The Rise of Skywalker writer explains why Kelly Marie Tran had a reduced role
A writer on The Rise of Skywalker is explaining the film’s handling of a character that some say was shortchanged in the new Star Wars film.
Chris Terrio, who co-wrote the movie with director J.J. Abrams, was asked about the lack of screen time for Kelly Marie Tran’s character Rose Tico. The Resistance engineer was introduced in Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi where she had a major role in the film, but — spoiler alert — Tico spent The Rise of Skywalker back at the base and didn’t have many lines.
Terrio told Awards Daily that he and Abrams “adore” Tran and that the character’s role was originally more significant. Tran shot scenes where the character interacts with General Leia Organa, whose performance was created using Carrie Fisher’s deleted scenes from The Force Awaken. But the team ran into post-production difficulties making the Tico-Leia scenes believable.
“One of the reasons that Rose has a few less scenes than we would like her to have has to do with the difficulty of using Carrie Fisher’s footage in the way we wanted to,” Terrio told Awards Daily. “We wanted Rose to be the anchor at the rebel base who was with Leia. We thought we couldn’t leave Leia at the base without any of the principals who we love, so Leia and Rose were working together … As the process evolved, a few scenes we’d written with Rose and Leia turned out to not meet the standard of photorealism that we’d hoped for. Those scenes, unfortunately, fell out of the film.”
Terrio added: “The last thing we were doing was deliberately trying to sideline Rose. We adore the character, and we adore Kelly — so much so that we anchored her with our favorite person in this galaxy, General Leia.”
Tran also had at least one scene cut with Rey (Daisy Ridley), as seen in this pre-release promotional photo:
In a separate interview with IndieWire, Terrio was asked about revealing — some assume changing — Rey’s parentage from the “nobodies” of The Last Jedi to Palpatine’s grandaughter in the new film.
“I don’t know that I’m supposed to get into the specifics of what story points were already in place, but what I can say is that J.J. always had an idea in his head of where he wanted us to emotionally leave the trilogy, and I think he wanted Rey to have to contend with the very worst things about herself that we could imagine,” he said. “When Rey was wondering what her place in all this was — and she articulated that in Episode 8 — but she wondered it in Episode 7, too. J.J. always felt that she should get the worst possible news. In a way, the worst possible news for the Rey of Episode 8 is that she is just a child of junk traders, which is true. That’s not contradicted by what you learn in this film, but that she’s the descendant of someone who represents the opposite of all that the Skywalkers represent … Other than scavenging, the first thing that we see Rey do in the trilogy is perform an act of kindness and compassion for BB-8,” Terrio said. “She sees BB-8, who’s an underdog, a weak droid, being exploited by someone, and without missing a beat, she stands up for him. And that immediately told you who Rey was back in Episode 7 … Who is Rey, is a question that is much more than a factual one, it’s a character question. I think Rey has to keep asking herself who she is and keep declaring who she is in the course of this movie, and that changes.”
Tico’s role in The Last Jedi was heralded as the first major Star Wars role for an Asian actress. While many praised Tran’s inclusion and performance in Last Jedi, the actress was also subject to racist and sexist attacks online, which began even before that film was shown. Tran wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about the experience, noting that the bullying “reinforced a narrative I had heard my whole life: that I was ‘other’, that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t good enough, simply because I wasn’t like them.” So Tran having such a slight role in the new film was considered at best unfortunate given the history, and at worst pandering to her attackers.
Tran’s fans have been protesting film with the hashtag campaign #RoseTicoDeservedBetter, spearheaded by Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu, who has offered to direct a Star Wars series about Tico if Disney Plus were to get on board.