One of the X-factors of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is Daisy Ridley, the 23-year-old British actress who plays the lead role of Rey. With just a handful of UK TV credits to her name and one previous film, Ridley was almost a complete unknown when she won the part – much in the same way that Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were when they landed their roles in A New Hope nearly 40 years ago.
But Ridley is unknown no more. Although we don’t know much about Rey yet except that she is a scavenger who gets caught up in the great conflict between the Resistance and the First Order (and that her last name has been intentionally withheld), she has been front and center of the marketing and trailers for The Force Awakens since the very first teaser was released in late 2014. Since she is also signed to star in Episodes VIII and IX, it’s clear that Rey will play a central role in these new chapters of the Star Wars saga. Is Ridley ready to become an icon? Let’s find out…
Can you remember your reaction when you got this part?
Daisy Ridley: My reaction probably lasted about two years (laughs). No, I’m just kidding. It’s probably still going on. My initial one was like (makes gasping sound) and then there was insecurity and fear and terror and elation. It was a real amalgamation of things.
How did you keep that all in check when got to the set, coming from what you were doing before and stepping into this gigantic production?
I kind of didn’t. I was like a bit of (makes shock noise) at the beginning, as people have noted – thank you, Carrie and Peter – but being surrounded by people who make you feel like you are worthy and like you should be there and like you have a story to tell and like you have a voice, that is the most amazing thing. That (fear) kind of drops away when you’re surrounded by people, when you’re all working together to make this incredible thing, and it didn’t feel like a big thing. It felt like there was a small group of us making this incredible thing, so it didn’t feel daunting in that way. Everyone definitely made me feel relaxed and loved and supported.
Did Carrie (Fisher) or Harrison (Ford) or Peter (Mayhew) offer any advice? Did you seek out any?
Carrie… (laughs) well, some of what she told me is not appropriate. Not really. I kind of didn’t really want to ask, ‘cause I didn’t want to be a nuisance, and now I’m like, “I should have asked, I should have asked,” ‘cause now we’re too close, I don’t have an opportunity to ask. But they way they work set an amazing example to me. They’ve been working for years and years and years, and they’re all so excited to be back and they’re all so respectful to everyone they’re working with, and they’re still passionate about what they do, that in itself is kind of advice of how to be.
Do you see Rey and Finn and Poe following in the footsteps of Luke and Han and Leia – and even the characters in the prequels – as being the trio that forms the spine of the story in a way?
Um…"ish," but not really. I feel like obviously in some ways there’s three of them, but it’s far beyond that. It’s not just the three of them, there’s an incredible new array of cast (members) and we also have those (original) three still. So kind of and kind of not. I think the story that’s told in The Force Awakens hasn’t been told before, and there may be similarities here and there, but it’s a new set of people and a new time and a new place. In that way it’s exciting, because hopefully people will see the history and see what’s come before, and then enjoy the new story.
I was asked to ask you this by someone who has a 10-year-old daughter and feels that their daughter is going to be so inspired to see you leading this new generation of Star Wars – how does it feel to you to have that responsibility and being almost a new role model for a lot of young girls?
I think it’s probably quite lucky that I’m quite a together person, and I value the right things – like, I value education and health in all aspects, mental health and keeping yourself happy and loving the right kind of people – and I think Rey is incredibly brave and hopeful and her story will be inspirational and so for that, I’m thankful that I was able to play that.
The film is directed by J.J. Abrams and stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Max Von Sydow. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk are producing with Tommy Harper and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers. The screenplay is by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens releases in 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.