Q&A With Daisy Ridley Of Star Wars

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Star Wars saga begin a long, long time ago, way back in 1977. And now the seventh (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)  instalment of the popular film franchise, set three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire in Return of the Jedi, is currently in cinemas worldwide, breaking so many box office records.

Now, a new threat arises, and the Resistance and a small band of heroes are the only one who can stop them. The First Order is certainly a malevolent force to be reckoned with.

Daisy Ridley – Rey

Daisy Ridley - Rey - Star WarsDaisy Ridley, a talented young British actress, plays the films heroine Rey. A scavenger on from the planet Jakku, she is skilled in many ways, including an innate ability to fix anything mechanical.

Q: Let’s start with introducing yourself and the role you play.

A: My name is Daisy Ridley, and I play the character of Rey.

Q: How did you hear about the part?

A: The first time I actually heard about this I was with three friends. One is a makeup artist and the other is a stylist. Somebody said, “Did you hear ‘Star Wars’ is coming out?” I immediately e-mailed my agent, and said that I really need to be seen for this. I don’t know why; I just had this weird feeling. I wound up getting an audition. So, for the first audition I was an hour early. Literally pacing up and down outside. I’d never been nervous like that before for something. It was the first time in an audition process that I felt everyone was rooting, not for me, but for the idea of an unknown person getting the part.

Q: Did you know you were going for the lead?

A: I knew it was a big part, but I didn’t know that it would be in the whole thing. I didn’t know what Rey’s journey would be and where she would end up. It was only when I read the script that I realized the enormity of, not only her, but her place in the whole thing.

Q: How did you find out you got the part?

A: My last audition was really amazing. A few days later, I knew I’d hear from J.J., and my phone was broken. I didn’t get the call. I didn’t know what was going on. I finally got through to him and he told me I’d be starring in “Star Wars.”

Q: And what was your reaction?

A: I was outside a theater where my friend was in a show, of which I missed the first half while all this was going on. I remember kicking a bottle on the ground like everything had changed. But it was all the same. And then I had to watch the rest of the show. My phone died. I couldn’t call anyone. I sat on the tube going home thinking, oh my God. Not able to tell anyone for an hour. Then, finally, I could tell my mom and sister. But, it didn’t really kick in for months.

Q: How did you tell your family?

A: I burst the front door open and went, “I got ‘Star Wars!’” My sister was like, what? And my mum was like, what? When I told my dad, who was asleep at the time, he just swore. That’s how it happened.

Q: How was that time for you, when you wanted to tell the whole world and couldn’t?

A: The time between knowing and the announcement was so strange. I was thinking about it as if I were pregnant, like I couldn’t tell anyone until the three-month mark. It was originally a month, and it kept extending. My birthday was really hard. I sat with all my friends, and it was really hard not to say anything. As time went on, it got easier. My mom, dad and sister knew, so I had that.

Q: What does it feel like to be a star in a movie that has global appeal?

A: I’m just starting to realize how big a thing it is. When J.J. Abrams told me I got the part, he said that my life was going to change. I could imagine it, but I couldn’t feel it, until it began to happen. The people have done it before are coming back and it’s like a family. It’s like people revisiting things. So, I feel honored that I’ve been allowed to continue the journey with my part as well as part of the team.

Q: Were you a fan of the franchise?

A: I remember being in the cinema and watching one because I remember being terrified. But because I was younger than the first generation of “Star Wars” fans, it wasn’t such a huge thing in my life—until now. But it does permeate popular culture. It’s on magazines. It’s referenced everywhere. But it was only until this year that it became a really big part of my life.

Q: Who’s your favorite character? Whom do you relate to?

A: Luke Skywalker. I think of it more of a universal thing. He embodies so much of everyone. Everyone starts out on a path; then circumstances change, and things happen, and you go to a new path. The thing that’s always with him is the good. He’s the good against the evil. He’s looking out for Leia and Han Solo too. So, he’s got other people’s best interests at heart. So the choices he makes are positively affecting, not only him, but the people around him. I think that’s what so many people do in life and that’s probably why I feel like that. He’s someone I can relate to.

Q: Do you have a favorite line from “Star Wars”?

A: It’s from “The Empire Strikes Back.” On Luke’s way to find Darth Vader, Yoda tells Luke that he has to go in a dark cave. Luke asks Yoda, “What’s in there?” And Yoda says, “Only what you take with you.” That brings everything together; the idea that everything you have inside you hopefully will lead to good things. Luke, even at the end, hoped for the best in his father, and the best there was. So you have to give it to him that his hope held out.

Q: What are the life lessons that “Star Wars” offers you?

A: Family is incredibly important, but I also think in fifty years I’ll look back and really realize the life lessons that I learned from this part of the journey as kind of a whole. So hopefully, I’ll learn some more life lessons on the way.

Q: What will you bring to “Star Wars”?

