Felicity Jones Looked To J Lawr For Inspiration In Rogue One

Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm
Felicity Jones has acted for more than 20 years, receiving critical acclaim in a variety of roles that range from BBC dramas to indie darlings like Brideshead Revisited and Like Crazy. But when it came time to prepare for her role as tough-as-nails Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, out Friday, Jones took notes from another actress who has seamlessly nailed the transition from indie queen to blockbuster franchise leader: Jennifer Lawrence.

Lawrence has, of course, two major installments under her belt as Mystique in X-Men and Katniss in The Hunger Games. But it was her role as kick-ass Katniss that her Like Crazy co-star Jones looked to when prepping for her breakthrough moment as the lead in the standalone Star Wars origin tale. We sat down with Jones to discuss Lawrence and much more — including why she loved playing Jyn and her personal advice for women fighting to close the wage gap.

Looking at the recent successes of both Lupita Nyong’o and Daisy Ridley in
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, do you feel any pressure to live up to that and make as big of a splash as they did?
"I kind of just take the baton and run with it and carry on. I felt instinctively Jyn is completely her own character... She has a backstory in the way that Rey and Luke Skywalker [don't]: We meet them just at the point of discovery; Jyn has a few more scars in the beginning. She’s a little bit more damaged.

"I just feel proud to be part of these films, and feeling like it doesn’t have to be a big statement and a big deal about [Jyn] being female. She’s a person. She’s someone who I wanted people to relate to as a character... She’s normal — all the characters, they’re very ordinary and very normal. They’re in extraordinary situations but they’ve all had their struggles and they’re all trying to make the best out of a very difficult situation."

You’ve mentioned before that you were a Star Wars fan growing up. Did you know a lot of girls who were also fans of the movies?
"I feel like with friends there were more princess fans. But it was because I absolutely adored my older [boy] cousins and my older brother that I was very much a tomboy. I just wanted to do anything they did. I thought they were the greatest. I started watching it with them and taking what we’d seen and playing in the garden, running around and shooting laser fire at each other."

What message do you hope that your role in this movie will send to younger fans?
"I think Jyn has an authenticity and a humanity and a kindness; I think that’s so important in these times. that we have kindness to each other — no matter what country we’re from or background or race."

Did you take inspiration from any other female characters in big franchises?
"I definitely remember watching Sigourney Weaver in Alien and then, obviously, with Jennifer Lawrence — I absolutely thought her performance was brilliant in The Hunger Games. I really feel like Jennifer set a tone for all of us. What’s so beautiful about her character is her seriousness — she doesn’t have to be silly — there’s a real depth to the character. I think that’s the key with films like this: There’s more opportunity now to find that depth in franchise films, and I think there’s a demand for it as well."

We’re in a moment where we want both great, well-rounded male characters and great, well-rounded female characters.

Felicity Jones
Ghostbusters received a lot of backlash this year about being a nostalgia franchise film recast with female characters. Do you think that might happen with Rogue One?
"I feel like there’s a real audience across the board that wants female leads; it doesn’t need to be a big thing. I’ve grown up with very strong female role models, and it shouldn’t be a trend or an anomaly. We’re in a moment where we want both great, well-rounded male characters and great, well-rounded female characters."

Many actors are speaking out about the gender wage gap. Do you have any advice for readers who are dealing with tricky job negotiations or salary discussions?
"I think the key is to be vocal, because often the case is that women won’t ask for a pay raise, or they’ll be scared to ask. I think it’s just about empowering yourself and making sure there’s a discussion about it — and [to] not being shy [about] talking about how much you’re getting paid."

How does Rogue One appeal to audiences new to Star Wars? Should they be watching your film before the other films?
"I think what people will love about it is that you’ll feel like you’re actually there. It will feel very immersive. Gareth [Edwards, the director] was operating the camera, and he’d be there in the shuttle with us: We’d be all in this tiny space, practically sitting on top of each other... He wanted to make it very genuine, and I think audiences are going to really enjoy that. They’ll feel very much like they are participators — that they’re in the ship with us."

What has been the most unexpected part about being in this movie?
"I thought we’d just be in the studio for seven months and we’d never see the light of day. Then to be told that we’d be going to these extraordinary countries — we’d be going to Jordan, the Maldives, and Iceland — it’s a bit like backpacking, and I absolutely love traveling. There’s something very special about getting to work in these countries and getting to know people in the local communities who work as the crew on the film. I love the immediacy of being there, and being in the desert or on a desert island. It’s when you really appreciate what you do."

Rogue One is out in theaters on December 16.

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