Kelly Marie Tran on Rian Johnson and the one Star Wars actor she was most nervous to meet

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2017

The world officially meets the Rebellion's newest hero, Rose Tico, when Star Wars: The Last Jedi drops this week around most of the globe. But the internet fell hardcore in love with the actress who plays Rose, Kelly Marie Tran, when she spontaneously cried with joy at the red carpet last weekend. It's rare to see that kind of unfiltered, genuine emotion from anyone in Hollywood, so Tran allowing everyone to see exactly how much being part of the Star Wars universe means to her is special indeed.

But we saw that gratitude and humor the first time we spoke with Tran in Part 1 of our interview with her for Fangrrls. We got our own second helping of it as we sat down with her at The Last Jedi press junket, where she shared even more about what inspired the mindset of Rose Tico, what it was like being the Star Wars new kid on the block with director Rian Johnson, and how she got brave enough to introduce herself to one of her acting heroes.

Let's talk about Rose and Finn's friendship. When you guys were playing it out, did it feel like they captured the spirit of any previous universe relationships, or does their dynamic feel new to the universe?

Well, I try to block out everything, in terms of influence. I really just wanted to be honest to what was on that page and what Rian had written, which was already so rich and so full. I think that these two characters are so different. I think that their dynamic is really interesting. I personally don't think that it resembles anything that we've seen before. But obviously, every person's gonna watch this and have their own opinions, but I personally don't believe that it resembles anything else. And I personally also didn't pull from anything else.

How was it being new to the world with Rian?

I know that we would always remark to each other like, "Oh, this is crazy." He'd be like, "I know." And I can only speak for myself, but I never felt pressure. I never felt out of place. And that says a lot more about Rian, and about John (Boyega) and about all the cast members and the crew than it does about me.

What's Rian like as a director?

He is truly the most authentic human, but also, he has this childlike energy about him. You can tell he just loves what he's doing. Every time we would do a take and he would like it, he does this little laugh. His laugh is so contagious. That was how it was the whole time.

Rose is a woman living in a time of intense war. How did her situation influence how you played her?

I think I definitely pulled from a lot of my personal life. Rose also has a really interesting relationship with war. My parents are refugees from Vietnam, and so they have a really interesting relationship with war.  I did a lot of research on the war itself. I read a lot of books about it. I listened to podcasts. I pulled up images. I also read books about what it was like, or what it's like to be an engineer, because that's the way that Rose's mind worked. It's like everything's a problem to be solved. I wanted to understand, as an engineer, or as the innovator of an idea, that people can take these impossible, unsolvable problems, and then logistically sit there and be like, "Okay, well, let's try this, this, and this. That doesn't work? Okay. Let's try this, this, and this." That's very much Rose.

Do you feel like she gets her own arc that is separate from what happens to her sister, and from Finn?

I feel like she definitely does change throughout the movie. I think she definitely does. I think the thing that you were talking about, the idea that she sort of changes Finn's outlook, I think they both affect each other in the way that real humans affect each other. You go through something with someone and you might see the world a different way.

Poe and Finn and Rey are all amazing characters played by great actors, but what was it like meeting Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill?

Oh man! It's so funny, because obviously we have talked about how Rose views Finn. It's interesting because I feel like that about Carrie and Mark, so when you first meet them, you have that Rose to Finn experience where you're like, "They're otherworldly." They're these symbols. They represent something bigger than who they are. The best part of it was as I got to know them more, and as I spent more time with them, and everyone in the Star Wars family, including John and Oscar and Daisy, everyone is so welcoming and open.

And the new cast are essentially icons themselves now. How do you all process that?

I think they all realize that they're part of this bigger thing. Even though we are going to work day to day and we're filming a movie, we know already that it means so much to so many people, and so we're all part of this thing. Mark and Carrie, in particular, were such great mentors in that way. They're such great examples of how to deal with it as you go. That was really special. It still is special.

John and Daisy went through what you are going to experience two years ago. Did you ask them for specific advice? Are you already feeling a shift in your daily life?

What's crazy is that in terms of the influence on my personal life and all that kind of stuff, I haven't really felt much of that yet, because this movie hasn't come out. I pretty much live a normal life. Like, I've never been recognized outside of the association of me with other cast members. If I am just like on a run by myself, I've never been stopped. Even if I'm at Target buying my own action figure, people would not believe that it's me. I actually was like, "This is me!"

Did that really happen?

Yeah.

How great was that moment?

They were like, "Yeah, okay, come on. Keep going." (Laughs)

(Before Tran can finish her answer, John Boyega enters the interview room and she bolts up to meet him with a hug. Out of nowhere, they engage in an impromptu dance party for two before they pose together for a photo. He apologizes for interrupting and then disappears back into the hall.)

That was the greatest interview interruption ever!

Yes!

You and John are obviously friends now, so did he impart any wise advice?

It's such an interesting experience, and John and Daisy both have told me their experiences, but it's different for everyone. So I think that I am just going to take it day to day and experience things as they come.

With the incredible cast in this film, Carrie and Mark aside, was there anyone else you were just dying to meet?

You know who I was most nervous to meet, probably?  Andy Serkis. I am such a huge fan. And I just met him yesterday.

You didn't on set during production?

The thing is, I've seen him on set. I just was too nervous to say hi. I don't know if you know this, but someone gave me the ability to walk around set all the time, so it's not really giving anything away by saying that I pretty much saw every single person [in the cast] because I would go to set and watch people work.

Who wouldn't do that?

Yes! I got to watch all these amazing people. Benicio (del Toro) and Laura (Dern) and Adam (Driver) and Oscar (Isaac) and Domhnall (Gleeson) and John and Daisy and all these amazing people. Andy Serkis is someone that I've always looked up to. Anyway, he's the nicest freaking guy.

Did you just introduce yourself?

Yeah, I did.

Good for you!

You know what's crazy is you have this mental blockage, and then once you just do it, you're like, "I'm never going to be nervous for that again." So I've decided that I'm just going to do that from now on.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in the U.S. on December 15, 2017.