Naomi Ackie Talks Rise of Skywalker and Jannah’s Future

Naomi Ackie Talks Rise of Skywalker and Jannah's Future

Minor spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker under.

Naomi Ackie has a superb smile on her face, and why wouldn’t she? It has been fairly the 12 months for the 27-year-old British actor, who appeared in season 2 of the critically acclaimed Netflix collection The Finish of the F**king World and reverse Sam Claflin within the gritty British crime drama The Corrupted. Now she’s capping off 2019 with one of many largest films of the last decade. Hell, one of many largest films of the final 40 years.

The Rise of Skywalker is the long-awaited remaining installment within the Star Wars saga, which not solely completes the latest legacy trilogy, however brings closure to a swashbuckling sci-fi opera that started in 1977. Ackie joins the solid as Jannah, an ally of the Resistance and a brand-new character to each the movies and your complete Star Wars universe. I meet her at London’s Corinthia Lodge, the place I’m instructed I’m her remaining interview of the day. But she reveals no indicators of fatigue, and along with her leg pulled up onto her chair, she relaxes into the dialog.

“There have been no expectations and I might really do no matter I needed,” she tells Employed final 12 months and with no Jannah backstory within the comics, films or Wookiepedia to seek the advice of, Ackie had free rein with the character. “No matter me and J.J. [Abrams, the film’s director] selected what this character ought to be, might be—there was an actual freedom in that.”


After all, she wasn’t stepping into blind. Abrams, who returned to Star Wars as director and co-writer 4 years after the discharge of The Pressure Awakens, offered Ackie with sufficient character notes and data to assist flip Jannah into an individual Ackie might perceive and ship onscreen.

“J.J. helped me with some stuff to do with trauma and different issues that basically helped me work out why she would struggle,” the actor explains. “It isn’t essentially that you just see that thought course of taking place for her, however for me as an actor, it is vital to know these issues, to be a geek about it. I felt like there was sufficient for me to work with to point out what this character wanted to point out.”

It wasn’t simply the notes on Jannah’s backstory that helped Ackie discover her method into the character. Shortly after being employed for the function, she started coaching that lasted from Could to January of this 12 months. She will get a glint in her eye once I ask simply how wild it was. “I rode horses, I did archery, mountaineering—there was lots. It was so enjoyable!” she recollects. “I come from a bodily background and I’ve at all times beloved to do martial arts, however I’ve been out and in and by no means caught to it, which frustrates me.

“It was vital for me to really feel assured and robust throwing round Jannah’s physique, if that is smart. There have been some days the place they’d be like, ‘Hey, are you able to do that stunt?’ And if I hadn’t had the coaching, then I would need to say, ‘No.’ Perhaps I’d have been in a position to do it as soon as, however 25 instances? No, no!”

Ackie on the Rise of Skywalker premiere in London on December 18.

Samir HusseinGetty Photographs

The coaching had a private impression on Ackie too, serving to her develop a optimistic angle about health—feeling good and being wholesome in her physique. “For me, it was an train in loving my physique, not for what it regarded like however for what it might do,” she says. “Nevertheless it regarded was a byproduct, and that basically shifted my perspective. Particularly for ladies, we have to apply feeling that and reminding ourselves how superb our our bodies are.

“After I began to really feel tremendous robust and succesful, it introduced one thing out in me that I hadn’t beforehand felt, that I might [then] deliver to the character.”

When Ackie’s casting was introduced, the response was superb. Traditionally, the sci-fi style has left little room for ladies, not to mention ladies of colour, however these legacy sequels have slowly elevated illustration of girls and minorities, and audiences have responded principally with approval. Nevertheless, Kelly Marie Tran, who debuted as Rose Tico in The Final Jedi, has suffered senseless abuse from a poisonous minority within the Star Wars fandom. Was Ackie involved this identical faction may activate her? She takes a second to gather her ideas.

“I do not know what it was like for Kelly earlier than the movie got here out, and I do not know what it is going to be like for me when the movie comes out, however I do know that what I’ve skilled to this point has come massively from a spot of affection and assist and pleasure and pleasure, and I do not suppose that may go away,” Ackie says. “I feel damaging voices generally scream the loudest, regardless that they are a very small group. I’ve executed different initiatives the place you get hate mail and foolish messages in your Instagram posts, however to me, that’s like water off a duck’s again.

“There are individuals who will search for the holes in no matter you create and no matter you say to justify the hate of you, and that is effective,” she continues. “So long as it does not get in the best way of me creating, me creating wealth for myself, me supporting my household, my mates, me having the ability to be a very good individual and be free on this world, it actually does not rub me the mistaken method in any respect.”

So what does the longer term maintain for Ackie within the Star Wars universe? There’s a sure scene in The Rise of Skywalker that implies she might go on an journey with Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian. On the point out of Lando’s title, her face lights up. “I legit cried once they introduced him on set,” she excitedly recollects. “There was an enormous crowd as a result of we had been doing lots of that final bit, the Resistance scenes, and J.J. took the mic and was like, ‘Okay, we have Billy Dee Williams on set, everyone, simply give this man a spherical of applause.’ Then instantly Billy Dee is subsequent to me and I’m like, ‘oh, I’ve obtained to do the performing factor. Recreation face!’ I felt tremendous emotional, but it surely was lovely. He’s so charming. He’s like that in actual life.”

Whether or not her future within the Star Wars franchise intertwines with Williams or not, she’s had a very long time to consider what might be in retailer. “For Jannah, it will be good to see her discover out extra about her historical past, and perhaps go off to assist extra individuals forge [their] personal households,” she says. “The factor that is so attention-grabbing about Star Wars is that it at all times follows the identical themes about making your individual household and discovering out the place you come from, and never letting it outline who you’re.

“I hope she has that very same journey to determine herself out. But additionally,” Ackie provides with a cheeky grin on her face. “I would like Jannah to grow to be a Jedi!”

Hanna Flint is a London-based movie and TV journalist and critic

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