Up to this point, Gwendoline Christie is most known for her role as Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones. She also appeared in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, so she’s quickly becoming a recognizable face. She won’t be so recognizable in next week’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, however, where she’ll play one of the film’s masked baddies, Captain Phasma.
Though her character continues to be wrapped in mystery, we’ve learned an interest fun fact from Kyle Buchanan of Vulture regarding the character’s original gender that was even news to the actress!
That’s right, folks. Captain Phasma was originally created to be a male character, not a female one! “Really?” she responded after Buchanan told her the tidbit (which he got via a secretive scoop from one of The Force Awakens’ writers, Lawrence Kasdan). “No, no!” she laughed in shock, before continuing. “It’s so interesting, because I’m really uncovering more about this film from people like you than I knew before! Please just tell me everything he said!”
Buchanan quotes Kasdan saying “We were just casting about for all the characters. I mean, we were making them up at that moment, as costuming and everything else was happening! It’s not like there was a finished script sitting around for months.”
Less than 3 weeks before The Force Awakens began principal photography, Kasdan and Abrams were holding the film’s first table read, where several of the film’s cast members participated. A photo from that session then made its way online, but was met with criticism from those bothered by only one female cast member (Daisy Ridley) being featured in the picture.
At the time of that table read, however, director J.J. Abrams and Kasdan had yet to cast Phasma. Some rumors were that Benedict Cumberbatch was being targeted for the role. It was at this point, however, that Abrams and Kasdan decided to make one of the more major characters in the film, who had not yet been cast, a female to have more than one significant female character in the film.
Christie was delighted to hear what sparked the change. “I think that’s great of them, don’t you? That there was a discussion about that, and an evolution?”
Christie believes that her character represents more than just another Star Wars villain. “We’re so used to relating to female characters primarily through how they have been made in flesh. With Captain Phasma, our initial relationship is based on her character and her actions, rather than that random group of elements that comes together and makes us be born in a certain way.”
Regarding Phasma’s chromed-out costume, which essentially gives away no clues to the villain’s gender, Christie says “That’s what I found interesting about the costume. It’s armor, it’s entirely functional, and it isn’t sexualized in any way. I remember when I first saw it, I said, wow — not just because it looks incredible, although come on — but because I thought, this is new. I mean, in my own small bubble, this represents the way I think and the way I see things, but it’s not always the way of the world. So for that evolved thinking to be in a ‘Star Wars’ movie, I think people love that! People have responded so well to that. I also think it’s representative of our society. I would imagine that audiences are 50 percent women, so why not utilize that?”
When offered the role, Christie was ecstatic to say the least. “I just lost it. I could not believe that a ‘Star Wars’ film was doing something as progressive as this, I really couldn’t. And I don’t know if you agree with me, but I really do feel like an evolution of sorts is occurring. Entertainment projects like ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘The Hunger Games‘, and ‘Star Wars’ have a more diverse range of characters — male and female, but particularly female — and what audiences seem to be saying is, We like this and this is what we want to see. We want to see something more unconventional than all the things we’ve seen before.”
Christie is all for this potentially meaning that, down the road, more writers and directors will giving a second thought to their female characters, and reconsider how many are featured in that film. “It should be everyday, because it is everyday.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters December 18, 2015.