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Star Wars

Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s Kelly Marie Tran talks about her inspirations and meeting C-3PO

Asian American actress, who plays Rose Tico in the film, worried she would never land a decent role, but thoughts of her parents’ struggles kept her going to auditions, and it paid off when she landed the part in the blockbuster

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 December, 2017, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 December, 2017, 6:15pm

Before she joined the Star Wars universe, Kelly Marie Tran nearly lost all hope she’d ever make it as an actress.

Tran – who plays newcomer Rose Tico in the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi – had been stuck in a full-time office job a few years ago and was regularly attending casting auditions that came to nothing.

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But any time she thought of quitting, she used her parents’ struggles as an inspiration.

“My parents are refugees from Vietnam, and they spent their whole lives working towards a reality where my sisters and I would have choice,” says Tran, 28. “That was it. My parents never had the luxury of having a dream.

“I remember thinking I was living for multiple generations, and if I wasn’t pursuing something that made me happy, if I wasn’t really living to my fullest, then I wouldn’t be doing them justice.”

Her persistence paid off in an astronomical way in 2015, when Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson cast her as Rose, following a five-month audition process.

Tran’s working-class journey somewhat mirrors that of her character, as Rose works a non-glorious job as a maintenance worker for the Resistance before embarking on an adventure with John Boyega’s Finn.

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“She’s someone who’s used to being in the background of the Resistance, and in this film … she kind of gets pulled to the forefront of it,” says Tran.

Rose is the first major female Asian character in a Star Wars film – a reality Tran views as an honour and a responsibility since the character provides representation for a new demographic of fans.

The entire experience has been a dream come true for Tran, even though she’d never watched a Star Wars film in its entirety when she auditioned.

“I do think from the bottom of my heart that it was the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Tran says of not seeing the films beforehand.

“Because I hadn’t seen these films, I was able to create an honest character and someone I don’t feel was influenced by the enormity of what this franchise already is.”

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Tran has since watched the films, and come to appreciate being part of the galaxy.

“Walking on that set, even that first day, and being in my costume and having my hair and make-up done, and then turning and seeing Finn, and then seeing Poe, and then seeing C-3PO and getting a hug from him,” says Tran. “All of those moments, it’s otherworldly.”