Gwendoline Christie on Playing Captain Phasma in The Force Awakens


We’ve learned plenty about much of the main cast for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but one character who continues to remain mysterious is Captain Phasma, played by Game of Thrones‘ Gwendoline Christie. But thanks to a new interview, the actress is beginning to give us a peek behind the armor into what it was like playing the First Order shock trooper.

Speaking with Laura Prudom of Variety, Christie touched on several aspects of playing the role, including comparing it to her character on Game of Thrones, a lady knight named Brienne of Tarth. Since we don’t know a lot about Phasma, it’s hard for us to link the two roles, but Christie says she was able to find a connection when she realized she didn’t have to worry about her features.

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"“I don’t think many female actors get the opportunity to play a part where they’re not having to think about the way their face looks, but I found exactly the same thing with Brienne of Tarth, and that was very liberating. It was great as an actor to work on your skills — that it isn’t about holding your head so you look beautiful. It’s about what you’re transmitting, and to be in service of an idea greater than yourself, whether it’s the character’s overriding objective or, beyond that, hopefully something more sociopolitical.”"

Christie makes it sound like being behind the armor while playing Phasma freed her from having to make the usual choices as a woman performer. She still concentrated on making sure the character was clearly a female, but without being able to reveal her face, she was forced to find other ways to express herself, like through her walking style, her posture and her voice.

She also praised the official Star Wars Facebook page for its response to a fan who commented on an image of Captain Phasma in full armor saying he couldn’t tell it was a female. Christie says the Star Wars team’s response, saying armor doesn’t have to look feminine, was the perfect restrained retort.

That mindset, of pushing to free women from rote roles, is something that Christie says she discovered across all three of the lucrative, popular franchises she’s a part of. (She’s also appearing in The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2.) She’s thrilled that giant properties like these are promoting a dialogue about the role of women in film and TV and offering them chances to break out of the usual stereotypes.

"“It’s great to be involved in three big franchises, but [they’re] big three big franchises that are looking to expand our consciousness about each other as human beings, and that’s very exciting. They are three enormous things — however, the quality of the writing and the concepts are very, very well developed and very relevant, so everyone seems engaged in the excitement of what these things are doing.”"

Some of the actors and actresses in the film already have a hard task ahead of them by taking on characters who are completely CGI, such as Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke. But Christie has a unique challenge in The Force Awakens: She’s restricted to using her voice and her body language, and she won’t have much help from computer animators to bring the character to life.

The interview provides an interesting look under the hood at a new Star Wars character who’s still very much shrouded in shadow, and who we probably won’t learn more about until much closer to Dec. 18. But we can already see that Captain Phasma is making waves even outside of the Star Wars universe.

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