Kelly Marie Tran 'cannot believe' she is in Star Wars
Vietnamese-American actress joins Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen as notable Asian actor in Star Wars franchise
Vietnamese-American Kelly Marie Tran was "shocked" and "terrified" when she learnt that she had scored a big role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi following a gruelling five-month audition.
The eighth instalment of the franchise, which opens here on Dec 14, sees the 28-year-old actress play Rose Tico, a Resistance mechanic who embarks on an unlikely journey with John Boyega's Finn.
"There are days when I get excited or am on the verge of tears because I cannot believe that I am part of Star Wars," she told The New Paper yesterday.
The petite actress was in town to promote the Rian Johnson-directed film. She also graced a special Star Wars edition of Marina Bay Sands' outdoor multimedia light and water show.
She described working on Star Wars as an "out-of-body" experience, especially when interacting with fan-favourites such as R2-D2 and C-3PO.
But the realisation kicked in full blast only when British actor Boyega turned to her after they had performed a scene and said: "Kelly, we are making history."
She added: "You have to keep reminding and pinching yourself about what you are doing. It is something that is so much bigger than you."
Tran, who got her start in showbiz in 2011 by playing bit parts in short films and US TV series, prepared for her breakout role by researching the Vietnam War as her parents have a "specific relationship" to it.
She said: "Tico also has a specific relationship to war, and I wanted to feel (and show) that during her scenes."
Tran joins Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen from last year's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as one of the notable Asian actors in the franchise.
While the film's writers were not specifically seeking an Asian actor, Tran admitted that she felt "a lot of pressure initially to represent something".
She also revealed that she was no Star Wars fan before playing Tico.
She said: "I think being new to the series helped. During auditions, I did not have that overbearing expectation to make Tico similar to someone whom I have already seen in previous Star Wars films."
She also had the opportunity to meet Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original trilogy, before her death last year at the age of 60.
Tran said: "(Fisher) is incredible, and has no definition. She is shamelessly herself, (which is) hard when you are in front of millions of people. She is unapologetic and that is something I look up to and strive for."
Tran wanted to deliver a positive message on hope through Rose's portrayal, saying: "Even if you are not a princess, a star pilot or do not possess magical powers, you can still make a difference."
Asked what advice she had for budding actors, she said: "If you are a good person, working hard and not getting distracted by parties and people telling you what you should and should not do, you will get there."