Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the press day for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” J.J. Abrams’ forthcoming continuation of the series. As you may know, Princess Leia has always been a role model for me and is one of the reasons I do what I do. This time around, we’re getting a lot more women in “Star Wars,” and I want to give you a taste of what they said about their roles, the film and girl power.
Carrie Fisher talked about being one of the first kick-ass women on screen. “I am the beginning of girl power. Deal with it! I got to be the only girl on the all-boys set, which was really fun to put things in their drinks and stuff like that,” she said. “Of course, we drank through the whole [original] trilogy! This was a sober set, so that’s what J.J. brought: sobriety!”
And Leia still isn’t afraid to stand up to men. “She takes on the physical power and screams at them until they pass out,” Fisher said. “Trust me, I make fun of them. That was what was really fun about doing anything girl power-esque, was bossing the men around. I know a lot of you women out there haven’t done that yet, and I encourage you to do so. Try it this afternoon.”
Lupita Nyong’o, who plays Maz Kanata, told the crowd that despite her character being created through motion capture, Abrams had her on set for principle photography. “I think audiences are going to have a very immersive experience, much like we had building it,” the Oscar-winner said. “That physicality is something that then carries onto theater, for sure. That was the thing that attracted me to the idea of doing motion capture: the idea of working on a character that wasn’t limited to my physical circumstances. I could work with my body in new ways, and I continued that onstage.”
Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, one of the leads, talked about having a role model — and becoming one herself. “Obviously Princess Leia was a role model for girls across the years, and I’m definitely not there yet,” Ridley said. “But I think Rey will be something of a girl power figure. … She will have some impact in a girl power-y way.
“She’s brave and she’s vulnerable and she’s nuanced,” Ridley continued. “That’s what’s so great about playing a role like this. She doesn’t have to be one thing to embody a woman in a film. And for me, she’s important. It just so happens that she’s woman. She transcends gender. She’s going to speak to men and women.”
Gwendolyn Christie will bring something entirely new to the “Star Wars” franchise. “I was very surprised and heartened at the overwhelming response to the character of Captain Phasma,” Christie said. “J.J. has been open about the fact that he wanted it to respect the origins of the films and celebrate them, but bring them into the modern day. And confirmation of that seemed to be, to me, in this amazing character of Captain Phasma, who is ‘Star Wars’’ first onscreen female villain.
“But more than that, this is a character who, so far, we have related to due to her choices, due to her character, and not due to the way she has been made in flesh,” Christie said. “And conventionally, that is how we have related to female characters. So this, to me, felt very progressive.
“And the response from the audience and the fans has been so celebratory, it makes me think that this is the kind of thing that people want to see. People want to see a more diverse reflection of society. And I feel incredibly privileged to play that part.”
May the Force be with you.