The announcement that Lupita Nyong’o and Gwendoline Christie have joined the Star Wars: Episode VII cast comes in the wake of rumors that another female role or two would still be added. Speculation flew, with some fans proposing that the next female character might be a Mara Jade analog. Of these two new roles, neither fits Mara’s appearance as we know it. But the existence of an analog character was never more than speculation, and the two new ladies open up a new world of possibilities.
Nyong’o could play an elegant senator or an equally elegant Sith. She could make a convincing Asajj Ventress, although it would be a pity to cover such an expressive actress up with too much makeup and effects.
Christie could play a Jedi, perhaps one as conflicted about her role and her serenity as she is in Game of Thrones. On the other hand, it would be nice to see her in a completely different kind of role, one where her character never had to feel out of place. In a world with species as varied as in Star Wars, a tall, unconventional-looking woman is nothing unusual. She could likewise play an alien, although I think her presence would be more powerful if she did not.
If they’re not playing established characters, then who could they be? The casting announcement doesn’t give us a clue about the story. Are these characters relatives of John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and the rest of the cast shown in the quickly iconic round table photograph? Star Wars has always been a story of the Skywalker family. So who’s related? Who are “Rachel” and “Thomas” in this 2013 casting call?
Maybe Nyongo’o and Ridley are Jedi who will fight side by side. Maybe Max Von Sydow tempts one of them toward the dark side. Maybe Christie is a politician mentored by Leia. The possibilities right now are endless. There is really no way to know, and I think that adds to the excitement surrounding the movie.
These latest additions also add some considerable star power to the cast. J. J. Abrams has chosen many actors who aren’t well-known. John Boyega and Adam Driver are best known for one major role (Attack the Block and Girls respectively), and Daisy Ridley is virtually unknown. Much like the Original Trilogy, the new Star Wars saga won’t be a movie packed with household Hollywood names, instead surrounding lesser known actors with bigger stars.
Christie and Nyongo’o (like Max Von Sydow and Andy Serkis) certainly can’t be considered “unknowns.” Christie is a fan favorite as Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones, while Nyong’o is fresh of a Best Actress Oscar for 12 Years a Slave. Imagine Nyong’o guiding her less experienced Star Wars co-stars through the world of the Oscars show if the movie is nominated!
The announced cast is getting large now – fifteen people including the Original Trilogy participants, and not all of them can be main characters. We don’t know anyone’s roles yet.
What we do know is that more gender and racial diversity adds to the movie, both visually and in the minds of the fans who may, for the first time, see someone who looks like them in their favorite Star Wars role. It increases the movie’s chance of passing the Bechdel Test, in which two women speak to each other about something other than a man. It increases the movie’s chances of showing more women in varied roles instead of pigeonholing them in as the token female or token love interest. It means that, at best, the hero’s gender won’t matter at all.
Let’s see young boys pretending to be Lupita Nyong’o’s character, because her scenes were just that awesome. Let’s see Star Wars break the mold. This casting could be a step in that direction.