Note, the following article contains references to the Expanded Universe - but not in the way you might think...
So. We finally have the missing pieces of the Star Wars casting puzzle. Lupita Nyong'o and Gwendoline 'Brienne of Tarth' Christie have been confirmed to be appearing in Star Wars Episode VII. This is good news on any number of fronts - whether it be the fact that they're both ridiculously talented actors, the fact that the movie will actually have a decent number of female leads, or the fact that those female leads won't all be cookie-cutter princess stereotypes.
The question, though, is who will they be playing?
Now we all know the Expanded Universe is (mostly) dead, so far as J.J. Abrams and Episode VII are concerned at any rate, but that doesn't mean it holds no clues for us. Names will change, back stories will fluctuate more wildly than the tone of Artoo's beeping, and most fan favorites will never see the light of the big screen - but just like a rebel Blockade Runner, something will get through.
There are basic character archetypes that recur all the way through Star Wars' history, and throughout the wider culture, and within a relatively finite scenario like Episode VII (A story tied to an epic space adventure and it's heroes, but necessarily set thirty-five years later) there are certain things we can expect to see. Let's take a look at the contenders for who Nyong'o and Christie will play:
The Jedi: Mara Jade
In the end, there are a limited number of Jedi that the Star Wars universe contains. There are your Jedi that move towards the dark side, and then there are the supporting characters. It's all well and good Yoda and Mace Windu being un-conflicted in the films, because we've got Luke and Anakin to focus all of our will they/won't they energies onto. Mara Jade, though - aside from a Luke Skywalker-marrying plot strand that seems unlikely with the 35 year jump - is your classic reverse of that traditional narrative. She was a force-wielding Imperial assassin, turned smuggler, turned Jedi. So Boba Fett meets Han Solo meets Luke Skywalker, played by an Oscar-winning actor? Yes please.
The Sith: Asajj Ventress
Now, there's been a lot of talk doing the rounds, suggesting that Nyong'o will be playing fan favorite Asajj Ventress in Episode VII. Marc Rod has recently broken down exactly why that's unlikely to happen - but a Ventress-alike character is still very much on the table. If you're looking for a natural nemesis for the first film, a Sith-for-hire like Ventress would be a great way to hint at the presence of a future 'big bad' without having to show them directly.
The (Bad-Ass) Princess: Tenel Ka Djo
A princess of the Hapes Consortium, Ten Ka Djo was torn between duty to her people and her training as a kick-ass Jedi Knight. Expect any hint of the names to go, but if Episode VII is going to feature a new princess, then how much cooler could you get than Nyong'o running around with a lightsaber and some sort of battle-ready crown?
The Politician: Thrawn
This one's a little more outside the box - but would allow Nyong'o to stretch her acting chops a little more, which seems at least a likely intention on Abrams' part. Another of the Expanded Universe' most popular characters, Thrawn was the only non-human Grand Admiral in the Imperial Navy, who appeared several years after the battle of Endor and came close to defeating the Rebel Alliance's fledgling New Republic. With the 35 year jump, he's off the table - but his daughter, a brilliant young Admiral, emerging from beyond known space to threaten our heroes? That, not so much
The Jedi: An'ya Kuro
Fans of Game of Thrones have very much taken Christie to their hearts, and not just because of the inherently bad-ass nature of her character, Brienne of Tarth. Christie herself offers a darkness-tinged heroism that appeals in much the same way that Luke Skywalker's does towards the end of the original trilogy. There's something fundamentally compelling about lost innocence transforming into the ability to kick evil-doer butt all over the place - especially when there's a lightsaber involved. The legendary EU Jedi An'ya Kuro is unlikely to appear in Episode VII, being both non-canon and pretty solidly dead, but her basic framework fits Christie like a glove. A tough as nails and devout Jedi with a willingness to break the rules to get the job done, Kuro was to the regular Jedi what Special Ops are to a traffic cop. Which sounds like casting gold to me.
The Sith: Tahiri Veila
Much the same thinking could be employed in the other direction, however. Many fans have speculated that Christie will be taking on a villainous role, with her size and frame offering a strong physical response to the sprightly young Jedi that have presumably already been cast. Tahiri Veila, a Skywalker-trained Jedi Knight, who was later drawn towards the Sith, would offer a nice narrative arc - possibly combined with some unrequited love for a Solo kid?
The Politician: Mon Mothma
Three words: Mon. Mothma. Jr. Worried about a strong female presence in the inevitable scenes of political wrangling? How about a role as Leia's tough, no-nonsense political protege?
The Bounty Hunter: Aurra Sing
What if - as I'm sure many of us have spent restless, optimistic nights dreaming about - the movie focuses more on bounty hunters than the original trilogy did? Well then, there could be a place for someone a little like Aurra Sing. Having briefly appeared in Episode I, the character herself is unlikely to turn up, but surely there's room for a sniper rifle-toting former Jedi specializing in political assassinations in the new trilogy?
[Star Wars: Episode VII](movie:711158) is set for release December 18, 2015.