Star Wars: The Last Jedi has certainly earned its fair share of criticism. Rightfully so, on many counts, but one actor’s experience with the film was far from deserved. Kelly Marie Tran, who portrayed the character of Rose Tico, found herself the target of sexists and racists because of her casting. She eventually left social media entirely because of it. In speaking about her new role in Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, Tran opened up even more about her Star Wars experience.

Kelly Marie Tran; Star Wars
Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Kelly Marie Tran rose to stardom as the first woman of color in a leading Star Wars role before The Last Jedi even hit theaters. The experience took a nosedive from there. Internet trolls belittled and demeaned the actress so badly that it soured her on the big-ticket, Hollywood experience. She described it to the Hollywood Reporter as if she “fell in love very publicly and then very publicly had an embarrassingly horrible breakup.” It took some time to recover from that, but the star of Raya and the Last Dragon is back on top.

Kelly Marie Tran on Star Wars; Raya and the Last Dragon

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.

Kelly Maria Tran; Star Wars
Kelly Marie Tran at the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Hollywood Premier.
(Image: Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage)

Those are sage words far too many people still need to understand. Even for Kelly Marie Tran, embracing that sentiment was a struggle. It’s not fair to say she was naïve entering into Star Wars, or that she didn’t expect criticism. There is, unfortunately, always criticism when it comes to Star Wars. The disillusionment and disappointment resulting from the extent of the criticism, however, still stung. Tran, being the strong and remarkable woman and actor she is, channeled that experience into her Raya and the Last Dragon character.

Tran told the film’s directors that “if she were in Raya’s situation — having extended a gesture of friendship, only to invite a world-ending betrayal — she would feel a lot more conflicted, almost chagrined at reaching out with no guarantee anyone would respond.” Drawing on her experience from Star Wars, she infused a scene in which Raya seeks mythical help to save the world with a very real sense of emotion. It left directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada teary-eyed.

A new perspective

Kelly Marie Tran; Raya and the Last Dragon
Image: Disney

[Raya] sees the world in this doe-eyed idyllic way, and then the world sort of breaks, and it changes the way in which she interacts with the world. That was my way [into the character]. I’ve definitely in the past viewed the world through rose-colored glasses, and now I feel like I’m in the back, smoking a cigarette, [saying], ‘I’ve seen things.’

~ Kelly Marie Tran discusses drawing on her personal experiences for the character of Raya.

We would never wish the treatment Kelly Marie Tran received with regard to Star Wars on anyone. It brings us, and all her fans, so much joy to see her thriving once again.

Raya and the Last Dragon arrives on Disney+ and in theaters today.


Source: The Hollywood Reporter