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JJ Abrams is Thankful for Rian Johnson Casting Kelly Marie Tran

During Friday's momentous Star Wars Celebration panel, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams said he's thankful for The Last Jedi's Rian Johnson casting Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico. Officially titled The Rise of Skywalker after Friday's Star Wars Celebration reveal, the ninth chapter in the series is expected to bring an end to the saga that began with 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope.

Plot details about The Rise of Skywalker are largely being kept under wraps of course, but Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and company did come across with some juicy bits of information during Friday's panel. Perhaps the biggest reveal of the day came during the official release of the first Star Wars 9 trailer, which heralded the return of the notorious Emperor Palpatine. In somewhat happier news, Lando Calrissian is also coming back for Star Wars 9, and fans were given their first glimpse of Billy Dee Williams returning to play the character for the first time since Return of the Jedi. Abrams also offered up an image teasing the new movie's story, which involves the new trilogy's main cast members uniting for a mission.

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Related: The Star Wars 9 Title Doesn't Mean Rey Is A Skywalker

In addition to Rey, Poe, Finn, Kylo Ren and the other new characters introduced in The Force Awakens, Star Wars 9 also sees the return of Rose Tico, who was introduced in The Last Jedi. Rose actress Tran was herself on-hand at the celebration and received a rousing ovation from the crowd (after the actress was previously forced to leave Instagram in the face of criticism from trolls). Director Abrams then paid Tran a great compliment when he singled her out as perhaps the best part of the legacy left behind by The Last Jedi and its director Rian Johnson. Abrams said "I was grateful to Rian Johnson for so many things that he did but the greatest for me was casting Kelly Marie."

Finn and Rose Tico in Star Wars The Last Jedi

It was interesting for Abrams to nod at Johnson's movie in any way, as there have been many questions about the direction the overall story took in The Last Jedi, and how Abrams might choose to course correct after some of the choices Johnson made. For instance, fans wonder about Johnson's decision to definitively state that Rey is not a Skywalker but is instead, in the words of Kylo Ren, a "nobody." Indeed, the Rise of Skywalker title could be taken as a hint that Abrams has decided Rey is a Skywalker after all, though that interpretation is not necessarily a slam dunk either.

Fans have also wondered if the new movie will pick up the thread of Finn and Rose as possible love interests after the way The Last Jedi ended, and indeed Tran herself winked at that possibility by declaring Finn an "eligible bachelor" during the panel. Abrams did reveal that The Rise of Skywalker does not begin directly after the events of The Last Jedi, a statement that will no doubt lead to a lot more speculation about the new movie trying to move on from the previous film as much as possible. For his part, Johnson has said he doesn't care if Abrams decides to retcon The Last Jedi.

The legacy Johnson left behind after The Last Jedi indeed continues to be a point of contention for many Star Wars fans, but it's clear that Abrams found at least one thing to like about the middle film of the new saga, and that one thing is Tran as Rose Tico. It will be interesting to see how Abrams continues the story of Rose in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

More: Star Wars 9 Theory: Rey & Kylo’s Force Connection Will Bring True Balance

Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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