi press conference and listening to her responses to questions she blew me away. She is very eloquent. I looked forward to getting to speak with her in a smaller setting during our cast interviews.

Captain Phasma © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Captain Phasma commands the First Order’s legions of stormtroopers.


On Captain Phasma in this film and how she has changed

In the first film, Phasma is an enigma, isn’t she? She’s a mystery. She turns up out of nowhere; she has this very confrontational, threatening presence, and that’s sort of compounded or emphasized by what she’s wearing- by this suit of armor which is entirely practical.

I think there’s something about those characters that are masked, that we want to see what’s behind the mask. In the world that we live in, we are met with a deluge of information all of the time, and the idea of having that moment- the sort of suspension of disbelief where you have the space and are forced to wonder who is this, and who are they, I was very attracted by that.

So we do see more Phasma in the film, and what we see is her resilience, her need to fulfill an overriding sense of revenge, and we see something that we don’t commonly see in female characters which is that we see this- and it manifests itself in different ways, this violence that comes from deep within her. That’s something I find interesting about this character is that women are not conventionally supposed to have a violence that comes from deep within.

Image: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

On how the costume informs the character of Captain Phasma 

I was actually lucky enough to be given a couture suit, so the armor was made to fit my dimensions exactly because in the first film, no one was quite sure about this character. I think initially they thought that possibly the character could be male, and then the decision was made that it would be more interesting for the character to be female.

I just loved that we maintained the practicality of what she was wearing. Everything you’re given, as an actor, informs you, and working with all these different people and what they think about the character, and how they’ve executed that creatively, informs you who that person is. So, of course you put this armor on, and you feel rigid and uncompromising.

As an actor, you have the challenge of just how to move which I’ve spoken about before- just walking becomes a challenge, but you realize that that person is exerting a great deal of force just to move, and that force is coming from within. This is something they’ve elected to do is to dress this way. The idea of the senses being shot down, and sometimes entirely, that’s an interesting choice to make as a person, and in this case, as a female to elect to have all of your senses shut down- to exist entirely practically.

So I was really fascinated by that. There’s a certain amount of strength and flexibility one needs, and I’m lucky enough to be working as an actor. With someone like Captain Phasma, she has a degree of strength that has to exist muscularly, so she is a strong person, physically.

On Reading the Captain Phasma novel 

I’m reading it at the moment. I’ve been very lucky to be really busy and so will tell you is that on my breaks from Game of Thrones on set, I’m reading the book. I’m reading it off my phone because otherwise people are gonna ask me constantly about what is happening. But it’s brilliant.

It’s genuinely so good and that it just explains so much about the character. Rian and I had sat down at the very beginning- I felt very privileged that the director wanted to sit down with me and say, what do you think, the way he did with everyone in the cast. You formulate your own ideas about what is the character motivation, and as an actor, you have to have those motivations in order to be a human, otherwise it’s just a series of kind of facts and nobody feels any connection to that.

Image: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

On what color lightsaber she would have in real life

I think it would be pink, [LAUGHS], because of what that represents? It’s a pink ribbon that represents wanting to stand with the further research into breast cancer,  the idea of pink and the pink pound with the gay community which is a community I’ve always had a strong relationship with, and also because it’s kind of a double-edged sword. When something’s pink, you think it’s soft and fluffy, and then, whoop, I just cut your head off. [LAUGHTER]


Training for the role of Captain Phasma

Well, something really wonderful happened which was that I was reunited with the brilliant stunt director/stuntman, C.C. Smiff. C.C. Smiff taught me to fight on Game of Thrones at the start of season two when I was first starting the show, it was C.C. that taught me to fight- to swordfight, (he) was with me in all of those scenes when there was fighting, and sometimes when there wasn’t, because I was concerned about executing the physicality of that character. He’s the person that made me enjoy it; that gave me the spirit, you know, to say, I’m gonna commit to this fully, so to be reunited on a Star Wars film, and to do something incredibly difficult, you know, exceptionally difficult, and for him to push me to go further, and for him to be there.

He’s the person that helped to give me the courage in the first place, to say you can do more than you ever thought, physically, and to do it with a great deal of humor, and charm, and humanity. He’s a man always sort of without ego, as well. I mean, what an amazing, an amazing teacher. But also recognizing, which I think is the most important thing- how to keep you safe, and when to keep you safe because I’m lucky enough to have never broken or bone, and I would like to keep it that way. 

Image: StarWars.com

Preparing mentally for the role

Well, she’s a person and you think about why people behave the way that they do. Often people that behave in a malevolent way, it’s because that’s the base of it- they’re fearful, and the fear overtakes them and it can manifest itself in a total loss of empathy. And that the total loss of empathy causes the person to only think about themselves and their own needs, and their own brain space becomes about how they feel attacked, and how they’re going to fight back.

It also becomes about the individual rather than the needs of the group. When someone exists like that, it can be those that are liberty, and those that have spirit, and are unafraid to be who they are, that those people want to eradicate; that they want to hurt.

It’s great to see an unconventional woman be the hero, even for a moment. Even if it is fleeting; even for a moment that the opportunity to play the opposite of that where someone like Brianna Toth has the strength, and it comes in, it’s in every essence, every fiber of her being- someone like Captain Phasma, it’s in every fiber of her being- the need for ambition; the need for revenge; the need to be ultimate; the need to destroy.

A woman as a destructive force when women are seen as mother– whatever that means which is a multidimensional thing, I truly believe. I do- that inverted; the opposite of that fascinated me, and I felt like the opportunities were limitless.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi Official trailer – In theaters December 15, 2017