“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” brings about the franchise’s first female villain — a role actress Gwendoline Christie was born to play.
Best known as the indomitable Brienne of Tarth on “Game of Thrones,” Christie ditches her knight’s armour for a chrome Stormtrooper uniform as the film’s Captain Phasma. We don’t know much about the character yet, but she appears to serve in the First Order, a military group inspired by the Galactic Empire.
In a recent interview with the LA Times, Christie compared Captain Phasma to Boba Fett, a fan favourite for nearly 40 years, in that she makes a big impact without being at the center of the action all the time.
Christie may be in the habit of portraying strong, dominant women, but her “Star Wars” part came with a unique challenge. We don’t see her face (that we know of).
“I found it exciting that there was a female Stormtrooper, but it was also this opportunity to explore a female character that’s not totally about the way she looks,” Christie said at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this year.
While gender makes up part of the character’s identity, Christie’s full suit of armour meant she couldn’t rely on facial expressions or her own natural beauty to express it. She had to carve Captain Phasma’s personality from other angles.
Christie worked with director J.J. Abrams to define Captain Phasma’s motives and ways of interacting with the world. They talked about what she represented and how she achieved her aims — apart from her gender.
We’ll have to wait until the movie’s release date to learn the outcome of those conversations, of course.
“It was exciting to me to have that weight of responsibility taken away, of having to be a certain way as a woman, to have to be mindful in a way that isn’t always useful,” Christie told Variety in an interview.
“It isn’t about holding your head so you look beautiful,” she explained. “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.”
The zero-pressure to appear feminine allowed Christie to focus on body language and her voice. She became hyper-sensitive to how she held her hand, walked, lay her weight — and what she wanted it all to mean.
“I thought it was interesting to make something about the character identifiably female in a non-superficial way,” Christie told Variety, “and I hope that comes across.”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” arrives in theatres December 18.
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