A: I’m still early on in my life, let alone in my career. But, hopefully, I’ll bring freshness and self-confidence but with vulnerability. All the things that make me, that’s what I’ll bring to the character.

Q: What would you like to impart to young girls in this journey?

A: I would say, be strong and be thoughtful and take care and realize how you’re affecting other people. Learn and grow and don’t be scared if things are offered to you that you’re not sure about but may change your life. Dive in feet first. Take everything you can and appreciate every day. Appreciate the people around you who support you and never feel on your own because you never are.

Q: Who is Rey and what is her role in the story?

A: Rey begins in her own world. She goes on this crazy adventure and meets Finn and BB-8 and she finally starts to make these bonds she’s never had before. It’ll be epic.

Q: Can you talk us through your look?

A: We went through many versions of hair, and a few versions of costume. When we finally decided on the hair, and I put the costume on, you could feel everyone go, that’s how she should be. Everything is supposed to look like Rey put it together herself. So, the hair is the iconic three buns, which we call the three knobs. The costume is gorgeous. It’s pretty, but she works in it. Everything she’s got fits her perfectly. I put the costume on and I feel pretty bad-ass.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rey (Daisy Ridley) Ph: Elena Dorfman © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Rey (Daisy Ridley)
Ph: Elena Dorfman
© 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

Q: Talk us through the training process. Your character is badass.

A: I started stunt training just a few weeks after I found out. We did hand-to-hand and used boxing to warm up. J.J. wanted me to look like I work out. So I’ve been working the upper body. That was four hours a day, four days a week for three months. Without the guys we’re training with, there’s just no way John Boyega and I would have gotten through Abu Dhabi. The running stuff was so hard. It was a relief when there were explosions because we needed a break from the running. I haven’t stunt trained for a while, but I’m still fitness training to keep the levels up. There are such long days that you need the energy it brings.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ph: Film Frame
©Lucasfilm 2015

Q: What sorts of things do you do?

A: Stunt wise, we’ll do warm up and sparring, and kicks and boxing. Then, I’ve been climbing. So, I started at a proper climbing wall, now they have one on the stage. I really like it now. There were days if I slipped, my confidence was lost. But I really like it. It’s so amazing doing something you haven’t done before and feeling that you’re gaining knowledge in it.

Q: Tell us about the staff training.

A: We started the staff training with a wooden stick. I don’t know how I did it; the adrenaline must have kicked in on the day. I never thought I’d be able to carry on as long as I did doing the fight sequence. The staff was fun. On the day of the fight scene, I was petrified. It was the first action thing I’d done. After the fight, I felt good. I felt like all the training had been for a good reason. In training, you feel like you’re pushing yourself to the limit. Then, you get on set and push further. It’s an incredible feeling.

Q: Did you get anything out of the training personally?

A: I was really pleased with the training as a personal thing. We have this incredibly strong female character and to have a strong female character is amazing. I’d never climbed before; I’d never done fight training before. It’s such an amazing feeling to scale a 30-foot wall, or get through a fight with an incredible swordsman. I feel like I held my own and that’s an amazing feeling.

Q: Talk us through your experience in Abu Dhabi.

A: Abu Dhabi was really nice because we were able to go a day early. John and I were taken around the mosque and palace, which were really lovely. We had a couple of days to get used to the heat as well. It was so hot that you could literally feel the sand burning through your shoes. But, once you give in to the heat, it’s okay. You know it’s consistent; it’s going not going to change, so there’s no point in fighting it. But everyone was so well looked after. When it got to the running bits, the hardest part was when it was a mix of hard and soft sand. That was a killer on the legs. The night before the last day of filming, that run was easier but my lungs were really pushing it. It got hotter and hotter. You’d go from doing lots of stunt things, then to acting and intimate moments.

Meeting BB-8 was tricky because I hadn’t worked a person on screen let alone a little droid. So, that was hard but because it was so tricky at first that it made it much better when things got easier. Towards the end of Abu Dhabi, I looked back and thought I’ve really come a long way since the beginning. I look back now and wish I could do the first few days again. The atmosphere is amazing.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens L to R: Director J.J. Abrams w/ actress Daisy Ridley (Rey) on set. Ph: David James ©Lucasfilm 2015
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
L to R: Director J.J. Abrams w/ actress Daisy Ridley (Rey) on set.
Ph: David James
©Lucasfilm 2015

Q: Talk about your costar John Boyega.

A: It’s so great how well we get on. In Abu Dhabi we didn’t have a chance to really meet, and that relationship wasn’t there at first. But since we’re here, and building that relationship in the scenes, it’s easy. It’s not hard to find it with someone you get on with. It’s a chemistry thing. As it went on, we’re just like brother and sister. We get on really well. We’re both incredibly silly.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens L to R: Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) Ph: David James © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
L to R: Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega)
Ph: David James
© 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.

