Kelly Marie Tran steps into stardom with ‘Last Jedi’

Sandy Cohen
AP Entertainment Writer

Kelly Marie Tran still can’t quite believe she’s in a Star Wars movie.

The 28-year-old was about to give up on her dreams of becoming an actress when she landed a breakthrough role in “The Last Jedi.”

Kelly Marie Tran, left, and John Boyega face off in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

So after years of toiling and hoping and working disposable jobs, Tran is now a movie star, the kind of person who holds hands with Laura Dern at media events and considers Gwendoline Christie a good friend.

“I know, right? Let me pinch myself real quick,” Tran said, her effervescent excitement bright and obvious. “I am just trying to stay present and really trying to experience every moment of this. It still feels very impossible and very much like it’s all a big dream or something.”

Tran was plucked from obscurity to play Rose Tico, a Resistance mechanic in “The Last Jedi.” Rose idolizes Resistance fighters like pilot Poe Dameron and former Stormtrooper Finn, but does her work behind the scenes.

“She’s never been someone who has been in the limelight,” Tran said of her character. “And then we get to see her get pulled into the forefront of the action, and you see how she deals with it.”

Sounds like art imitating life for a certain actress.

“Totally, 100 percent,” Tran said with a beaming grin.

Kelly Marie Tran, 28, has become the newest star of the “Star Wars” universe.

Director Rian Johnson found her after “a huge, exhaustive casting search” that included well-known actresses and newcomers.

“And Kelly just, I don’t know, she really jumped out at me as someone who I was looking for in the character,” he said. “I wanted someone who — thinking back to me as a kid being a genuine nerd you could relate to — someone who didn’t feel like they belong; someone you wouldn’t necessarily imagine as a big Star Wars hero. Let’s throw them in the mix and see the world through their eyes.”

John Boyega, who plays Finn, said he could tell during the audition process that Tran had something special.

“We would do chemistry reads and it was so blatant from the beginning that she was the right girl for the part,” he said.

Both Boyega and Daisy Ridley (Rey) were also relative unknowns when they joined the Star Wars universe for 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” and Tran said they’ve been like spirit guides as she navigates a new world of international appearances and near-religious fandom.