Kelly Marie Tran compares experience with Star Wars bullying to an 'embarrassingly horrible breakup'
Tran looks back on facing online harassment and leaving the public eye to find that "fire that burned inside of me."
Kelly Marie Tran has had to endure more than most rising stars in Hollywood these days. In 2015, she was cast in the role of Resistance maintenance mechanic Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a dream role that would roll over into The Rise of Skywalker, which premiered in December 2019. After The Last Jedi hit theaters, however, the actress faced a barrage of online hate aimed at her appearance and ethnicity. In the aftermath, she deleted her social media presence entirely and moved away from the spotlight.
In a new interview for The Hollywood Reporter, ahead of Tran's reemergence as the voice of adventuring heroine Raya in Disney's animated Raya and the Last Dragon, the 32-year-old speaks about that time in her life, which she describes as if she "fell in love very publicly and then very publicly had an embarrassingly horrible breakup."
"What's interesting to me about working in this industry is that certain things become so public, even if you don't really mean them to be, [like] the succession of events in which I left the internet for my own sanity," Tran said. "It was basically me being like, 'Oh, this isn't good for my mental health. I'm obviously going to leave this.'"
Some of her Star Wars brethren came to Tran's defense during that time, including Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill and The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson. Hamill tweeted, "Star Wars' trolls: '#GetALifeNerds." Johnson wrote how these online harassers were "a few unhealthy people" who "cast a big shadow on the wall." It wasn't enough.
Tran told THR she "said no to a lot of things" after retracting from the public eye. "It felt like I was just hearing the voice of my agents and my publicity team and all of these people telling me what to say and what to do and how to feel. And I realized, I didn't know how I felt anymore. And I didn't remember why I was in this in the first place."
She continued, "Any time that happens, I have to close up shop and go away for a while and really interact in the real world — read books and journal and go on hikes and look at a tree and remind myself that there was a fire that burned inside of me before Star Wars, before any of this. And I needed to find that again."
Tran mentioned she went to therapy where she was reminded, "If someone doesn't understand me or my experience, it shouldn't be my place to have to internalize their misogyny or racism or all of the above. Maybe they just don't have the imagination to understand that there are different types of people living in the world."
Now, Tran is actually a Disney Princess. And the online trolls that harassed her are still just that.