Shortly after a large chunk of the cast for Star Wars: Episode VII was officially unveiled, the news emerged that the casting process for director J.J. Abrams was far from over. Rumors have persisted since then that at least two more female cast members had yet to be revealed - and today, they have been!
One of said new confirmed additions to the Episode VII cast is this year's Supporting Actress Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave), who was also reported to have met with Abrams earlier this year. The other new addition is Gwendoline Christie, who has become a fan-favorite over the past couple of years, thanks to her continuing role as the stoic, sword-wielding, noble warrior Brienne of Tarth on HBO's hit fantasy/drama series, Game of Thrones.
Here is the relevant excerpt from the official press release, issued by Lucasfilm:
Lupita Nyong'o joins the recently announced cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. This year, her breakthrough performance in 12 Years a Slave earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Gwendoline Christie, currently starring in the hit television series Game of Thrones as Brienne of Tarth, has also been cast in the production. She can next be seen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2.
"I could not be more excited about Lupita and Gwendoline joining the cast of Episode VII," says Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. "It's thrilling to see this extraordinarily talented ensemble taking shape."
Other, previously-announced members of the Episode VII ensemble include the "Original Trilogy" veterans, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, along with such celebrated names as the maestro of motion-capture performance, Andy Serkis (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and the younger, but critically-acclaimed, character actors Domhnall Gleeson (About Time), Adam Driver (Girls), and Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis).
Also joining these fresh-faced upstarts from the indie movie circuit on the list of Star Wars franchise newcomers, is seasoned Oscar-nominated Swedish actor Max von Sydow, whose most famous work includes his roles in such classic films as The Seventh Seal and The Exorcist (he's rumored to be playing the big baddie in Abrams' Episode VII).
Filming is underway on Episode VII right now in Abu Dhabi (check out the set photos), where cast members John Boyega (Attack the Block) and Daisy Ridley (Silent Witness) are reported to be shooting scenes that are set on the famous desert planet of the Star Wars universe, Tatooine. Early signs point to Boyega and Ridley playing the film's young leads, though it's also been reported that the revised screenplay written by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) - based on the earlier draft from Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) - features the returning trio of Luke, Leia, and Han in prominent roles.
As such, it's not clear how much screen time in Episode VII will be devoted to the characters being portrayed by Nyong'o and Christie. Both are well-respected acting talents, whose stars are very much on the rise; besides the latest Star Wars movie, Nyong'o will also be playing (or, at the least, voicing) a character in next year's live-action The Jungle Book adaptation from Disney, while Christie is joining the Huger Games cast for the upcoming Mockingjay installments (as mentioned in the Lucasfilm press release).
Ridley, who is speculated to be playing the daughter of Leia and Han, and Boyega - whose connection (if any) to established Star Wars characters remains more of a mystery - could well be the joint protagonists, so to speak, in Episode VII. One possibility for Nyong'o is that of the rumored role of Obi-Wan Kenobi's granddaughter, who is said to be a character of mixed race in the film's script. As for Christie: like with Nyong'o, nothing's set in stone, though it would seem a real shame if Abrams doesn't wind up putting a lightsaber in Brienne of Tarth's hands.
No doubt, these new announcements should help to soothe the backlash against the perceived lack of diversity in race and gender of the Episode VII cast - which, to be fair, was understandable, but also a bit presumptive, based solely on the first official casting announcement for the film. (Many also seemed to forget that it was Abrams who was responsible for giving us such progressive-minded TV shows as Felicity and Alias, in the past.) As it stands, the Episode VII cast is looking pretty dang impressive - fingers crossed, that's a sign of great things to come, in a galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars: Episode VII opens in theaters on December 18th, 2015.