What’s been great about the “get to know Kelly Marie Tran, your new Star Wars breakout actor” press tour is that she just keeps doing things that a normal person would do if, all of a sudden, they found out they were in a Star Wars movie. Like, even in the late 1970s, it’s hard to picture Harrison Ford standing in line at the local Montgomery Ward so he could buy a Han Solo action figure. But, yes, Kelly Marie Tran is out there hitting her local Targets in search of Rose Tico action figures, even going as far to tell one checkout person who she is, even though that person didn’t believe her (and don’t try to pretend you wouldn’t be doing the same thing, because you totally would be).
It’s been well documented that Tran had a day job when she auditioned for Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, and then had to return to that day job and not tell anyone that they now worked with a Star Wars actor. And even now, we really don’t know that much about Rose other than she’s a Resistance maintenance worker; who has a sister, Paige, who is a Resistance gunner; and she hangs out with John Boyega’s Finn a lot. (The good news is that all this mystery will end next week.)
Anyway, yes, if you happen to work at Target in the Southern California area, be on the lookout for Kelly Marie Tran: She’s the one buying all the Rose Tico action figures.
Your story is fascinating, in a weird way you kind of represent not giving up hope about being in a Star Wars movie…
Oh, well thank you for saying that. Yeah, I know. It feels very unreal to me still. And I’ve been kind of part of this process for, I guess I started auditioning in June of 2015. I found out I got it in November of 2015, so I’ve been on the project for two years now and I still feel like it’s not real.
If it were me, I would be worried that I’m going to bring my friends and family to the premiere and somehow I still get cut out.
I totally get that fear. Actually, a lot of the cast watched it last night.
So you have good news?
[Laughs.] I’m one of the lucky ones, I’m one of the lucky ones, yes.
In interviews, you come off like a normal person and very humble about this whole experience, but it would be funny if you started getting cocky…
If an interviewer asked, “Describe Rose,” and you said, “Well, I’m the new Harrison Ford. If you liked him, you’re gonna love this.”
Oh my gosh, can you imagine? Who says that? That would be really funny.
Say that one time and see how it goes over.
Um, I’m going to pass.
Not to me, but like just say it randomly to someone else, just to see the look on his or her face…
What’s weird is I do feel like I feel that sometimes I’ll do something, and it becomes a headline for some strange, random article. So it’s really interesting because it’s never been part of my experience in life before, it’s interesting to see what people write. I know I shouldn’t care, but I do.
Of course you should care. I would care a lot.
Okay, cool, cool.
I think that’s normal.
Sometimes I’ll Google myself and I’m like, this is gross, why am I Googling myself? I hate this.
It’d be weird if you didn’t care. Plus it’s Star Wars and no one has seen the movie yet so people look for clues.
I totally get that, but you know what? We’re almost to the point where people will start seeing it. I’m so excited. I’m just so excited.
Rian Johnson mentioned I should ask about your family, but he left it at that…
Oh, what a mysterious statement.
It is a mysterious statement.
Well, I mean my family’s not from the entertainment business, if that’s what he means. Like my parents are both refugees from Vietnam. My mom works in funerals and my dad works at Burger King, and their whole lives their only dream was essentially to put my sisters and me in a position where we could have the luxury of having a dream. Because I think a lot of people don’t realize that that is a luxury. You have to meet a lot of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs before you can get to the point where you even think about having a dream. You have to have a place to live, food to eat. You have to have protection from outside danger, things like that. From the moment I knew that I wanted to be an actor, I have felt from the very beginning that I have been living for many generations, and that is sort of what has kept me going when I was struggling. And then when I wasn’t able to pay my bills and when I was working multiple jobs at the same time to support this thing, I always remembered that my parents and their parents before them never even got to the point where they could have a dream. So, yeah.
You mentioned after you got cast you tried to get them to see The Force Awakens but they weren’t interested. Did you finally get them to see it?
[Laughs.] I did, finally. I still don’t think they understand, though, exactly.
So when you were auditioning and you watched the movies for the first time, what order did you watch them in?
I watched IV, V, VI, I, II, III. Oh, that’s a lie. I watched The Force Awakens first, and then I watched IV, V, VI.
Of the original six, which one did you like the best?
I like Empire the best.
Well, that’s going to make everyone happy, because that’s the consensus pick.
Oh! Didn’t know that!
People will cite its different feel, look, and tone. If you had said, “Oh, Attack of the Clones really spoke to me,” I think people would find that an unusual answer. But people will like that you said Empire.
Well, I’m high-fiving you, but you can’t see it.
Why did you like Empire the best?
Like you said, I just feel like it has a different feel and a different tone, and any time a film in a franchise does something different, it really kind of piques my interest. But I think that The Last Jedi, and just coming off watching it last night with the cast, I think a lot of us, all of us, really feel like the same way about this movie. It’s just different. It’s got a different tone. It’s just, I think people are really going to respond to it. I’m emotional talking to you about it right now.
What do you do with your action figure of yourself? Because I’d feel like I’d want to display it, but then I’d be afraid friends would make fun of me.
I know, it’s totally weird, right?
I’ll never have that problem, just to be clear.
Well, I will say this: I don’t display them. But every time I go to Target, I’ll go to the Star Wars area and look for things, and I will buy them with my own money. I just like the experience of buying them. It’s very weird! [Laughs.] One time I went to Target and I bought some things, no one ever recognizes me, but I kind of wanted to just see if they would care. So finally, I’m like, “Hey, this is me.” And the person checking me out was like, “Sure.” I was like, “No, seriously, it’s me.” And they were like, “Okay, I have a long line. Can you please hurry up?”
To be fair, I wouldn’t believe you either. It’s too preposterous.
Right? Exactly. And I laughed so hard. I was like, this is great.
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