By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—British actress Gwendoline Christie is a towering and fearsome figure in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” She plays the Captain Phasma, the commander of the First Order Stormtroopers, in service to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), as they search for clues to Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts. Masked throughout, she is a formidable foe on the Dark Side of the Force in the highly anticipated sci-fi sequel, directed by “Star Trek” and “Lost’s” J.J. Abrams, who co-wrote the script with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt.
Significantly, the six-foot-3-inch tall actress, best known for her role as master swordswoman Brienne of Tarth in the TV series “Game of Thrones,” is the first female villain in the 40-year-old “Star Wars” franchise.
Dressed in a bright blue top and black slacks, the stunning blond actress, who also has a supporting role in newly released “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2,” spoke about becoming part of the beloved sci-fi film phenomenon, tapping into the ruthless character and whom she would have liked to play if the part already wasn’t taken by a very familiar actor.
Q: Were you prepared for how Captain Phasma became kind of an instant sensation among fans, even prior to the film’s released?
Christie: I was very surprised, and heartened at the overwhelming response to the character of Captain Phasma. J.J. (Abrams, the director) has been open about the fact that he wanted to respect the origins of the films and celebrate them, but also to bring them into the modern day. The confirmation of that seemed to be in this amazing character of Captain Phasma, who is “Star Wars”’ first onscreen female villain. More than that, this is a character that, so far, we have related to due to her choices, due to her character, and not due to the way she has been made in flesh.
Conventionally, that is how we have related to female characters, so this, to me, felt very progressive. The response from the audience and the fans has been so celebratory it makes me think that this is the kind of thing people want to see. People want to see a more diverse reflection of society, and I feel incredibly privileged to play that part.
Q: Do you think that positioned you possibly for a really strong run at the superhero character Captain Marvel, if Marvel happens to offer it to you?
Christie: If anyone else wants to offer me any work, then I am very grateful and willing to listen.
Q: What were your favorite parts of the original movies in the franchise? How did those moments affect your performances in “The Force Awakens?”
Christie: I just remember I was about six years old when I first saw the film, and I remember being so struck by the character of Princess Leia, and thinking even then, in my infant mind, “This seems different to the other women I see in films,” and feeling very, very inspired by that. I was inspired by a woman with such tenacity, and being so strong-minded. So (when I got onto set) I said to Carrie Fisher (who reprises her role of Leia, now a general) that I felt like watching her performance (in those earlier films) implanted a seed in my mind, and Carrie said that she did plant a seed, actually, in my mind. (She laughs.)
Q: Captain Phasma is an interesting new villain introduced in “The Force Awakens.” Is there anyone else in the “Star Wars” universe that you think it would be cool to play?
Christie: Someone that I would be suited to, or just someone I’d simply like to play?
Christie: That’s tough. A character I don’t really think I would particularly be suited to but would definitely like to play is, of course, Han Solo. I might have just a modicum of (Harrison Ford’s) Grand Canyon-size swagger.
Q: What song did you listen to to pump you up before you got on set?
Christie: Oh, good Lord. I’m trying to think of the name of it, because it’s just coursing through my brain now. (She hums out the tune to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir.)
Q: How much of your character’s backstory were you told ahead of time, especially while you were developing Captain Phasma, and how did that inform where you came in with it?
Christie: I was so heartened that it was a genuine, creative experience to work with J.J. (Abrams) about who the character was, and to develop that together. Really, without horribly ruining everything for everyone, it’s interesting to see where my character may go.
Q: I’m wondering if you read any of the online theories of where the story will go? Do you follow any of the fan conversation online, and if so what is your favorite rumor is you’ve heard?
Christie: I have not. Maybe I should start, shouldn’t I? I’ve not followed any fan theories at all. I’m just going to say, because I’ve been busy with “Game of Thrones.”
Q: Speaking of “Game of Thrones,” is the character of John Snow alive or dead in the next season?
Christie: (smiling) I only read my bits in the script. I’ve got no idea.