Kelly Marie Tran on Joining the Star Wars Galaxy

For actress Kelly Marie Tran, the chance to play Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a life-changing opportunity. And while she’s been on a whirlwind journey of press tours and award ceremonies ever since, we love how Kelly has stayed true to herself and the many things that she’s passionate about. So we’re very excited to chat with her for this week’s “Because I’m a Lady,” and learn more about what the jump from fan to actor has been like for her, her love of porgs, and the advice she would give to her younger self.   

When did you know that you wanted to be an actress?
At a really young age. I started singing first actually, and I wanted to be a singer at first. It always felt really impossible to me, because I didn’t come from a world where that was something people were pursuing. So, it’s been a really long journey to get to where I am and I’m very cognizant of that.

You’ve spoken a lot about how impactful it was for you to play Rose Tico, and to be able to represent a character that isn’t always at the forefront of a film. Since The Last Jedi has come out, has that experience meant more to you?
I think it did and it has and will always mean a lot to me. I remember there was a moment on set where John Boyega and I were filming a scene and he turned to me in between takes and said “Kelly, remember this moment, because we’re making history.” And that’s how it felt the whole time. I don’t think it’ll ever feel old, and I don’t think it should [laughs].

What is your favorite thing about your character Rose?
I think for me what she symbolizes is the idea that there are so many people in the background of anything. She’s not a Jedi, she’s not a stereotypical hero, she’s not the best pilot – she’s not a hero in that sense. But she is someone who despite having this sort of horrible thing happen to her, she is still willing to put everything into what she believes in and to me, that symbolizes a lot – the idea that there’s so many people in the background of anything, and I always use the metaphor of film. We see the people on the screen, you don’t see the hundreds, maybe thousands of people that work on creating the creatures, creating the set, marketing the film, and all of that. There are so many hands in this thing and to me Rose symbolizes that, and that’s really important to me.

Speaking of all of the people behind the scenes, I know you’ve talked about how when you were on the set of The Last Jedi, you would go around to the different creative departments and try your hand at things. What sparked that interest for you?
I think it was just curiosity.  For some reason, we live in a society where people think that being curious or being excited is not cool. And I guess if that’s true, then I’m okay with not being cool. Because secretly, I believe that we’re making magical things and if we lose that sort of childlike wonder, then what’s the point of doing this? I was new to this [Star Wars] world. I felt as if someone had given me the golden ticket and I got to walk around Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for months.

If you could intern in any creative department on a Star Wars film, which one would you pick?
Probably creatures.

So, you could build porgs?
Obviously, [laughs] – yes, among other things, but yes. They just do phenomenal work and it’s complete artistry all the way through, and that’s true about all departments. There’s something about creatures, especially doing that scene with the fathier. When I first saw it, I cried. That’s how lifelike they are. I just think they are truly creating magical things.

What have you learned about yourself in playing Rose and being a part of the Star Wars family now?
I think something that I discovered about myself, and maybe about this whole [entertainment] world is that if [you] are outside looking in, you see all of these people and they’re making movies, and writing movies, and they’re doing things that are seemingly impossible … And I got here, and I realized that we’re all just figuring it out together. And we’re all kind of scared, and that was a liberating thing. I want people to know that, yes, these people make incredible things and do incredible work, but we all are also figuring it out as we go. And I think that if you’re in a place where you want to be a part of this, it’s okay to feel that fear as long as you don’t let it overcome at the end of the day what you’re trying to do.

On your Instagram, you show off a lot of the different fandoms that you love, especially in your style. Why do you like showing off your fandom in your fashion?
It’s always been who I am really. We were talking about this before, that I don’t think liking stuff should be something that you should be ashamed of. I think that if you like something and you love something, that’s special and that’s so rare. There are so many few instances in life where you can be excited about things. And I like to celebrate those things. I’m not cynical at all when it comes to that type of stuff, because I think it’s cool!

Have you picked up a few more Star Wars pieces now?
I have a lot of Star Wars pieces now, yes absolutely [laughs].

(Photo: Alex J. Berliner / ABImages )

Have you also embraced fashion a bit more now that you’ve been on this journey?
Definitely and that was something I didn’t expect. You see on my Instagram that I just put on a sweater, and that’s just who I am. But going to these events and needing to dress up … you learn as you go, and I’m definitely doing that. I have so many amazing people supporting me through this thing, and I feel very fortunate for that.

Which Disney character do you think you’re most like and why?
I would say probably Moana. Obviously, we don’t come from the same background, but the idea of having that sort of traditional upbringing in a certain culture and having them believe one thing, and you venturing out into this different world is really similar to my experience. And also, the idea that even when she felt like she was failing, she kept getting up again – that’s something I try to do every day.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
To just fall in love with the work of it. Because there are things that people think are cool, like the premieres and that sort of thing. Yes, those are wonderful, amazing things to celebrate the work that you’ve done. But for me, if you want to do this, fall in love with the work, concentrate on that, surround yourself with people who also love the work, and together you will learn to make incredible things. It’s not a one-person journey at all. I think a lot of times people think that actors are self-made, and yes, you are doing a lot of that work, but there’s also a lot of people advising you and helping you through all of it. And that goes back to Rose being a background player. I’m sitting here talking to you, but there’s so many people that should also be talking to you, because I wouldn’t be here without hundreds of people.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available now on Digital, Movies Anywhere, Blu-ray and 4K UHD.

Posted 12 months Ago
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