'Star Wars' actor Kelly Marie Tran takes lead role in Disney's 'Raya and the Last Dragon'

Tom Beasley
·Contributor
·2-min read
Kelly Marie Tran attends the European premiere of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" on December 18, 2019. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney)
Kelly Marie Tran attends the European premiere of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" on December 18, 2019. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney)

Disney has recast the lead role in animation Raya and the Last Dragon, bringing in Star Wars actor Kelly Marie Tran to replace Cassie Steele.

The movie is Disney’s first film to be inspired by Southeast Asia, with the Vietnamese-American Tran becoming the first Southeast Asian Disney lead.

The 31-year-old actor, who played Rose Tico in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, told EW she experienced “a blissful feeling” when recognising names and locations in the script.

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Tran plays the titular chief’s daughter, who embarks on a quest to find the last dragon, which she believes can help save her kingdom.

That water dragon, named Sisu, can transform into a human being and is voiced by The Farewell Golden Globe winner Awkwafina.

'Raya and the Last Dragon'. (Credit: Disney)
'Raya and the Last Dragon'. (Credit: Disney)

Tran added: “The best thing that I was able to do was trust in the process and trust those involved just knowing that this thing is bigger than us.

“Strangely enough, that's also one of the things in the movie, is Raya, to get through this journey, she needs to learn how to trust.”

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The star said that, much like with the title character in Moana, Raya is Disney “trying to flip the narrative” of what constitutes a princess.

Tran described her as “a really badass, gritty warrior” who is more than capable of taking care of herself.

Concept art released for 'Raya and the Last Dragon'. (Credit: Disney)
Concept art released for 'Raya and the Last Dragon'. (Credit: Disney)

It’s Tran’s first major role since she found herself at the heart of controversy following her Star Wars debut in 2017’s The Last Jedi.

The star quit social media after being subject to abuse by racist trolls in the wake of her appearance in Rian Johnson’s divisive movie.

Read more: Tran reveals how she coped with internet trolls

Her role again proved controversial in last year’s The Rise of Skywalker, with many complaining that the character was sidelined after playing such a prominent role in the previous movie.

Writer Chris Terrio claimed that many of her scenes were due to be alongside Carrie Fisher’s General Leia, whose role had to be minimised as a result of Fisher’s death in 2016.

Raya and the Last Dragon is due to be released in March 2021.