Diversity in Hollywood tentpole casting has become a hot button issue in recent years, and it’s safe to say Star Wars has been making great strides in that regard during the franchise’s Disney era. With the desire to produce a film that reflected the world it was released to, J.J. Abrams cast talented performers such as John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac in key roles for last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Ridley’s Rey being the movie’s main protagonist was particularly noteworthy, as it marked the first time in the series that a female character was the primary focus of a project set in the galaxy far, far away.
On the heels of Rey quickly becoming a fan-favorite, Lucasfilm is hoping for a repeat of that success with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Oscar nominee Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, a reluctant hero recruited by the Rebel Alliance to help steal the plans to the original Death Star. The marketing materials for Rogue One have clearly indicated that Jyn will be front and center; her relationship with her father Galen is the film’s emotional core. Many are excited to see Jyn in the spotlight, and that unsurprisingly includes Jones herself.
In a profile on the actress in Vanity Fair, Jones discussed how she hopes young girls take to Jyn, contrasting her Rogue One character to Ariel from The Little Mermaid:
“I just hope that girls like the movie and can invest in Jyn’s story and care about her. It is quite nice now that instead of a fish’s tail, girls can see a cool female character who’s got a blaster and can run really fast.”
Of course, a “cool female character” leading a major blockbuster film is nothing new. Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley (a source of inspiration for Jones) and Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor are just two noteworthy examples from the past that opened the doors to where we are today. From the looks of it, Jyn should be able to follow their footsteps and become a new cinematic icon. Not only will Jones’ extensive physical training be on full display in the action sequences, but she could also deliver some of the film’s more poignant beats. In the trailers, Jyn is saying some powerful lines such as “Rebellions are built on hope” and “May the Force be with us,” which the actress recited and rehearsed numerous times prior to filming, to make sure everything was right.
Rogue One marks Jones’ second physical role in a franchise installment – following her turn in the Robert Langdon thriller Inferno. This is a change-of-pace for the actress, who primarily starred in smaller works in film and TV prior to her big breakout. While it’s definitely a challenge, Jones is more than up for it and considers the experience rewarding:
“I loved it because I got to kick some ass. I loved the physical side of making these larger films. I worked closely with the stunt teams and got to learn a new skill. I mean, you do go home covered in bruises, but it’s worth it.”
It will be interesting to see what the overall response to Jyn Erso is when Rogue One premieres. Rey was a standout in The Force Awakens, but her portrayal was met with criticisms of being a Mary Sue. The one key difference between Rey and Jyn, however, is that the latter is not Force sensitive. Per Diego Luna, none of the heroes in Rogue One have powers they can call upon to even the odds in their favor, so Jyn will have to rely on her own grit and determination to get through. That makes her a more grounded protagonist than Star Wars has seen before, and based on the footage released thus far, Jones should deliver in the role.