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Jessica Henwick didn’t return to Star Wars because Rian Johnson thought her character was dead

Johnson has cast her in Knives Out 2, however, and let her know about her casting in an interesting way. 

Jessica Henwick Jess Pava Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Fans of Star Wars tend to get attached to rebel pilots that we barely meet. In terms of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, some of us got invested in Resistance fighter Jess Pava, an ace who is part of Poe Dameron’s Black Squadron. 

Played by Jessica Henwick, Pava barely appears in the film outside of the cockpit. She also did not return for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. During a digital junket for The Matrix Resurrections, we couldn’t help but ask Henwick about why her piloting career got cut short. It compelled us. It turns out that director Rian Johnson was confused about Pava’s fate, and Henwick was able to get proof of this because she’s now working with him on Knives Out 2

“I loved her and I was meant to come back for the next one,” Henwick said. “And then the director, Rian Johnson... I spoke to him about it the other day, because I finally have worked with him. I asked him, 'Why didn't you bring me back?'” 

Henwick admitted that her schedule at the time was “messed up,” but also revealed, “He thought I died in [Episode VII].” Not only did Pava not die in The Force Awakens, she continued to fight for the Resistance as a valued member of Black Squadron in the pages of the Poe Dameron comic. 

“I was like, no dude, I survived,” Henwick said. “I have a whole series of comic books written about Jess Pava, and he didn't know that. So he was upset.” Despite not being in the movies anymore, Henwick did continue to follow Pava in the comics. “I love the comic books. It's trippy seeing myself in actually hand-drawn form,” she said. “It's clearly modeled after me. Those comic books are amazing.” 

Was she able to levy this confusion into getting more screen time on Knives Out 2? Was there anything at all that she could share about the murder/mystery sequel? 

“Oh, there's so little I can share,” she said. “Did I levy it? No, I definitely didn't, but I totally guilt tripped him into casting me. I'm kidding. I only brought it up once, and it was in my audition with him. I said, ‘I have a bone to pick with you.’ Henwick had more than one bone, too. 

“…the bigger bone was that when I was a teenager and studying film studies, in class, we studied Brick, his very first big feature film that made him,” she said. “I wrote him a fan letter because he had his email on Google at the time. It was out there in the public, and he never responded to my fan letter.” 

Henwick brought up this bigger bone in the casting meeting. 

“And so I said, ‘Dude, this is the most long overdue meeting. You have to cast me now. You have to.’ And the way I found out that I got the role is, he wrote me a letter. He wrote me a letter saying, ‘Hi, Jessica, I'm sorry it's taken me so long, I don't know what the delay was. Thank you for all your questions about Brick.’ It was hilarious. Yeah, I love that guy."

Despite crossed wires and big bones, there is nothing but peace between Jessica Henwick and Rian Johnson. Thankfully, Jess Pava lives. 

It's a fan thing
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