With the wide release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens only days away, the world is going bonkers for anything and everything relating to a galaxy far, far away. And assuming Episode VII doesn’t harsh our collective Star Wars buzz too much, Disney and Lucasfilm have Star Wars projects lined up from here to eternity; beginning with next year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first of many Star Wars films set to explore the galaxy beyond the scope of the Skywalker family.

After that, the saga continues with Star Wars: Episode VIII, which will presumably pick up where events leave off at the end of The Force Awakens. Production is already in full swing on soon-to-be-subtitled entry, and principal photography should begin early next year. Understandably, at this point, there’s very little known about the next installment. But with that sort of timetable, any official announcements regarding Episode VIII could happen very soon, and any delay has likely been to allow for The Force Awakens to get in front of more eyeballs before anyone comments too heavily on its sequel.

However, this hasn’t stopped rumors of Episode VIII‘s new cast additions from circulating, and the actress’ name most closely linked with the film has been Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Mbatha-Raw was first mentioned as a possibility when rumors emerged that the film was seeking actresses for two key roles, while another claims she did indeed secure the more prominent of these two new roles.

star wars 7 force awakens rey bb8 poster Star Wars 8: Gugu Mbatha Raw Widely Expected to Play a Role

Mbatha-Raw quickly rose to prominence with starring roles in Beyond the Lights and Belle, and according to The Wrap she’s also starring in an episode of Black Mirror season 2. The same report goes on to state that Mbatha-Raw is “widely expected” to be joining the cast of Episode VIII, adding only more fuel to that rumor-fire, as well as being evidence that all anyone can seem to talk about lately is Star Wars.

Director J.J. Abrams isn’t returning for Episode VIII, instead handing the reins over to Rian Johnson, who, like Abrams, will tackle both writing and directing duties for the film. Of its cast, we only know of Benicio Del Toro’s involvement with a potentially villainous role and that Mark Hamill is expected to return. But it hardly seems surprising that Episode VIII would strive to include even more roles for women.

Kathleen Kennedy has already made it a point of expanding the roles for women in the Star Wars franchise — both in front and behind the camera — and Daisy Ridley is clearly playing second fiddle to no man as The Force Awakens‘ protagonist, Rey. Where the characters introduced in Episode VIII factor in awaits to be seen, but Mbatha-Raw appears to be an all-but-confirmed addition.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.

Source: The Wrap

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