Daisy Ridley was not a fan of her performance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which made filming The Last Jedi a stressful affair. The actress was plucked out of obscurity by J.J. Abrams to headline Episode VII, which not only was one of the most anticipated films ever made, but also Ridley’s feature film debut. It goes without saying that there was an enormous amount of pressure on the youngster to be one of the new faces of the franchise, and even with Abrams telling his newfound star how seriously fans take Star Wars, Ridley never fully grasped the magnitude of the undertaking until the cameras were actually rolling.
Fortunately, it all worked out in the best way possible, with Ridley’s Rey quickly becoming a fan-favorite viewers can’t wait to see more of. While the character was well-written by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, a lion’s share of the credit has to go to Ridley, who won the hearts of millions with a multi-dimensional turn that hinted at the promise of bigger things to come. Even though Rey connected with moviegoers, Ridley herself is more critical of her debut than most people.
In an interview with Elle, Ridley discussed her emotions while on the Last Jedi set, telling the outlet, “I didn’t think I was good in the first film, and I was struggling with that.” She also found the experience of being without co-star John Boyega for large portions of the sequel (after the two were side-by-side on Force Awakens) strenuous for a little bit:
‘It’s not this big adventure that I’m on with John [unlike the first movie]. I was thinking I did the first one because I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into and I was having loads of fun, and suddenly I’m realizing what this actually is, and I can’t f**king do this. I’m highly dramatic – so it’s all ‘oh my God’…finally I was like ‘Oh yeah, this is working.”
It’s certainly understandable why Ridley would feel this way. In Force Awakens, she developed a nice chemistry and rapport with Boyega, and the two were a dynamic duo for audiences to follow along the journey. In the case of The Last Jedi, however, Rey is separated from her friend as she seeks out the exiled Luke Skywalker, a galactic legend who is none too please to see a visitor on his island. From a certain point of view, there’s a meta angle to explore here, as Ridley found herself acting against Mark Hamill on a Star Wars sequel, handling some emotional scenes that answer pressing questions about the sequel trilogy. That’s a daunting task for someone who is still essentially an industry newcomer, and Ridley missing Boyega could have informed her Rey performance (especially early on). Fortunately, her nerves calmed down, and based on the brief amounts of footage released, she’s more than comfortable in the role.
Some may see this as Ridley being too hard on herself (she even says she’s highly dramatic), but it’s encouraging that the actress isn’t simply basking in the praise she received and wants to improve her craft as the series progresses. That should ensure Rey becomes a more compelling character in the upcoming films, since Ridley is on her way to becoming a more dynamic actress. Luckily for her, she also had Abrams (who’s returning for Episode IX) and Johnson – two directors known for getting excellent performances out of their casts – to guide her, which certainly makes the process easier. No one will ever fully grasp the demands of being the star of Star Wars, but Ridley has the right mentality.
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