This was quite possibly the most sincere and adorable interview of all time. Kelly Marie Tran is humble, appreciative, and just so real. I wish we could have hung out with her all day. Huge thanks to Louise Bishop of MomStart for taking all the photos during our interviews. This experience was part of an all-expenses-paid press junket. All thoughts and opinions shared on this blog are my own.
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico
We started the interview simply by asking how she’s doing. Her reply: “You know? 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.”
You could see the shock on her face. The inner struggle to embrace every moment, yet let each one carry her away. It was precious.
Can you tell us how you got started in Star Wars?
Kelly Marie Tran: “The first audition I had was back in 2015. And at this point I had been pursuing acting for about seven years. For one reason or another, 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. 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 ‘Okay, This is crazy. There’s no way I’m gonna get this.’ 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 like, oh my god, I’m gonna get this. There was none of that. I 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 [Boyega] at this test. I want to have fun with Rian, in taking his direction. I think that that served me in the end. It was a five month audition process. And it included a surprise chemistry test with John Boyega. Then the final test was in London in 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’d you find out you got the part?
Kelly Marie Tran: “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. So I remember saying I had to go to lunch. And driving over to this meeting, and just feeling, like how almost I feel now. I just have goose bumps, and I was, like either he’s gonna be, like, you have it, or it’s gonna be, like, look, nice try kid–just wanted to say, good job. Which was possible!
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 so casual. And 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 have you been? What have you been up to?’ And then he says, ‘I want to offer you this role.’ And I had imagined this moment. I’m gonna cry right now. [Tears stream from her eyes.] I had imagined this moment for so long. And… Oh my god! This is crazy. I’m sorry. 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 just 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 I would get to the end of the pond. Or the lake. I don’t know, I made that up just now.
I never thought that I would actually get there. I never thought, oh, this is what I’m gonna do when I get there. So yeah, there was definitely moments of just being so horrified. And 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. And finally when we were there, and we were just on set, it felt like home. It felt like I was in someone’s back yard making a small movie with my friends, which 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?
Kelly Marie Tran: “I’ve heard Daisy say this, too. Star Wars is such a family. It’s such a family-oriented thing. A lot of parents had seen the original movies and passed 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 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 that gave me this wonderful freedom. When I was auditioning for this movie I never thought to myself, 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. 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. It’s been a weird, long journey.”
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?
Kelly Marie Tran: “I thought about that a lot. 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 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.
“I grew up in a world where I never saw myself in anything. This character is such a great example of… an “every woman.” She works in maintenance… even if you’re not in the spotlight–not a princess–you can still make a difference. Rise up.” #KellyMarieTran #TheLastJediEvent
— Jennifer & Shelley (@MagicalSiblings) December 3, 2017
You don’t necessarily see these people in these stories, but that are so crucial to the idea of the resistance. Without these people that are fixing the ships, 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. You can still rise up to any challenge that comes to you.”
Do you think Rose is envious of not being out there?
Kelly Marie Tran: “She has an older sister named Paige–who is in the forefront of the action. She’s a gunner, and she fights alongside Po, 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. I think that she knows that. 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. Everybody wants this, this, and that. And 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. You’d be fighting the First Order and your ship would just fall apart. This is a metaphor for real life. A lot of the things that I’m doing now. You think I look like this in real life? No way! There are four to five, six to seven–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 this movie, Rian wrote it. All the people that created the sets, and the creatures, and the stunt team teaching us how to fight! Everyone who’s out there in the forefront in this shiny place that everyone gets to see. There are hundreds of people behind them that put them there. So, I love that Rose is this metaphor for that, and I think she understands that.”
— Jennifer & Shelley (@MagicalSiblings) December 3, 2017
She was so cute–for our group photos she insisted we do some where we’re all crying.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Gift Ideas
The Nerf Rival Apollo XV-700 – Star Wars Mandalorian Edition Blaster and Face Mask is an out-of-this-world gift idea. It comes in a beautiful box with artwork throughout the inside and is super high quality. Find it exclusively at GameStop.
In theaters December 15th!
Check out this new video of the worlds in The Last Jedi:
Don’t forget to come back for more interviews and Star Wars: The Last Jedi coverage!