Last week was a pretty discouraging one for the APA community — and for all POC folks — with Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi, Tilda Swinton as a bald Tibetan monk, and Nat Wolff as Light Yagami. There has been massive outrage on many fronts and thankfully, the concern has been taken seriously by major publications such as the Hollywood Reporter. Over here at NOC, it’s been covered numerous times, so it’s safe to say that the anger and frustration is still very much present for many of us.

Let’s, for the time being, look at a happier place; to a story where a relatively unknown Asian American actress by the name of Kelly Marie Tran has been cast to play the new female lead for Star Wars Episode VIII. Not much is known about the role but being an actor in Los Angeles, it helped knowing a few folks who went in when auditions took place last September. The role was open to ALL ETHNICITIES and was surely for the new female lead in the upcoming Star Wars chapter. Whoever would get the role had to have a chemistry test with John Boyega (whether it’s a love interest for Finn or someone who is best friends with him is unknown) and once they nailed that, the rest would be history.

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If this is going to be a love story, this better be a good one. Don’t screw it up, Star Wars!

And then I remembered this article from The Wrap last September about the new female lead in Star Wars Episode VIII having names like Tatiana Maslany, Olivia Cooke, and Gina Rodriguez in consideration — from a few of my actress friends who also went in for the role, I heard Anna Kendrick was also seen to audition for it as well — and that they would indeed have to do a chemistry test with John Boyega.

Holy crap. This is the exact same role that Kelly booked! She beat out those actresses? OH EM GEE, I’M FREAKING OUT!

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Kelly was able to beat out these named actresses. How awesome is that?

So let it be known that Kelly Marie Tran, a Vietnamese American actress — primarily known for her internet content, a few costars on TV shows, and her improv performances — was able to land the new female lead in the biggest sci-fi franchise of all time against such heavy hitters. Kudos to her hard work, her talent, as well as the producers Ram Bergman and Kathleen Kennedy along with director Rian Johnson to giving an Asian American actress a shot to play in the big leagues and be taken seriously as the lead. This is even more significant than Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang as part of the ensemble for Rogue One because their offer was most likely done to draw in Chinese audiences. The casting of Kelly, however, as an up and coming Vietnamese American actress, had no “let’s get even more of that China money” ploy to it. It was simply because she was the best person for the job.

It’s so tempting to say “Help us Kelly Marie Tran, you’re our only hope,” but considering these depressing times where an Asian can’t even play an Asian character — when it comes to being the main lead in a Hollywood studio film, I might as well.

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36 thoughts on “The Significance of Kelly Marie Tran in Star Wars Episode VIII

  1. I wouldn’t get too excited. First of all – the actresses Tran beat? She didn’t beat them. I’m fairly certain they were up for the role of Jyn Erso in ROGUE ONE, where the character is the actual main protagonist, not the second female lead in Episode VIII. Secondly, if there’s a love story between her and Finn it almost certainly exists for the purpose of making Daisy Ridley’s Rey jealous.

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    1. My bad, I clicked through to the article for The Wrap and saw Maslany actually lost out on both roles, which led to my confusion. I still think it has the potential to be a thankless role where the character is deliberately supposed to be less appealing than Rey so that audiences will resent her for keeping Rey and Finn apart, but that’s an assumption. She could be Epusode VIIIs answer to Lando Calrissian for all we know. Early days.

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    2. What the hell makes you think that? It was CLEARLY established in episode VII that Rey and Finn are just friends and they don’t think of each other in a romantic way. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega have even said that in episode VIII they are still just going to be friends. The characters are not interested in a relationship with each other. So if he does have a romance with Tran’s character, Rey would not mind at all, as long as she knows Finn is happy. Rey does NOT seem like the jealous type at all. And hey, Rey and the new girl might even become good friends themselves. Who says they can’t?

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  2. Before you people start thinking Hollywood might be becoming more inclusive as far casting non-white ethnicities, keep in mind that it was reported early this year that all actresses who auditioned were turned down for the sudden decision on Disney’s PR department that the lead actress HAD to be Asian. Why? Because Disney was a bit unhappy with how Star Wars VIII performed in China. So, naturally, casting a Chinese actress would be more acceptable to the Asian markets and, as a result, generate more revenue in these parts of the world.

    It’s all business and little else.

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    1. All business or not, it makes sense. And statistics have shown the past few years that more $$$ has been made from movies with diverse casts than all white ones. Everybody wants to see someone who looks like them on the big & small screens, so if major studio heads took off their white colored glasses & put on their “rainbow” ones, they’d know that they can make more of the green by having more color represented.

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    2. When it comes to the Chinese market, they are rather nationalistic and want CHINESE actors. Vietnamese actors are not someone they care much about. This I can say with certainty with folks I know who work in the major Chinese media companies that fund a majority of Hollywood studio features nowadays.

      Nevertheless, you are incorrect in Disney’s PR department that the lead HAD to be Asian. Amongst those named actresses were Asian and Latina actresses who read for the role at the same time last September. When it came to the testing phase, there was a mixture of named actresses who were white as well as Asian and Latina. And in the end, Kelly was the one they chose.

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  3. I’m going to be fully pissed off if this girl is Finn’s new love interest over Rey. Finn and Rey had adorable chemistry, and everyone ships them and wants them together. I don’t like the idea of this new girl coming in and taking away from that. She’s not even someone remotely attractive. There are beautiful Asian actresses out there, why pick one with a face you want to slap? Finn clearly is interested in Rey when he asked her if she had a boyfriend, and when he told her that when they met she looked at him like nobody ever has. Please make this new girl just a friend and don’t ruin a pair with a perfect connection and so much potential. I want Finn and Rey to marry. Maybe this new unnattractive icky girl will be the love interest of Poe or Kylo Ren? Fingers crossed!!!!!!!!! Finnrey forever!!

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    1. Hey bruh, leave the shipping at the door for a sec. This is an important moment for women of color and people of color in the industry. Just cause you want Finn and Rey to get together in the end, doesn’t mean you have to shit on this lady on the basis of attractiveness. (Personally I think she’s got a real cute face, reminds me of some of the people I know irl).

      (Also, I’m in a favor of Finn and Rey being platonic soulmates or really good friends. They have chemistry, yeah, but I never really saw any basis for romance. They’ve only known each others for a few days by the end of VII, that’s hardly a basis for a committed romantic relationship… both of them being sexually attractive is DEFINITELY not a good foundation for a relationship IMO).

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    2. Nope. Finn and Rey are Xander and Buffy and any BFF who remain BFF. You wouldn’t be frothing at your mouth and insulting Kelly Tran if you honestly believed Finn and Rey have any chance of happening. Your desperation is showing because your ship is weak sauce and you bet that John and Daisy would be disgusted if they read your comment. Finn and Kelly’s character are happening as a romance and you can’t do anything about it but look ridiculous while spitting venom at soon-to-be fan favorite actress/character in a popular canon ship. take that to the bank. 🙂

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  4. Dang!! No need for hurtful words. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. I’m a Finn-Rey fan as well, but we don’t even know if This new actress is Finn’s love interest yet. For that matter, we don’t know who Finn’s going to end up with, so nobody needs to assume anything until you see the rest of the new trilogy. All shipping aside, just embrace the new characters to come, you might really like them if you give them a chance.

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  5. OMG. Seriously? Do all you people have nothing better to do than to complain about this girl? She definitely deserves to be here if she got chosen out of a whole bunch of girls. Let’s put shipping and race aside people. That’s not what this is even about. It’s about this girl who’s about to star in the next Star Wars movie whether y’all like it or not. That goes for every single person on here fighting over whether they want Finn with Rey or this new girl, and everyone on here complaining that she’s Vietnamese instead of Chinese, and etc etc etc!! Get a grip people. Everyone is entitled an opinion, but everyone here is talking about anything except for the fact that WOW!! NEW STAR WARS CHARACTER THAT WON’T NEED A MAN BECAUSE SHE CAN KICK BUTT BY HERSELF!!!!! It seems like Finn and Rey already have a crush on one another, and personally I would like to see this new character come into the trilogy without a love interest. Not every girl needs a man, and I would like to see a kick butt Asian girl that can hold her own without a man!! Okay? Okay.

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  6. Hey FishNets and FinnRey fan. Finn might not end up with either girl. What will you do then without your precious shipping coming true??!! Stop taking scripted romance sooooo freakin seriously. I’m just looking forward to how to movie will play out. I don’t care if Finn marries Rey or rides off into the sunset with Kelly Marie Tran!! Boo hoo freaking hoo.

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  7. I’m Asian, and honestly I don’t want this girl to be with Finn. I would like to see a strong Asian Woman be portrayed as a warrior who doesn’t need a man. I agree that Finn and Rey have chemistry, why not just let them get together in the end? Throwing Kelly in the movie as “Finn’s love interest” is not what I have in mind at all. I want to see a feminine Asian warrior that can hold her own in a movie for once. FinnRey all the way- I ship Kelly’s character with herself. Not every Asian woman in a movie has to be the love interest of somebody!!

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  8. Wow! Some of the comments are going way overboard! I think Kelly is very pretty and judging from what I’ve seen from her Youtube stuff, very talented! Even John Boyega has commented on how excited he is to work with her. Huge congratulations to her for getting her first major role in a Hollywood blockbuster, and a Star Wars movie at that! Also if she does indeed play Finn’s love interest – I don’t know about you guys, but I personally think seeing a Black person and an Asian person together in a Hollywood Blockbuster of all things, is far more ground-breaking than seeing a Black person and a White person together. If done right, it will be massive! I’m personally looking forward to seeing both their relationship develop in Episode VIII and the reaction to it, providing the rumours are true.

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  9. I prefer Finn and Rey, because it breaks the cliché black or white couple. I like the idea of a white female and black male paired together, it’s never done in big name movies like Star Wars. I have seen black/Asian couples multiple times in movies and it’s nice to break that barrier and show something new for once.

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  10. I really don’t like the Kelly/Finn pairing. I’m not trying to be mean, or hate on it or anything, and people can ship whatever they want, but I just hate seeing so much of it in current blogs.

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  11. I honestly believe Finn and Rey belong together. Outside of their race difference, both have huge caring hearts and would sacrifice themselves for one another! Along with their sense of adventure, they can learn a lot together and be the person each other needs. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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  12. Rey/Finn is the only pair I ever have and ever will ship. I think they are absolutely perfect for each another and have been since the beginning. Since The Force Awakens I wanted them to be together and I couldn’t be happier with the way their characters are developing.

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  13. I only want Kelly’s character and Finn to be friends. His heart belongs to….another girl ❤ ❤ ❤
    They even have matching aquatic names . ……. Soulmates!!

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  14. If they really want to break ground they should get Finn and Poe together. They have much more chemistry in my opinion and they would be a nice change from the predictable hetero couples. Also, lead LGBT characters are almost non-existant in blockbuster movies, compared to leads of different ethnicities. Please Star Wars, make it happen ❤

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  15. Remember people, Jedi are not technically allowed to have emotional attachments. So thinking that Finn and Rey are going to become romantically involved is incredibly unlikely; especially now that Luke is back in the picture and just had to deal with Kylo Ren’s meltdown. There is no way that Luke is let Rey become like Kylo or his father Anakin; because of Anakin’s love for Padme the entire galaxy was pretty much ruined and all but a few Jedi murdered. Luke will not have it! Unless Rey turns to the Dark Side or some crazy shit too, she will be single her entire life like Luke. On a lighter note, there is definitely going to be a romance in the works; what Star Wars trilogy doesn’t have a major romance? None, each of the first two did, the third one will not be any different. What will be difficult to guess is who it will be, my guess is that it will be a complete surprise. PS…I really wish Anna Kendrick got the part; I adore that girl.

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