Gwendoline Christie is all about strong female characters and Star Wars is no exception
AT SIX feet and three inches, Gwendoline Christie is hard to miss. After playing the righteous and imposing Brienne of Tarth in the popular series, Game of Thrones, it’s safe to say that the 38-year-old actor is among the flagbearers for strong female characters in the television space in the West. More so when she was spotted wearing a black sequined jumpsuit by Vivienne Westwood at the Screen Actors Guild Awards expressing her solidarity with activists across the United States. 2015 saw her ditch her Valyrian steel Oathkeeper for a chromium armour when she was signed up to play Captain Phasma, commander of the First Order’s legions of stormtroopers, in the seventh episode of the Star Wars series, The Force Awakens. As the movie gears up for its television premiere this weekend, we spoke to the actor about her love for the series and her experience of playing a darker character.
How would you describe your role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens?
I play Captain Phasma, who is Star Wars’ first female villain. She is captain of the stormtroopers. She is part of the dark side. She has a blaster. I still can’t quite believe it! It’s incredibly exciting to be in this huge franchise.
What do you like about the character?
We have a female character in this series of films that is iconic to so many of us. And yet, it isn’t about her being typically or stereotypically female, it is about her being a villain, so we form a relationship with the woman based on her actions rather than on the way that she looks in flesh. That’s very exciting to me.
As an actor, how helpful is it to be aware of the legacy behind a project like this when you’re portraying a character?
With anything you approach, you have to look at it as a series of words on a page. You have to consider what those words mean and what the whole thing is trying to say. If I put my focus on the legacy, then I would probably head under a stone and not get out.
Are you a fan of the franchise?
I grew up with Star Wars. It was magical, special and exceptional – and when I watched it, like everybody, I fell in love with it too. I liked the way it looked. I loved that it was funny, and it was a fascinating way of telling the story of good versus evil. I loved that Princess Leia was a very strong female character who had her own mind. The way those films looked to me back then is iconic because A New Hope was on television the other day and it still looks so good. There’s a simplicity about it, which looks as good now as much as it did all those years ago.
How did it feel to be part of that moment of fandom at the San Diego Comic-Con?
We had a stormtrooper escort down to the stage that they had secretly built in San Diego, and the John Williams orchestra played while they showed clips from the films on Jumbotron screens – and everyone was given a free lightsaber to wave along with the music. Everyone was so happy and euphoric, and then they let off the best fireworks I’d ever seen in my life. It was genuinely one of the best events of my life. I talked to JJ (Abrams) afterwards and I said, “What was that feeling in the room?” It wasn’t hysteria, it was more euphoria. He said to me, “It was hope.” And I really think that’s what it was. There’s a wonderful feeling of hope that connects us back to a simple place of happiness.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres on Star Movies and Star Movies Select HD on February 5 at 1 pm.