Felicity Jones’ life has changed a lot over the last two years. Back then, the English actress was an up-and-comer, respected for "Like Crazy" and Ralph Fiennes' "The Unknown Woman." Then she scored an Oscar nomination for “The Theory of Everything,” as Stephen Hawking’s now-ex-wife Jane. That led to her getting cast as the lead in no less than the new “Star Wars” spin-off. “Rogue One” tells the tale of the team, including Jones’ Jyn Erso, that steals the plans for the first Death Star, leading to the events of the first “Star Wars.” Jyn's steely and capable, but Jones never wanted her to be a typical tough female character.

 

Jones, 33, talks to us about her history with “Star Wars” and the one adjective she hopes no one used to describe Jyn Erso. At that point, we’d only been shown 25 minutes of “Rogue One,” not the whole thing.

 

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So I’ve only seen a little bit of this film. We could talk about “The Invisible Woman,” in which you play Charles Dickens’ secret mistress, instead if you want.
Did you see it?

 

Of course!
Fantastic! One of three people. I’m very pleased. [Laughs]

I’d actually heard, from a British friend, that there’s a tradition in England where on Christmas Day, families watch all three “Star Wars” films, plus some Wallace and Gromit. Is that true for everyone?
[Laughs] I’m not sure if it’s a nationwide tradition, but there’s definitely family viewings of a film in our household, in which grandparents fall asleep. We’ve gone and watched everything. We’ve watched “2001: A Space Odyssey,” we’ve watched “Gone with the Wind.” Wallace and Gromit is definitely a staple; that comes after you have your big epic. Also “Love Actually” has to be seen at some point during the Christmas period.

So you’re not watching “Star Wars” every year.
I watched it when I was a young girl and was captivated by it. I remember thinking the opening crawl was moving too fast. My cousins and my brother, they were a bit older, so I wanted to do everything they did. And they were huge fans of “Star Wars.”

They’re interesting to return to once you’ve gotten older and maybe snootier. It's easier to see how political they are, as well as character-driven.
What’s so special about Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Princess Leia is they’re really relatable. We wanted that in “Rogue One.” We didn’t want them to be these pumped-up, muscle-y, unobtainable superheroes. They’re all really ordinary, ordinary people in an extraordinary situation.

Jyn is a first in the “Star Wars”-verse: She never becomes a damsel in distress. Yet however tough she is she’s still vulnerable.
We didn’t want her to be just tough and — I hate this word — sassy. [Laughs] If anyone described her as “sassy” I’d just want to be sick in my mouth. She has real spirit and real optimism and hope. She has an innocence, but things haven’t always gone according to plan. She’s a bit damaged and there’s real pain there. At the same time we wanted to have fun with her.

I’m glad that that movies don’t have those kinds of strong female characters where they’re basically just men with a different gender. They’re very complex and believable now.
Exactly. We went through that period, and now we’re coming out the other side.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge