This week’s newest issue of Entertainment Weekly has the rundown on this December’s Rogue One, the latest addition to the Star Wars saga. Though the movie has been hotly anticipated for a while — including a well received teaser trailer that dropped a few months back — recent rumors about reshoots and studio interference has given some fans pause. For what it’s worth, I’m still hyped about the flick, if for no other reason than its stellar — and diverse — cast. Last year, we were psyched to see just how inclusive the cast was, and now we know exactly who they will be playing.
In anticipation to their Rogue One cover story, EW has been releasing info online for the last few days. Though we’ve seen plenty of stills and footage, no one has figured out anything about who this band of rebels is. Until now. We’re going to focus on the bios of the characters of color because Rogue One will feature the most at one time of any movie in the saga to date.
When Luna’s casting was announced, many fans speculated he might be playing Kes Dameron, a character introduced in Marvel’s Shattered Empire comics and the father of Oscar Isaac’s Poe from The Force Awakens. Instead, Luna will be playing Captain Andor, a by-the-book Rebel intelligence officer. Suffice it to say, some folks were disappointed that he isn’t playing Kes. But remember, not all Latinos in space have to be related.
I'm glad that rumor about Kes Dameron can finally die. #morethanonelatinofamilyinthegffa— Bria LaVorgna (@chaosbria) June 22, 2016
“He conveys a fair amount of experience and the reality of what it’s like to do this every day, to try to figure out how to resist the Empire effectively and intelligently,” says Kiri Hart, Lucasfilm’s chief of story development. “It’s not easy.”
When the trailer debuted, a lot of people assumed Yen would be playing a blind, Zaitoichi-like warrior. Well, they were right. Though he isn’t a Jedi, Chirrut Imwe is a believer in the Force. “Chirrut falls into the category of being a warrior monk,” says Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “He very much still believes in everything the Jedi were about.”
I’ve seen some folks in my social media circles bemoan the fact that Donnie Yen is playing a martial artist. But seriously. IT’S DONNIE YEN. Of course he’s a martial artist! Now, it’s probably because I’m less inclined to run away from the martial artist stereotype, but having a “warrior monk” character like Imwe doesn’t bother me at all. Sure, if the only Asian character in the Star Wars universe was a kung fu guy, it might give me pause, but Imwe isn’t the only Asian character. Hell, he isn’t the only Asian in Rogue One!
The main reason I’m okay with Donnie Yen as the martial artist is because his partner, Baze Milbus played by Jiang Wen, is representing a completely different kind of character. EW described him as someone who “prefers a blaster to hokey religions and ancient weapons” — sounds like a certain scruffy looking nerf herder we all know and love.
“He understands Chirrut’s spiritual centeredness, but he doesn’t necessarily support it,” Kennedy says.
Rounding out Rogue One’s Asian triumvirate, British-born Riz Ahmed — one of my picks for Asian Bond, natch — plays the Rebels’ hot-headed lead pilot Bodhi Rook. In addition to his awesome name, Bodhi is an abrasive yet dependable teammate. “He flies a lot of cargo, one of his key jobs,” Kennedy says. “And he tends to be a little tense, a little volatile, but everybody in the group really relies on his technical skills.”
See? Three Asian characters; three completely different roles. That’s how you avoid stereotypes.
Finally, Forest Whitaker rounds out the Rogue One cast as the lone pre-existing character to make his live action debute (sorry, Kes Dameron fans). Whitaker is playing Saw Gerrera, a name familiar to anyone who has watched Star Wars: Clone Wars.
On the show, Gerrera fought alongside Anakin Skywalker against the droid army that took over his planet. Hopefully, Whitaker will share a scene with Darth Vader, since it has also been confirmed the Sith Lord will make an appearance in the film.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens on December 16. Now if only we didn’t have to wait until Episode VIII to see some women of color in a galaxy far, far away.