Kelly Marie Tran, who originated the role of Rose Tico in 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is very aware that she’s the first woman of colour to have a leading role in the franchise and that, because of that, the job comes with some responsibility. People are identifying with her and looking up to her.
“I was aware pretty immediately, purely because of the reaction that we got from announcing the casting,” Tran revealed Monday when she visited the Build Series in New York, “and also I’m on an improv team of Asian American women, so we talk about these issues all of the time.”
Not to mention that internet trolls ran Tran off social media in June 2018, after she endured months of vitriolic comments. She still hasn’t returned and said she doesn’t miss it.
“It’s funny, because I realise that it was a big moment in culture,” Tran continued, “but for me, it’s not something that I use to define my identity by. I think there’s a tendency for, when someone experiences something like that, to feel like they’re defined by that, but I think I realised through that whole experience, I’m like, ‘Oh, no, I get to decide which narrative I’m playing in my mind. I get to decide who I am.’
“And I think that’s really important to realise that, regardless of who you are and what you’re in and what you’re associated with, being able to be honest and vulnerable and sort of take care of yourself mentally is a very… wildly important thing. It’s something I didn’t understand until I got into this.”
Tran, who co-stars in this month’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, explained how she puts that idea of self-care into practice.
“Reminding yourself that you are not alone and it is OK. These are the biggest things,” Tran said. “Anytime you are sort of confronted with a situation that increases your fear and your anxiety, if you allow that voice to be silent and if you allow yourself to sort of isolate yourself, I think it gets worse. So the best thing for me was just being honest and talking about it.”
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Tran was open about the negative reactions she experienced after Star Wars in a candid August 2018 op-ed she wrote for the New York Times, titled, “I Won’t Be Marginalized by Online Bullying.”
She wrote of her bullies, “Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of colour already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.” She explained that she realised the problem wasn’t her but with a world that had made her feel that way.
Looking back, Tran noted the thought that went into the piece.
“I think when I wrote that op-ed, which is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, having it go out into the world made me feel so empowered. You know? Because I was finally speaking my truth.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker comes to UK cinemas on 19 December.