Kelly Marie Tran plays one of the lead roles in The Last Jedi, a new character named Rose Tico. Tran worked an office job in Hollywood for years, going to auditions and getting only occasional small acting roles. Then in 2015 her life changed (and in December it will change even more) when she made it through the auditions for the new Star Wars movie. The kicker is that Tran had never seen any of the Star Wars movies! A self-described nerd, Tran was always busy deep into Harry Potter fandom. But she was called back to audition month after month, five in all, for director Ryan Johnson.
Three weeks later, in November 2015, Johnson emailed Tran’s agent and asked to meet with Tran before she went home for Thanksgiving. “I remember every moment,” she said through a grin. “Walking up the stairs, there’s a little bit of small talk, and then Rian says, ‘I want to offer you this role.’” Tran didn’t react; she froze. “What happens when everything you’ve ever wanted comes true?” She hid her face behind her hands at the memory. “I didn’t say a word. I was terrified. It was such an overwhelming shock.” Johnson waited, and then asked, “Umm, do you want this?” Yes, she did.
Tran went home for the holidays, but couldn’t tell anyone she’d just landed the role of a lifetime — all aspects of the movie were being kept top secret. She lied and told her mom, dad, and two sisters that she’d booked an indie film in Canada. She casually suggested the family go see The Force Awakens, but her dad objected. “He goes, ‘Ughhh, I hate movies like that. I don’t know why people go see sci-fi movies,’” Tran laughed. “And I was like, ‘Welp.’”