One of the biggest complaints about Star Wars has always been its lack of female and ethnic characters; there were, like, two women in the Original Trilogy (Leia and Mon Mothma) and even less in the Prequels (pretty much just Padme), with only one black actor in either trilogy as well (Mace Windu and Lando). It’s so silly that it’s turned into a laughing point from fans and one of the few areas that the original movies disappoint in. Fortunately, Lucasfilm has tried to rectify this with the new cast; John Boyega is black, Oscar Isaac is Latino and Daisy Ridley’s Rey is heavily rumoured to be the real main character of the new trilogy. It’s the most diverse main cast we’ve ever seen in Star Wars, and that’s now set to increase.
The Wrap revealed that Disney are on the hunt for a new female lead for Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII, and they even have a shortlist: Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) and Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl).
I always find it slightly troubling going into detail of how ‘diverse’ a franchise is – not because it’s a bad thing, obviously, but these Hollywood labels seem to me to have a negative effect on filmmaking by dividing everybody into groups, when at the end of the day they’re all just actors. That doesn’t mean this is a bad thing, of course – I think it’s brilliant that young girls are now going to have some role models in a galaxy far, far away. I just wish people didn’t have to talk about two female leads as if it’s a massive deal.
That being said, plenty of people have been questioning whether this means that Rey doesn’t survive the first movie, or will at least be absent in VIII. This is partly because Hollywood has drilled into our heads that you can only have one female lead and we’ve gotten so used to that, but also because the site notes that each of the actors will be having ‘chemistry tests’ with John Boyega at the end of the month. Some fans have taken this to mean that the pair will end up as a couple; it’s possible, but you’ve gotta remember that chemistry is also needed in on-screen partnerships. Maslany may have a slight edge since she was also up for the Star Wars: Rogue One lead that eventually ended up as Felicity Jones’, and if she’s also on this shortlist then she must have made a good impression on Lucasfilm!
What I think is more likely is that this character will be the ‘Lando’ of the new trilogy – not necessarily fitting into his character archetype but rather fulfilling that fourth friend role – and we may already know who she is. Y’see, this isn’t the first we’ve heard of a female lead in Episode VIII. Last week Geek Nation reported that the movie was casting for a “strong, young female character to be featured heavily.” That strong, young female character is supposedly the daughter of Han Solo.
Most people had been under the impression that Rey is the daughter of Han and Leia, but this throws that into question – unless Han and Leia have two daughters. If the site was right about a new female lead then it stands to reason they’re right about that part, however that would be easier to fabricate, and I think it’s questionable given Rodriguez’ Puerto Rican ethnicity. Basically, I doubt this mystery character is a Solo.
Star Wars Episode VIII sounds more mysterious every day. The only characters who we really know are returning are Boyega’s Finn (thanks to this report), Isaac’s Poe Dameron (from the man himself), and Kylo Ren (J.J. Abrams basically confirmed it); people are merely assuming that the rest of the cast will be back. With reports like this, and Benicio del Toro all but confirmed to play the main villain, I really am intrigued about what this movie is gonna be like.