Gwendoline Christie: It’s “Liberating” to Play a Female Character Whose Looks Aren’t a Factor
The Force is strong with this one.
Gwendoline Christie has shared some insight into what it’s been like to play the imposing Captain Phasma in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and while portraying the thoughts and intentions of a character clad head-to-toe in armor has its own unique challenges—no matter how badass that armor may be—she enjoys the freedom that goes with it.
And J.J. Abrams wouldn’t stand for any Darth Vader tactics of having a different person under the armor from the actor providing the voice. Christie told Variety,
It was very important to J.J. that I was there acting a part. I found it to be a really interesting acting challenge … it was exciting to me to have that weight of responsibility taken away, of having to be a certain way as a woman, to have to be mindful in a way that isn’t always useful. To have that stripped away was very liberating, and it meant that as an actor I had to focus on other things. I had to focus on what my body was communicating and what exactly my voice is communicating.
She went on to clarify that that useless distraction female actors are plagued with on set is the entertainment industry’s frustrating insistence that women balance good performances with being eye-candy:
I don’t think many female actors get the opportunity to play a part where they’re not having to think about the way their face looks, but I found exactly the same thing with Brienne of Tarth, and that was very liberating. It was great as an actor to work on your skills—that it isn’t about holding your head so you look beautiful.
It’s good that she was relieved of that burden, as it sounds like she had plenty of other things to think about while trying to communicate her entire performance through body language:
It becomes about the way in which you hold your hand, the way in which you walk, where your weight lies and what you want that to mean, and I wanted to give the character identity. I thought it was interesting to make something about the character identifiably female in a non-superficial way, and I hope that comes across.
That all sounds great, and we can’t wait to see her bring the character to life on the big screen when the movie debuts in December. At the very least, it sounds like, at the very least, we’ll get a faceless performance a bit more nuanced than this:
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