Gwendoline Christie is having an incredible ride at the moment, scoring with fans all over the world as Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones and appearing in two of this season’s biggest movies – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 and now Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the latter she even makes a bit of cinematic history: her character, the mysterious Captain Phasma, is the first female villain in the history of the live-action Star Wars films.
The masked commander of the First Order’s Stormtroopers is very much a mystery in The Force Awakens, and while a supporting player this time out, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy has said that Phasma will be a significant part of the films that follow. We spoke with Christie about this and more when we sat down with her in Los Angeles.
We don’t know a whole lot about Captain Phasma, what light can you shed on her?
Gwendoline Christie: I play Captain Phasma, she is a member of the First Order. She is the captain of the Stormtroopers and she is a member of the dark side. I can tell you that in this film, she is a Boba Fett-style character, so she’s not at the forefront of the action but she certainly packs a punch.
Where is she in the hierarchy of the bad guys, with General Hux and Kylo Ren...
I think you’re going to have to watch the film to find that out (laughs).
How challenging is it to act through that helmet and have your face covered for most if not all of the film?
What I found exciting was that it was a real acting challenge to wear so much costume. And what you realize is that normally below the neck, you can transmit a lot more subtly. But with this, because your arms and legs and body are so covered, really every gesture has to mean something. The way that you hold your hand means something, the way that you stand communicates something, and the way that you walk means something. So it was a very interesting acting challenge to focus more on the body than I had done in any other part I played.
What did you do with your voice?
The voice…I think you’re going to have to wait to listen to in the film (laughs).
Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy said in a recent interview that Captain Phasma is going to play a role as the series continues. Have you gotten any indication of what that role might be, and do you have any ideas yourself of where you’d like to see her go?
I have not had any confirmed indication of that, that I can communicate with you currently. How about that? (laughs)
That’s about as diplomatic as it gets. Did you and Adam Driver commiserate about having to act through the helmets?
That was not a conversation that Adam and I had. I was really excited to work with him because I really admired him in Girls—that’s where I first came across him. And then he was so brilliant in Inside Llewyn Davis as well, he was so funny and charismatic in that. And When We Were Young as well (ed: title is actually While We’re Young). He’s a very transformative actor, so I was just very excited to work with someone who was so versatile.
You’ve been doing some great unconventional and surprising roles with this and with Brienne in Game of Thrones. Can we talk about that and pushing the ball forward for women’s roles?
Well, I’ve been phenomenally lucky, because these parts have found me, and I’ve been very lucky in that there are people out there creating this type of material for actors. I’m just very encouraged that what I think we’re seeing is a more diverse and realistic depiction of our society, and I’m so heartened by the response from people. It’s been so warm and so encouraging, but what it seems to say to me is that this is what people want.
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.