While on #TheLastJediEvent during the press junket, my 19-year-old daughter text me and said – YOU ARE INTERVIEWING BRIENNE OF TARTH FROM GAMES OF THRONES! I laughed and said well, yes, I am interviewing Gwendoline Christie plays Captain Phasma in The Last Jedi. She was freaking out, and after speaking to Gwendoline I can understand why. Another strong character both on and off screen, she was passionate when sharing what it was like to once again play this dark character in the latest Star Wars film.
Gwendoline Christie plays Captain Phasma in The Last Jedi
So without giving us any spoilers, can you tell us a little bit about your character in this movie?
In the first film, Phasma is- she’s an enigma, isn’t she? She’s a mystery. She turns up out of nowhere; she has this very confrontational, threatening presence, and that’s compounded or emphasized by what she’s wearing- by this suit of armor which is entirely practical.
I think there’s something about those characters that are masked, that we want to see what’s behind the mask. And what I loved is that in the world that we live in, we are met with a deluge of information all of the time. The idea of having that moment- the sort of suspension of disbelief where you have space and are forced to wonder who is this, and who are they, I was very attracted by that.
So we do see more Phasma in the film. What we see is her resilience and her need to fulfill an overriding sense of revenge. It’s something that we don’t commonly see in female characters which is it manifests itself in different ways, this violence that comes from deep within her.
And, and that’s something I find interesting about this character is that women are not conventionally supposed to have violence that comes from deep within.
You have such a fantastic costume. So I would love to know if there’s kind of a physical transformation that takes place that overflows into playing Phasma for you?
I was lucky enough to be given a couture suit, so the armor was made to fit my dimensions exactly. In the first film, no one was quite sure about this character. You know, they have this character, and they loved it, and then they made a series of decisions where I think initially they thought that possibly the character could be male, and then the decision was made that it would be more interesting for the character to be female.
And I just loved that we maintained the practicality of what she was wearing. And, you know, everything you’re given, as an actor, informs you, and working with all these different people- it’s not just you. It’s all these different people and what they think about the character, and how they’ve executed that creatively, informs you who that person is. So, of course, you put this armor on, and you feel rigid and uncompromising.
As an actor, you have the challenge of just how to move which I’ve spoken about before- just walking becomes a challenge, but you realize that that person is exerting a great deal of force just to move, and that force coming from within. They’ve elected to do is to dress this way. And the idea of the senses being shot down, and sometimes entirely, that’s an interesting choice to make as a person, and in this case, as a female to elect to have all of your senses shut down- to exist entirely practically.
So I was fascinated by that. I also, you know, there’s a certain amount of strength and flexibility one needs, and I’m lucky enough to be working as an actor. So each at the moment, and the role that you take on, it says there’s something you need to do. So for other roles, it’s that something that you need to do is less than what you normally do because their energy’s back more, or they have less connectivity to their body.
With someone like Captain Phasma, she has a degree of strength that has to exist muscularly, so she is a strong person, physically. And you know, we worked on a lot of that for the film.
It seems like everybody’s putting you in armor lately. Do you have a favorite? Do you like one better than the other?
Well, I mean, so far those are the only times I’ve been pushing armor- those two occasions, and not before, and potentially not since these roles will I be pushing armor again. But there’s something about- with Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones when we first saw the character in season two, in the book she was described as Brienne the Blue. The armor was all blue. But the brilliant Michele Clapton, the costume designer, and I love this idea that she had, that she wanted the armor to be cobbled together pieces that Brienne had found and put together so she could have a suit of armor.
So she literally- it was a literal representation of her building herself; of her self-creation. And then, of course, Jaimie Lannister gives her the Couture blue armor; the whole, you know, the whole outfit. Michele has so beautifully designed that, but Michael Kaplan who designed Captain Phasma’s costume is someone that I had always loved his work.
He worked on the original Blade Runner, so I was aware of who he was and the work that he’d done, and it’s just so shiny. Who couldn’t resist something as shiny as that? I don’t ever like to make preferences, but I think in this case, it has to be Captain Phasma.
Have you had a chance to read the Captain Phasma novel yet?
I’m reading it at the moment. I’ve been very lucky to be busy and so will tell you is that on my breaks from Game of Thrones on set, I’m reading the book. And I’m reading it off my phone because otherwise people are gonna ask me constantly about what is happening. But it’s brilliant.
