Arguably one of the most anticipated characters on the roster in [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](tag:711158) (as evidenced, at least, by the fact that almost no one has been able to find her on any retail shelf since the first hour of Force Friday) , Captain Phasma is someone that fans know little about so far. A Leader within the First Order, Phasma commands a daunting presence in her chrome armor, brought to life by rising star Gwendoline Christie for the seventh installment of the Star Wars saga.
Christie sat down with Variety to talk about her roles as Phasma, Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones, and her upcoming role in [The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2](tag:449866), detailing her on-set work as Phasma -- and clarifying that, from voice to body work, it is her portraying Phasma for the entirety of the film:
It was very important to J.J. that I was there acting a part,” she noted. “I found it to be a really interesting acting challenge, not just because of what I felt this character was representing — and it was just what I felt, and we talked about it a little bit, but it was never like a manifesto, ‘this is what it must be’ — and it was exciting to me to have that weight of responsibility taken away, of having to be a certain way as a woman, to have to be mindful in a way that isn’t always useful.
To have that stripped away was very liberating, and it meant that as an actor I had to focus on other things. I had to focus on what my body was communicating and what exactly my voice is communicating.
It becomes about the way in which you hold your hand, the way in which you walk, where your weight lies and what you want that to mean, and I wanted to give the character identity. I thought it was interesting to make something about the character identifiably female in a non-superficial way, and I hope that comes across.
Mentioning an instance where the Star Wars facebook page corrected a fan regarding Phasma's gender, Christie stressed the importance of education in the face of adversity.
It was beautiful because it was informative, which is what we all need in order to tackle prejudice of any kind in our world … to be fed information,” Christie said of the measured response. “That’s just my opinion, that education combats fear, and fear leads to prejudice — so if we all become more educated, and if our mainstream media continues to expand and show a more realistic representation of women and of men…
In relation to The Hunger Games, the actress mentioned both Katniss and Peeta as unconventional takes on gender roles:
Katniss is an incredible woman, but Peeta also is a different kind of male hero. He’s a different kind of male character because he has a rich emotional world and he isn’t the brawny steadfast man that we have seen again and again.
Fictional worlds take us away from our daily lives for a trip through fantasy, but great fiction exists when characters are relatable, giving the audience a sense of empathy and identity in the heroes, villains, and everyone in between. With Christie's groundbreaking roles and more permeating throughout the entertainment space, the reach of interesting, diversified character can begin to stretch as far as the galaxy's reach itself.
Catch Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma in Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 18th.