Actress Naomi Ackie learned quickly about carrying the weight of heightened expectations in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Actress Naomi Ackie learned quickly about carrying the weight of heightened expectations in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Newcomers Russell and Ackie know the weight of ‘Star Wars’

LOS ANGELES — The latest “Star War” trilogy might be drawing to a close, but newcomers Keri Russell and Naomi Ackie are hoping they’ll become part of the ensemble of memorable characters introduced throughout the nine film Skywalker saga.

Russell is well-established, while Ackie is an actress on the rise. Both learned quickly about carrying the weight of heightened expectations as the new co-stars in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

It certainly didn’t take Ackie long to find out. The stakes were laid out in her first meeting with director J.J. Abrams after when she was selected to play a noble warrior named Jannah.

“J.J. said ‘I’m not trying to scare you, but there’s going to be a lot of young black girls who are going to be really inspired by this character,’” the British actress recalled. “That kind of hit me in the chest. It made me say to myself ‘Oh my gosh.’ But that helped get ready for this moment.”

“Rise of Skywalker,” which opens in theatres Friday, is the ninth film in the so-called Skywalker saga that started with original “Star Wars” in 1977. It traces the history of the Skywalkers, from Anakin — a Jedi who became the galaxy’s most fearsome enforcer, Darth Vader — through his idealistic son Luke and finally to Kylo Ren, the son of Anakin’s daughter Leia.

Before “Star Wars,” Ackie had starred in two British projects, the TV series “The End of the F(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)ing World” and the drama film “Lady Macbeth.” She said her chat with Abrams put everything into perspective that her character could empower young girls of colour, and even herself.

“I think if I had had that in my life, maybe I would have been a bit easier on myself growing up,” said Ackie, whose character is a freedom fighter with natural curly brown hair who wields a bow and arrow from atop a horse-like creature. Jannah becomes an ally of the Resistance and helps Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron’s interstellar battle with the evil First Order.

“I grew up needing that, because I probably wouldn’t have straightened my hair so much,” she continued. “I wouldn’t have, you know, tried to fit myself into boxes that I was never going to fit into. So if this character can be a part of the process of young women, men and non-binary in any way to help identify your truth, then I will do this over and over and over again because I know that’s what I need in my life.”

Russell said she was nervous heading into her role as Zorri Bliss, dubbed the “Masked Scoundrel,” who hails from the snow-dusted world of Kijimi. It’s one of the new planets introduced in “Rise of Skywalker,” and it links her and Poe, played by Oscar Isaac. The actress felt more comfortable with joining the space saga after reuniting with Abrams, who she first worked with 20 years ago on the television series “Felicity.”

“It’s not like shooting some independent film with coffees in your hand talking about feelings,” said Russell, an Emmy-nominated actress who also starred in the TV series “The Americans” as well as the films “Mission: Impossible III” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

Russell’s character sports a wine-colored fitted outfit and a gold helmet that covers her face. She said putting on the costume made her feel like she was a part of the story even more, calling it the “real magic of movie making.

“Everything about ‘Star Wars’ from the moment you’re in costume fittings, it’s like making an old-fashion movie, spending all this money,” she said. “There’s all of this artistry like ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’”

Both Russell and Ackie said they haven’t dealt with any heavy fan criticism just yet, but they’re well aware of it.

Ackie said she’s gotten advice from Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran about their past experiences dealing with critics. She praised them for how far they have come in the franchise.

“I’m glad that I didn’t come in early like them,” Ackie said. “I look at John and Daisy. They were in their early 20’s when they got this. When I was in my early 20s, I would not have been able to handle what they had to deal with. Maybe I would have. And you know, being a bit older and coming in at the end and having the people that support me, it feels more like my head is in the right place. My heart is in the right place. So I’m ready to. We’re ready to go.”

By The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

GrammaLink-Africa members are participating in the Stride to Turn the Tide campaign until June 30. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer group walking to raise money for African grandmothers

A group of central Albertans will be walking every day until the… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Montreal Canadiens' Tyler Toffoli celebrates his goal past Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Corey Conners, of Canada, hits out of a bunker on the seventh hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 11, 2021. Conners notched six birdies on his back nine to take the lead after his second round of the RBC Heritage on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada serves to Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in round 1 of the Rogers Cup women's tennis tournament in Toronto, Monday August 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Rebecca Marino propels Canada into 2-0 lead over Serbia at Billie Jean King Cup

Rebecca Marino propels Canada into 2-0 lead over Serbia at Billie Jean King Cup

Dalton Kellett pulls out of the pits during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in Indianapolis, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Dalton Kellett is pleased his second career season in IndyCar will be different than his first, which started on an elaborate iRacing rig in his home office in Indianapolis because of COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Darron Cummings
Canada’s Dalton Kellett set for a more stable season as an IndyCar driver

Canada’s Dalton Kellett set for a more stable season as an IndyCar driver

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira
Canadian women get peek at their possible road at Olympic soccer tournament

Canadian women get peek at their possible road at Olympic soccer tournament

Head coach John Tait talks to his team as Canada takes on Japan in women's sevens rugby action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Rugby Canada says probe into complaint from members of women’s 7s team is complete

Rugby Canada says probe into complaint from members of women’s 7s team is complete

Most Read