Alongside Benicio del Toro and Laura Dern, an actress named Kelly Marie Tran was added to the Star Wars: Episode VIII cast. So who is she?
Kelly Marie Tran is, much like Daisy Ridley was when she was cast in The Force Awakens, an unknown. She’s appeared in a few short films (The Rising Cost of Cosmetics, and Untouchable), a YouTube series called Ladies Like Us (via Entertainment Weekly), and, a series more people are probably familiar with, several episodes of College Humor.
Other than a few other bit parts in various projects, none of them renowned, that’s about it. Her earliest project was in 2011, so she hasn’t been acting that long, at least not professionally. Yet, rumors indicate that Tran’s role in Episode VIII will be significant (again, her career is shaping up to be comparable to Ridley’s, in its rocket toward fame).
A few weeks ago, there was a rumor that an Asian actress had been cast in Episode VIII. Before that, several rumor pieces made the circuit about various actresses being considered for casting (though it remains to be found out if they were all auditioning for the same role). The current belief is that Tran is taking the role which was previously reported to belong to Gugu Mbatha Raw, who was later reported to have dropped out of the running when she signed on to another project. Bel Powley was thought to have replaced Mbatha Raw, but it seems Tran now is now in that position instead of Powley.
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Now, before the Mbatha Raw rumor, The Wrap reported a shortlist for actresses who were doing screentests with John Boyega for Episode VIII. This list consisted of three names: Tatiana Maslany, Olivia Cooke, and Gina Rodriguez. It’s not clear if Tran got the role they were all auditioning for, if Gugu Mbatha Raw was her competition, or if she landed a different role entirely. Unless we get another casting announcement soon, however, with another actress listed, it may be safe to assume Tran also screentested with Boyega and subsequently landed that role.
The screentest was reportedly testing the actresses’ chemistry with Boyega. This doesn’t necessarily mean much, however; whatever character these actresses were competing for could just be a bit part, a minor character who only interacts briefly with Finn. On the other hand, there could be a set up for Finn to have a significant relationship with a brand new main character.
There’s a lot to consider; and yet also a lot we can’t consider, because we have so little information on Tran’s character and how much screentime she’ll be getting. We don’t even know if she’s an alien or a human. Even with J.J. Abrams not directing, the mystery box is out in full force. But hopefully, as or if we get further cast announcements and we find out just how many new actresses are in the main cast, we’ll be able to speculate more accurately whether Tran will or won’t be interacting directly with Boyega on-screen, and direct our fan theories from there.