After much harrumphing that the new Star Wars film was in danger of not being Title IX compliant, the Force was somewhat balanced yesterday with the announcement that Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and Game of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie had been cast in J.J. Abrams’ space epic. That’s hardly gender parity — with Carrie Fisher and newcomer Daisy Ridley the only other females currently announced — but it’s certainly a substantial and necessary improvement for a traditionally boys-heavy franchise entering the post Hunger Games universe. Thus far, the only significant female Star Wars characters in six episodes have been a princess and a queen — but Abrams has a solid reputation for strong, well-drawn female characters, from Felicity to Alias to Fringe.
Speculation based on seating order at the recent Star Wars read-through and preconceptions about Han and Leia’s inevitable offspring hinted that Ridley will play their teenaged daughter and perhaps be the keystone to Episode VII‘s story. But what of Nyong’o and Christie? Who might they play? And does the fact that they were not part of the first round of casting announcements indicate that they’re background players and not essential personnel?
Based on the popular profile and pedigree of both actresses, it’s unlikely that either Nyong’o or Christie will be relegated to Lobot or Cantina-dancer status. And though Lucasfilm has announced that the Expanded Universe is no longer gospel — not that it ever technically was — the studio is not against plucking favorite characters and storylines from previous material. “While the universe that readers knew is changing, it is not being discarded,” Lucasfilm said back in April. “Creators of new Star Wars entertainment have full access to the rich content of the Expanded Universe.” With that in mind, here are three hopeful character possibilities for both actresses, based entirely on wishful thinking.
1. Christie plays the heroic warrior Brienne of Tarth on HBO’s Game of Thrones, and she’s not just tall, she’s tall. Six-foot-three tall. Traditionally in Star Wars, tall means evil, from Darth Vader to Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku (and, potentially, to Adam Driver) — so Christie might play an imposing villain. In the novels, Palpatine had several dark-force operatives — who weren’t necessarily apprentices — that he used for assassination and intrigue called the Emperor’s Hand. Mara Jade, who ultimately married Luke Skywalker, was the most famous of them, though Christie’s relative youth makes that option unlikely. But she could’ve been a child acolyte of Palpatine — like the tall Lumiya — one who’s ready to exact revenge now on Skywalker and the New Republic.
2. The planet of Dathomir is home to the Nightsisters, Force-sensitive alpha-females that ride rancors, the beasts that Jabba the Hutt kept in his dungeon. (Fans of The Clone Wars know that Asajj Ventress came from Dathomir). In several of the post-ROTJ novels, the Nightsisters aligned with the remnants of the Empire and the Sith, but in general, they were formidable wild cards who fought for their own interests. Christie would make a fine Tamith Kai, who kidnapped Han and Leia’s children in the Young Jedi Knights stories. Or she could play Augwynne Djo, the leader of a more peaceful Dathomirian clan of witches. Either way, I like the idea of visiting Dathomir.
3. Height doesn’t have to indicate malevolence. After all, Mons Mothma (pictured above) was a tall, regal leader of the Rebel Alliance in ROTJ. There’s a slight physical resemblance between Christie and actress Carolina Blakiston. Might Christie be Mothma’s daughter, a leader of the New Republic?
1. With Billy Dee Williams the biggest star from the original trilogy who’s missing from the new cast list, it’s an inevitable leap to suspect that either Nyong’o or John Boyega have some Calrissian blood flowing in their veins. Personally, I’d prefer the latter, with Lando’s son part of a love triangle that involves Han’s daughter. But Nyong’o could also be Lando’s heir, either a leader in the New Republic or a successful galactic entrepreneur.
2. Nyong’o emanates grace that borders on nobility, so she’d be a perfect Tenal Ka, the Jedi-in-training with royal blood. In the books, the character has a long and fascinating arc that is tightly intertwined with both generations of Star Wars characters. Tenal Ka also hails from Dathomir, so that planet has the potential to be this trilogy’s Tatooine or Coruscant.
3. I’d wince if Nyong’o is doomed to be a Star Wars “woman of color” — that is, the blue or green-skinned Twi’lek with head tentacles and halter tops. But it’s also difficult to imagine her as a villain or a rogue bounty hunter. She does, however, have a physical resemblance to the aforementioned Asajj Ventress, one of the Expanded Universe’s most popular wild-card characters.