By Rob Vaux
Daisy Ridley was an up-and-coming young actress when she landed the role of a lifetime – the Force-savant Rey in the long-awaited Star Wars sequel, The Force Awakens. She returns as Rey in the new Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, opening this Friday, and spoke to the press at the recent junket for the film.
Question: What’s different in this film? What sets it apart from The Force Awakens?
Daisy Ridley: The biggest thing for me when I read the script – and this may be the tiniest smidge of a spoiler – it’s that I don’t have as much time with John [Boyega]. People responded well to John and I as a team, and I was a bit nervous about not being a team so much in this one. So I think for me personally it was a challenge. We’re in different situations, we’re with different people that we are learning about, we’re meeting for the first time. The character dynamics are much different. I don’t respond to Luke the way I responded to Han, or to Leia. We’ve just met for the first time, and you have to find that energy with a new actor. It’s different, and hopefully gives this film an identity all its own.
Q: Star Wars has always been great in providing role models for little girls. How much of that is on your mind these days, given the nature of politics at the moment.
DR: I think it’s fantastic to be a part of. As a girl growing up in London, I knew there was a disparity in films but I wasn’t so aware of it. My parents never made me conform to any expectations, and I was never really made to feel any one way. When I got involved in Star Wars, I knew it was a big deal, but the response was so beyond anything I could have imagined. You think you get it, you think you’re ready for it, and then it’s just a thousand times more monumental than anything you could have believed.
And some of that means realizing how much Rey means too little girls, yes, but also so many guys. And that I think is the key to it, because if it’s not a big deal – if it’s not “this is a guy” and “this is a girl” and those categories get thrown open – then there’s all kinds of possibilities. It’s just great characters that happily are falling into broader categories now, and yeah. It’s a thrill.
Q: What do you think lies at the core of the Star Wars appeal?
DR: Well beyond the sort of universal appeal of these heroic, operatic stories, there’s a lot of depth of detail to this universe. And if you harness that right, it can be very exciting. Every character has a story: something worth telling us. And the villains are often just as interesting as the heroes because they’re conflicted too. They have pain. So it makes for very compassionate viewing: you care very deeply about all of these characters very quickly. You’re really understanding both sides: why people are doing the things they’re doing, and the consequences of people’s actions, and how things collide – how we collide – in strange and unexpected ways.
Q: What sets making a Star Wars movie apart from making any other movie, even other big movies?
DR: As an actor, I would much more easily draw comparison of similarity. I was very new to this all with the first film. And I’ve done smaller films now this year, and I’m like, genuinely it feels the same. It’s still an ensemble of people trying to tell a story. It tends to be smaller, yes, but size matters not, as a friend of mine once said. And we came back for this one, and the same faces were here and the same people were ready to go. It’s like a family thing, and so going into it doesn’t feel as scary. That’s the only thing you can ask for: people and a setting where you’re comfortable taking risks. You can only do what you can do. If you’re in a really safe environment, then you’re able to do more.
Q: We asked your costars how their characters are processing the death of Han Solo. I’d imagine it hits Rey harder than it hits the other two.
DR: I think it’s wrapped up in what I said earlier. Things have changed, and there are stories moving in tandem. Rey is probably affected by it more than anyone. She had been alone for such a long time, and now she’s found Finny and BB-8. She’s open to friendship and love and loyalty. And then Han arrives, and she’s seeking something from him. Suddenly, she has a parent. And then in one moment it’s snatched away. It’s a lot to process, especially in the middle of this huge conflict.
But unlike the others, Rey at least has some time. To process what’s happened and ask some questions that need asking. Her emotions run higher to the surface, and she’s really beginning to understand the stakes involved: the possibility of losing someone you care about just when you’ve realized how much you care about them.