Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) finally return this holiday to help continue the Star Wars saga more than three decades after they helped eliminate the second Death Star at the conclusion of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. And they'll be joined by friends and enemies, new and old, from Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C3PO, to a wealth of fresh faces set to lead the way through the next three episodic installments.
Thanks to Lucasfilm making appearances at events including Star Wars Celebration and Comic-Con International throughout the year, we finally know (officially) who's playing who in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens when it comes to new cast members, but there's more to it than that. Each new character name is important, especially knowing how iconic the names of the original trilogy characters became. Some hint at the larger lore of the growing Star Wars universe while others tease mysterious connections to what came before.
In a cover story interview with Star Wars 7 director J.J. Abrams, EW has helped to break down what went into the creation and naming of the new lead characters from a galaxy far, far away.
Finn and Rey
Of all the new characters leading the third trilogy of the Star Wars saga, the two most notable stars of the marketing materials and event appearances thus far don't yet have their full names revealed. Daisy Ridley is playing Rey and John Boyega is playing Finn. We know the former is a scavenger living on the desert planet Jakku who meets an ex-Stormtrooper named Finn and together they eventually cross paths with Han Solo and Chewbacca. The pair represent the new heroes on this journey.
But there's more to these two and their involvement in the saga but details remain clouded in typical J.J. Abrams-style mystery. The last names of Finn and Rey are being held back with reason says Abrams, fueling speculation that one or both are connected to characters we already know in the lore.
"I will only say about that that it is completely intentional that their last names aren’t public record."
If Rebel Alliance ace pilot Wedge Antilles was a lead character in the original trilogy, Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron would be his replacement in Episodes 7-9. Dameron is one of the three new lead heroes set to be introduced in The Force Awakens but his name isn't integral to the story or tied to classic characters, and no, it's also not a nod to Nicolas Cage's Con-Air protagonist Cameron Poe.
"Poe Dameron" is simply a familiar sounding name to J.J. Abrams and is partly derived from the last name of his assistant, Morgan Dameron. The name Poe Dameron, especially the first name, was at first temporary but it sort of stuck. As it turns out, Poe happens to be the name of Abrams' daughter's toy polar bar too.
BB-8, the lovable gyro droid that fully functions practically and is based on Ralph McQuarrie's original Star Wars design art, is poised to be the new generation's R2-D2, dome head and all. Just like fans met R2 after he and C3P0 crash-landed on the desert planet Tatooine, so to will fans meet BB-8 on another desert planet known as Jakku.
As for the BB-8 droid designation, this one was an easy one that just stuck from the beginning for J.J. Abrams. No other names were considered according to the director.
"I named him BB-8 because it was almost onomatopoeia. It was sort of how he looked to me, with the 8, obviously, and then the 2 B's."
The most mysterious character of the main cast of Star Wars: Episode VII was that of Domhnall Gleeson's. Is he a hero, a villain, neither or both? Is he young Luke Skywalker in flashback sequences or perhaps even his son? Is there any truth to theories that Hux's goals are to stop either side in the current galactic conflict from having a Death Star-like super weapon?
Gleeson is actually playing an officer - a young General - in the remnants of the Empire, now known as The First Order. He's in a position of power but how he got there so young and what he plans to do with his fleet and armies remains a mystery. His name isn't a mystery however - it just popped up while Abrams and screenwriter Lawrence "Larry" Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) were talking story ideas. They sometimes did this in cemeteries as well, looking at the last names of the deceased.
"Larry and I would walk all over the place when we were breaking the story, and we would record our conversations. We were walking through a cemetery that’s near the Bad Robot offices, and we would often, as we were talking about characters, sort of just be glancing at names to see if any of them stuck. I don’t believe that Hux came from there, but it may have."
Gwendoline Christie, who plays fan-favorite warrior Brienne of Tarth on HBO's Game of Thrones, suits up in another cool suit of armor for her role in the Star Wars universe - a chrome variant of the iconic Stormtrooper armor. Christie plays the mighty Captain Phasma of The First Order who's yet to be seen without her helm. She's a hunter reportedly seeking out Finn for defecting.
Phasma's name, according to Abrams, comes from the Phantasm horror movie series and was chosen simply because "Phasma sounds really cool." Abrams shares a connection to Angus Scrimm who plays The Tall Man in all four Phantasm films (and the upcoming fifth installment) from working with him on several episodes of Alias.
As we learned yesterday in EW's Force Awakens tell-all, the name Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is actually an acquired one in the story, hinting that the villainous character's real name is important to the larger Star Wars mythos. Cue the Han or Luke offspring theories.
"Ren" is actually a clan name of sorts for a new faction set to be introduced in Star Wars 7 dubbed the Knights of Ren. Who they are and how they fit into the Star Wars saga going forward remains a mystery. If Kylo's introduction via marketing materials thus far is of any indication though, the Knights of Ren seem to have Sith connections and perhaps are comprised of force-sensitive warriors. Kylo Ren's unique crossguard lightsaber is something he constructs himself.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters on December 18, 2015, followed by Star Wars: Rogue One on December 16, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars anthology film on May 25, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX has not received an official release date.