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‘Star Wars’ writer says he didn’t ‘sideline’ Kelly Marie Tran in ‘Rise of Skywalker’

Kelly Marie Tran, left, as Rose Tico and Daisy Ridley as Rey in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
Kelly Marie Tran, left, as Rose Tico and Daisy Ridley as Rey in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
(Jonathan Olley / Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Kelly Marie Tran’s character, Rose Tico, occupies just one minute and 16 seconds of screen time in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” That’s about 10 times less than what she got for her “Star Wars” debut in “The Last Jedi.”

It’s also comparable to what her sister received before dying in the opening sequence of Episode VIII.

But amid mounting criticism surrounding Tran’s limited material in the epic finale, “Rise of Skywalker” screenwriter Chris Terrio says her demotion wasn’t purposeful, as some have suggested.

In a new interview with Awards Daily, Terrio defended Rose’s reduced story line, blaming the situation on narrative issues and scenes with Carrie Fisher’s General Leia — revived in the latest installment via archive footage.

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“As the process evolved, a few scenes we’d written with Rose and Leia turned out to not meet the standard of photorealism that we’d hoped for,” he said Sunday. “Those scenes unfortunately fell out of the film. The last thing we were doing was deliberately trying to sideline Rose. We adore the character, and we adore Kelly — so much so that we anchored her with our favorite person in this galaxy, General Leia.”

Kelly Marie Tran
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico and John Boyega as Finn in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
(Jonathan Olley / Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Fans and critics alike were displeased with Rose’s barely-there presence in the film, especially considering the toxic response to her introduction in “The Last Jedi.” Some have accused “Rise of Skywalker” director J.J. Abrams of pandering to online trolls who infamously forced Tran off social media after attacking her with racist rhetoric and harsh critiques of her character.

Tran is Vietnamese American and the first actor of Asian descent to play a major role in a “Star Wars” film.

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“J.J. and I adore Kelly Marie Tran,” Terrio said. “One of the reasons that Rose has a few less scenes than we would like her to have has to do with the difficulty of using Carrie’s footage in the way we wanted to. We wanted Rose to be the anchor at the rebel base who was with Leia. We thought we couldn’t leave Leia at the base without any of the principals whom we love, so Leia and Rose were working together.”

Abrams’ treatment of Rose has been one of the leading complaints about the tepidly received sequel, which has courted backlash for undoing much of the work of “Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson. Johnson has continued to field nasty comments from the famously finicky fandom for his unconventional approach to the “Star Wars” formula.

In his review for The Times, critic Justin Chang made several comparisons to Johnson’s controversial yet critically acclaimed entry and called the sidelining of Rose a “strategic” misuse of “an engaging character from ‘The Last Jedi’ whose minimal screen time here will surely delight some of her more racist detractors.”

Earlier this month, “Crazy Rich Asians” filmmaker Jon M. Chu — a champion for Asian representation in Hollywood — joined the conversation, offering to direct a spinoff show centering on Tran’s resistance engineer as an act of restorative justice.

“Ok [Disney+]. Put me in coach,” Chu tweeted. “Let’s make this series happen. #RoseTicoDeservedBetter

Should Rose get her own program on the studio giant’s new streaming platform, the project would join a growing slate of “Star Wars” off-shoots spotlighting characters such as Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, of “Rogue One” fame, and Ewan McGregor’s prequel version of Obi-Wan Kenobi. No word yet on whether the powers that be in the House of Mouse heard Chu’s call.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver, is now in theaters.


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