It’s genuinely so good and that it just explains so much about the character. Rian and I had sat down at the very beginning- I felt very privileged that the director wanted to sit down with me and say, what do you think, the way he did with everyone in the cast. And you know, you formulate your ideas about what is the character motivation, and as an actor, you have to have those motivations to be a human. Otherwise, it’s just a series of kind of facts, and nobody feels any connection to that.
But I’m, like, I’m excited to be reading it at the moment, and it’s just framed so interestingly, and with a depth of imagination. I’m very excited that we have similar ideas. But Delilah Dawson? I think she’s brilliant.
If you had a lightsaber in real life, what color would it be?
I think it would be pink, because of what that represents, you know? It’s a pink ribbon that symbolizes wanting to stand with the further research into breast cancer. The idea of pink and the pink pound with the gay community which is a community I’ve always had a strong relationship with, and also because it’s a double-edged sword. When something’s pink, you think it’s soft and fluffy, and then, whoop, I just cut your head off.
So what was training like for both of these roles and much do you have to throw yourself into it for Captain Phasma?
Well, something wonderful happened which was that I was reunited with the brilliant stunt director/stuntman, C.C. Smiff. C.C. Smiff taught me to fight on Game of Thrones at the start of season two when I was first starting the show. It was C.C. that taught me to swordfight, He was with me in all of those scenes when there was fighting, and sometimes when there wasn’t because I was concerned about executing the physicality of that character.
Because it was always important to me that Brienne Tarth is a woman. She isn’t a woman acting like a man; she is a woman, but she has a different strength, and a different configuration to Gwendolyn. And I wanted that to be as resolved as possible. I remember thinking about even when I heard the possibility of auditioning for that role, and I read it, I remember thinking surely this can’t be real.
Surely the world, and I thought, well, you know what? It doesn’t matter if this Game of Thrones program which had just shown the first three episodes in the UK, it doesn’t matter if it’s not successful because there’s a part that is outside of what we’re used to seeing in society in our entertainment. That’s what delighted me, and so I was very dedicated with C.C., and C.C. was the person that set me on the path to training as a part of my life, sometimes more at times. And sometimes less.
When I have a break, I love it to be less. But he’s the person that made me enjoy it; that gave me the spirit to say, I’m gonna commit to this fully. So to be reunited on a Star Wars film, and to do something exceptionally difficult, and for him to push me to go further, and for him to be there.
He’s the person that helped to give me the courage in the first place, to say you can do more than you ever thought, physically, and to do it with a great deal of humor, and charm, and humanity. And he’s a man always sort of without ego, as well. I mean, what an amazing teacher. He’s also so brilliant about how he puts things together, and how they evolve about pushing you further and regarding your strength.
But also recognizing, which I think is the most important thing- how to keep you safe, and when to keep you safe because I’m lucky enough to have never broken or bone, and I would like to keep it that way.
Although we didn’t see that much of Captain Phasma in the first movie, or the last movie, how did you mentally prepare yourself with the character?
She’s a person, and you think about why people behave the way that they do. Often, people that behave in a malevolent way, it’s because they’re fearful. The fear overtakes them, and it can manifest itself in a total loss of empathy. And the complete loss of empathy causes the person to only think about themselves and their own needs. Their brain space becomes about their receives, how they feel attacked, and how they’re going to fight back.
And it also becomes about the individual rather than the needs of the group. When someone exists like that, it can be those that are liberty. Those that have spirit, and are unafraid to be who they are. Those people want to eradicate; that they want to hurt. I’ve been lucky enough to be in Game of Thrones for a long time. Longish. For me, with my short career, it’s a long time. I love the character of Brienne Tarth whose got this incredible moral compass.
And it’s great to see an unconventional woman be the hero, even for a moment. Even for a moment. That the opportunity to play the opposite of that where someone like Brienne Tarth has the strength, and it’s in every essence, every fiber of her being. Someone like Captain Phasma, it’s in every fiber of her being- the need for ambition; the need for revenge, to be ultimate, and to destroy.
A woman as a destructive force when women are seen as whatever that means which is a multidimensional thing, I truly believe. The opposite of that fascinated me, and I felt like the opportunities were limitless.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (11/3/17)
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I was invited by Disney to take part in #TheLastJediEvent to share my experience with my readers. All opinions are my own