Q: How did you feel when you first stepped on the Millennium Falcon?

A: What was so strange was the crew was hundreds big then suddenly it was just a few of us. It’s such an iconic set and J.J. really wanted it to be perfect, so there was no mistaking what we’re trying to create. It’s just so big. There are moments where I’m like, “I’m flying the Millennium Falcon!”

Q: How did you feel about being on set with the legacy cast?

A: When I first met Harrison, we just sat down for a coffee together. He was talking about his experience in the whole thing, not just Han Solo, but the “Star Wars” saga. Then we all had dinner together, which was great.

Q: And Chewie. Was he everything you dreamed of?

A: It’s so funny seeing Chewie up close. He’s got a little mustache that is lighter than his face. And, he’s just so big!

Q: Tell us about working with J.J. Abrams.

A: J.J. is amazing. I’ve never really been on a film set before, and everyone adores him. He’s very kind, very generous. He was so great at the beginning because I was so nervous. He’s so patient, which is really important for me because I spent a lot of time going, I can’t do this. He made sure everyone on set was feeling great. There’s no one not worthy of a hello and a thank you. There have been so many moments when he’s gotten on the mic and told everyone that the work they’re doing is incredible, which it is. They’re getting that warmth from him that is needed. In such a big film personal relationships can be lost. But, because he is who he is, they’re not at all. Everyone feels praise. Everyone feels loved. Everyone feels appreciated. That is so important. He’s created this incredible world, and in the real world he’s this incredible man as well.

Q: What about the producer, Kathleen Kennedy?

A: The first time I met her, we were talking about role models and she seemed really approachable. It wasn’t until after that meeting that I found out how many films she’s worked on. We were talking to her the other day, John Boyega and I, and she was just laughing. She’s incredibly powerful and incredibly smart. She’s a mother. She’s caring. She’s kind. She’s there every day. She’s not this scary person who runs the show. She’s someone who’s there as support, making sure we’re happy. She’s an incredible woman.

Q: Do you think that “Star Wars” is about family?

A: Yes and the family thing translates everywhere. Even on set, it feels like a family. It’s that feeling of bonding. Because Rey is trying to find her place in this world in the same way I was trying to find my place in the world, the similarities were really nice. I felt so welcomed and taken in, and people seemed to care how I felt, which translates into the Rey thing as well. She suddenly has these people who care about her and she’s finding her place within that.

Q: Tell us about BB-8.

A: BB-8 is going to be loved by everyone. He’s so small, so much smaller than R2-D2 and because he’s puppeteered, he’s alive. He was the first character I had a real scene with, and I was nervous because he’s not a human being. But, because of the puppeteers, he comes alive. BB-8 is brilliant. He’s amazing.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens L to R: Rey (Daisy Ridley) & BB-8 Ph: David James © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
L to R: Rey (Daisy Ridley) & BB-8
Ph: David James
© 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.

Q: Do you feel that Rey is your character now? That you’ve got this?

A: I realized what this film might be to people. I hope that people will love it. I think they will. I feel like I’m coming into my film family. Every day is fun. I haven’t had one day where I didn’t enjoy it. There are moments when I think how many people love “Star Wars” and it’s scary trying to fit into that world that people know so well and love so much. It’s nerve-racking thinking what Rey might represent to these people and whether they’ll like her or not.

Q: What sticks in your mind as a fond memory?

A: I can’t pinpoint a specific memory. Every day, getting to set, I feel like I’m fizzing with excitement off of something new: incredible creatures, sets and people. I can’t give a favorite part.

Q: Was that the most surreal moment?

A: The first few months of doing the job was so surreal, I can’t even remember some of it. I suddenly felt part of the excitement, part of something that people were going to love and people were excited to see again. You feel you’re not alone. Everyone is part of this whole thing, trying to make “Star Wars” happen again in the best way. I think people are going to love it.

Q: What is it that you want audiences to take away?

A: I’d love for people to feel the way we do working on it. There’s such a good feeling about the film and what we’re doing and the characters that are being made and formed in front of our eyes. I’d love for the audience to understand each of the characters’ stories and connect with the new characters, and I hope that their love for the old characters returns even more than before. I’d love for people to leave the cinema thinking, aside from all the action and the fights, that it’s an incredible story of people finding their place in a world.

Read the SAMDB Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens here.

Published by Andrew Germishuys

Founder of SAMDB, Andrew has worked full time in the film industry since the early 2000's. He has trained as an actor, completing his LAMDA Gold Medal, and attending many courses in Cape Town acting studios, with masterclasses with some of the international industries top directors, producers and filmmakers. Working as an actor and armourer in the film and television industry have given Andrew a great balance of skills across the board when it comes to the entertainment industry. Catch him on Twitter: twitter.com/andrewgerm_za And IMDb: www.imdb.com/name/nm5390453/

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