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Monday, December 14 2015 09:47

Interview - STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS' Daisy Ridley - This Generation's Luke Skywalker?

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This week, Daisy Ridley is about to take her first step into a larger world. Some might say that she already did that when she first stepped onto the set of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS last year (working with Chewbacca on her first day, no less), but the real challenge for the young actress will no doubt begin when the long-awaited STAR WARS sequel arrives in theaters this Friday. Sitting down with Ridley at the STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Global Press Event in Los Angeles last week, it was hard not to be enamored by the youthful enthusiasm, charm and beauty of a performer that's on the cusp of being a household name. As Rey in J.J. Abrams' SW relaunch, Ridley finds herself at the center of one of the most stealthy marketing campaigns in modern cinema - despite her face, and the words "STAR WARS" being everywhere, there isn't much that's been officially revealed about her character or plot until now.... or has it? With the World Premiere of THE FORCE AWAKENS taking place tonight in Los Angeles, the first audience will get to see exactly what Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy meant when she said, "I'm gonna tell you that your daughters are gonna be so excited. This character of Rey is, I think, one of the most wonderful heroines to come along in movie history. So I think they're gonna be very happy. They're gonna have their own Luke Skywalker now." Is The Force strong with this one?

"I wasn’t really thinking about myself in those terms when I was doing it, because I think that might have been slightly overwhelming," explains Ridley about the Skywalker comparisons being tossed around. Aside from what Kennedy provided (full interview coming later this week), it's no stretch to see the similarities in the trailers - a lonely dreamer on a desert planet, about to be pulled into a great adventure. "Now I can kind of see all of them [the lead characters] in her. She's a pilot, so there's Han. She's a kick-ass woman, so there's Leia. Definitely the humble beginnings and an incredible story is the same as Luke. It's very exciting that I'm a girl, and that more people hopefully will be able to relate to this story because of that. Perhaps people that haven’t been able to relate [to STAR WARS] so much before. "

J.J. Abrams and Daisy Ridley on the set of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Just how closely Rey's journey mirrors that of Luke remains to be seen, but with rumors swirling that she just might wield a lightsaber herself (a closely-guarded secret), audiences are eager to learn more. Despite all the cloak and dagger, many have looked toward what's available for clues - and the onslaught began on September 4, 2015 on a day known as #ForceFriday. It was then that the first toys started hitting retailers - a full three+ months before the release of the film. As  fans rushed to purchase characters from a film that no one had seen,  even the stars shared in the excitement, with Ridley and her co-star John Boyega (Finn) hitting up the London Disney Store to take part in the festivities. For the purposes of my interviews, I brought an assortment of toys to use as table props, and surprisingly, Daisy had not yet seen one of the most widely-available - Hasbro's 3¾" "Rey (Starkiller Base)" action figure.

Daisy Ridley checking out her STAR WARS Action Figure

"It's cool [to be an action figure], I haven’t seen this one with the rucksack. She kind of looks a bit angry this one, but it's really cool. I had this suitcase of stuff sent to me and I received it when I was alone - I Instagrammed my reaction because my dog was there," she recalls about her first delivery of FORCE AWAKENS swag. "I kind of put everything away in the suitcase and then I came back the next day and there were figures everywhere! Me and my sister live together, I was like, 'what are you doing? Put them away, that is so weird!' And then I just moved out and she was like, 'Oh my God, I can make the flat a shrine to you!"

Although George Lucas' original STAR WARS Trilogy and Prequels spawned a massive female fanbase, it wasn't until other creators picked up the torch and ran with it that we started seeing a wealth of important female characters in small-screen series' such as THE CLONE WARS and Disney XD's STAR WARS REBELS. In the cinematic universe, aside from Princess Leia, never before have we seen a heroine take center stage - and the center of the poster. 

Daisy Ridley on a trading card

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Theatrical One-Sheet"I've been very lucky in my life to be able to look up to incredible women - and that me and my mom have an amazing relationship. She is really an amazing woman. My mom has a group of friends who we kind of grew up with. I don't really have very much close family, so they kind of formed ours. I remember when I was auditioning, I met Kathy [Kennedy] and I didn't really understand who she was at that point. That's obviously embarrassing now, but she asked me who I looked up to and I remember talking about them and now I look at Kathy and think, oh my God - she's another woman I look up to. It's funny because the women I look up to are older. They're wiser. They have far more life experience. But Rey, in her way has lived a life, and she has wisdom probably beyond her years. The thought of girls being able to relate to a character in a film where perhaps girls can't find in [other] films so much of what they can physically see themselves in - where they can't follow a story sometimes if there's nothing that's representing them in the film -  to be part of that is incredible."

"I'm just an actress, I'm not changing the world. But to be part of something that is perhaps groundbreaking, and to be part of a movement of women, not just in film, all over the world and all different sectors. That is an incredible thing. "

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS opens Friday, December 18, 2015. Get tickets now via Fandango.

For the latest on THE FORCE AWAKENS, ROGUE ONE and more, keep your browser pointed at TheRockFather.com/StarWars

Disclosure: THE ROCK FATHER Magazine has partnered with Disney/Lucasfilm for this coverage series. Travel and accommodations provided by Mickey Mouse. Thanks to Louise Bishop of MomStart.com for taking photos of the interview.

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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