'The Last Jedi' will be 'groundbreaking': Kelly Marie Tran

While many characters in the new “Star Wars” film are holdovers from the previous movies, a new scene-stealing lead debuts in “The Last Jedi.”

Maintenance worker Rose Tico, portrayed by Kelly Marie Tran, plays an integral part in the Resistance, and shares some key moments with John Boyega’s Finn. It’s a big breakout role for the young actress, who previously had some smaller parts on TV and online.

amNewYork spoke with Tran about the film, which hits theaters Thursday.

Have you seen the movie yet?

I just saw it for the first time last night.

What did you think?

Oh, my god. Truly we were all so — all of the cast went to go see it together — we were so emotional.

That’s awesome. So tell me about Rose.

So Rose is a member of the Resistance. She works in maintenance. Her older sister is named Page. And Page is a gunner . . . who fights alongside Poe [Dameron]. So Rose has kind of been always in the background and in this film we kind of see her get pulled to the forefront of the action and we see how she deals with it. So, yeah, I can’t wait for you to see more.

You’ve worked a lot. But this is a big break for you. What does that feel like?

It feels like both an honor and a lot of pressure. “Star Wars” is something that is so much bigger than any one person involved. And from the beginning, I’ve always wanted to do it right, if that makes any sense. I’ve always wanted to feel like I’m doing it justice because so many people want to experience this thing.

What’s your background with “Star Wars”? Were you a big fan?

I was not. I think “Star Wars” is something that is very family oriented, a lot of people who have watched the first movies take their kids to see them or took their kids to see the newer ones. My parents were not too into “Star Wars.” I think that’s a cultural thing. So I actually hadn’t seen the films before auditioning for this movie.

Any of them?

Isn’t that incredible? Yeah, which actually gave me the ability to be free when creating this character, which was incredible. I was able to not feel like I had to make her something I had seen. So I think that hopefully you’ll see that she is sort of a new character in this universe, which I think is what Rian originally wanted when he wrote this character.

Tell me about how you digested all the past movies?

Everyone has been asking me this question. Well, I can say that I started with “The Force Awakens.” I started with that. And then I went to [Episodes] four, five, six, one, two, three. That’s how I watched them. And the reason why I watched “Force Awakens” first is purely because I got the role before “Force Awakens” came out. So I wanted to see that movie in theaters.

Did you have a favorite moment?

There are a lot. There are a lot of favorite moments. I mean I will say that I couldn’t believe how incredible those first films are still today. Just they totally hold up, and I think it’s because of the practical elements of those films and the way that they were shot and the characters. I really think “The Last Jedi” is also going to be groundbreaking. And it’s so incredible to be part of a franchise that is constantly pushing boundaries in terms of what is currently in Hollywood and what these films are doing. So it’s pretty incredible.

Are you prepared for the fandom?

I don’t know that I understand that yet. Only because this movie hasn’t come out yet. And even though I do feel like I’ve gotten a lot of unprecedented support from people that love “Star Wars,” no one has recognized me in my real life day-to-day. Only people know who I am when I am at a “Star Wars’ event, when I’m with the rest of the cast. So I’m only really known in relation to them. So I don’t think I truly have experienced what it’s going to be like because I can pretty much live my normal life. No one knows. Like, I go to Target and I buy my own toys and no one realizes that it’s me. For example, John [Boyega] and I were on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. I went out, bought the magazine and no one knew it was me.

What do you think about the merchandise? What’s your favorite toy?

Probably the [Funko] Pop! The little bubblehead. I’m obsessed with it.

What was your path to getting this role?

So I started at a really young age singing first, actually in choirs and stuff. And then as I got older, when I was in high school, I got into musical theater. And then from there I ended up going to school at UCLA. Well, before actually when I was in high school I was trying to get agents already and nobody wanted me. I’m not even talking about LA agents. I was living in San Diego. I couldn’t even get a San Diego agent. That’s how hard it is. . . . And then when I graduated, I was working three or four jobs at once and I was submitting to agencies and trying to get an agent. The first agent I got was a commercial agent and it took me years after that to get someone who would actually submit me to TV and film stuff.

It was really, really hard for me to get an audition for anything else and I often wonder if that’s due to just the fact that it’s hard or also the fact that on top of that, I am an Asian woman and there’s just not as much out there for me.


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