Captain Phasma Unmasked: Gwendoline Christie on Star Wars: The Last Jedi
If you're sensing a theme about strong female characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you're right and I couldn't be happier about it!
Yesterday I shared my interview with Laura Dern on playing Vice Admiral Holdo, and today we're moving on to a character who's a bit more familiar: Captain Phasma, played by Gwendoline Christie.
Gwendoline Christie is no stranger to playing the strong female character. She's best known for playing a warrior on Game of Thrones, but she's quite familiar as the masked Captain Phasma in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and she's continuing that role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Christie had a lot to say about Captain Phasma, but I have to be honest, my memory was lacking when it came to her character. I read up on Captain Phasma and what's behind the mask before the interview.
About Captain Phasma
Captain Phasma is Star Wars' first leading female villain in the franchise and she first appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Phasma wears reflective chrome armor that includes a full head mask, prompting viewers to ask, is Captain Phasma a boy or girl?
As it turns out, it doesn't matter to Christie that fans and movie watchers don't know if Captain Phasma is male or female. She wants the character to be defined by actions rather than flesh. Christie also felt that it was a modern concept to have the character wears armor throughout the entire film.
Captain Phasma is the commander of the First Order's force of Stormtroopers. While the character is not at the forefront of all the action, she still has a lot of impact. Captain Phasma is known to do anything to survive.
Time for Captain Phasma's unmasking! Here's what Gwendoline Christie had to say about Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Captain Phasma:
Q: Without giving us any Star Wars: The Last Jedi spoilers, can you tell us about your character of Captain Phasma?
Gwendoline Christie (GC): In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma is an enigma. She's a mystery. She turns up out of nowhere, she has this very confrontational, threatening presence. That's compounded or emphasized by this suit of armor, which is entirely practical.
I think there's something about these characters that are masked, that we want to see what's behind the mask.
What I loved about Captain Phasma is that, in this world we live in, we are met with a deluge of information all the time. The idea of having that moment, that sort of suspension of disbelief where you're forced to wonder who is this [behind the mask]; I was very attracted to that.
We do see more Phasma in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and what we see is her resilience, her need to fulfill an overriding sense of revenge. We see something we don't commonly see in female characters, and it manifests itself in different ways, this violence that comes from deep within her.
That's something I find interesting about Captain Phasma. Women are not conventionally supposed to have a violence that comes from deep within.
Q: You have such an amazing costume. Is there a physical transformation that takes place when you're in costume that influences your acting?
GC: In the first film, no one was quite sure about this character. They have Captain Phasma and (the directors and producers) loved it, and they made a series of decisions where they initially thought Captain Phasma could be male. Then the decision was made that it would be more interesting for the character to be female.
I was lucky enough to be given a couture suit, so the armor was made to fit my dimensions exactly. I just loved that we maintained the practicality of what she was wearing.
Everything you're given, as an actor, informs you. It's not just you, it's all these different people and what they think about the character. How they've executed that creatively informs you of who this person is.
So you put this armor on, and you feel rigid and uncompromising.
As an actor you have the challenge of just how to move. Just walking becomes a challenge, but you realize that the person [behind the mask, underneath the armor] is exerting a great deal of force just to move, and that force is coming from within.
[The person behind the mask] has elected to dress this way. The idea of the senses being shut down, sometimes entirely, that's an interesting choice to make as a person and to exist entirely practically.
There's also a certain amount of strength and flexibility one needs. With someone like Captain Phasma, she has a degree of strength that has to exist muscularly, so she is a strong person, physically. We worked on that a lot for the film.
Q: Captain Phasma is a very complex character. How did you prepare yourself for this? What did you add or yourself to make it more human or more relatable?
GC: Well, she's a person, and you think about why people behave the way they do. Often people behave in a malevolent way because they're fearful, and that fear overtakes them and it can manifest itself into a total loss of empathy.
That total loss of empathy causes the person to only think of themselves and their own needs. Their own brain space becomes about how they feel attacked and how they're going to fight back.
It also becomes about the individual rather than the needs of the group. When someone exists like that, it can be those that are at liberty, those that have spirit, those who are unafraid to be who they are…those are the ones they want to hurt.
The need for revenge, the need to be ultimate, the need to destroy…it's in every fiber of her being.
A woman as a destructive force when women are seen as a mother — whatever that means — Captain Phasma is that inverted. The opposite of that fascinated me, and I felt like the opportunities were limitless.
Q: If you had a lightsaber in real life, what color would it be?
GC: I think it would be pink, because of what that represents. It's a pink ribbon that represents wanting to stand with the further research into breast cancer, and the pink pound with the gay community, which is a community I've always had a strong relationship.
But also because it's kind of a double-edged sword. When something's pink, you think it's soft and fluffy. Then whoop, I just cut your hand off!
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