Most new actors in Hollywood don't have to deal with staggering amounts of fame, becoming the face of much-needed diversity in a popular franchise that had little before, and becoming the target of frequent social media harassment caused by a group of toxic fans. Unfortunately, Kelly Marie Tran was forced to after being cast (and starring) in the role of Rose Tico in the Rian Johnson-directed Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with many of the comments specifically directed at her aimed at her ethnicity and appearance. (Tran is the first actress of color to star as a lead in a Star Wars film.)
The actress — who will be playing the titular role in Disney's new animated feature Raya and the Last Dragon — recently reflected on that period of her life during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, says it was like she "fell in love very publicly and then very publicly had an embarrassingly horrible breakup."
The whole experience eventually resulted in her deciding to quit social media as a whole, as she stepped back from the limelight to regroup and focus on herself. "What's interesting to me about working in this industry is that certain things become so public, even if you don't really mean them to be, [like] the succession of events in which I left the internet for my own sanity," says the Monsterland actress. "It was basically me being like, 'Oh, this isn't good for my mental health. I'm obviously going to leave this.' "
Tran also goes on to discuss how it led to her turning down a lot of projects especially as she figured out what she wanted from her career moving forward. "It felt like I was just hearing the voice of my agents and my publicity team and all of these people telling me what to say and what to do and how to feel," explains Tran. "I realized, I didn't know how I felt anymore. And I didn't remember why I was in this in the first place."
She goes on to add: "Any time that happens, I have to close up shop and go away for a while and really interact in the real world — read books and journal and go on hikes and look at a tree and remind myself that there was a fire that burned inside of me before Star Wars, before any of this. And I needed to find that again."
One thing that has helped, according to Tran, is her time in therapy, where she learned that "if someone doesn't understand me or my experience, it shouldn't be my place to have to internalize their misogyny or racism or all of the above. Maybe they just don't have the imagination to understand that there are different types of people living in the world."
Her most recent role, as that of Raya, sees her once again become a first in Disney history — this time as the first-ever Southeast Asian princess, as she embarks on a quest to save the very last member of the dragon species. It's something Tran is quite cognizant of, especially having grown up with such few role models in the industry herself, but it's not something she's focusing on.
"I acknowledge and validate the label of these things being historic, and I'm so grateful to be part of them, but for my own sanity I have to not think about that too much."
Raya and the Last Dragon will fly onto Disney+ and theaters where open on March 5.