Gwendoline Christie Is The Funniest Stormtrooper You’ll Ever Meet

Photo: Kate Davis-Mcleod/Evening Standard/eyevine/Redux.
Gwendoline Christie wants to know all about my first time. “When did you first see Star Wars?” she asks, leaning over the table where we’re seated, her bright blue eyes wide. I tell her it was approximately one zillion years ago, when I was about 3, and the campus hangout of the college town I grew up in had snagged a bootleg copy. “And what did you think of it?” she asks. I explain that my little mind was blown, particularly by Princess Leia and Chewbacca. Then, conscious of the seconds ticking by in our allotted time to discuss all things Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I suggest that we shouldn’t be wasting time on me when there’s so much I want to ask her. “But I’m genuinely interested!” Christie says with such conviction that I believe her. “I really am. People have such a big investment, such a big emotional investment in the film, and I want to see if there's a common element.” Christie, 37, has vivid memories of her own introduction to a galaxy far, far away, via Episode IV — A New Hope. “I first saw the film when I was 6. It was Christmas, and I think it’s the first Christmas I remember. I completely fell in love with it. What’s fascinating, I think, is that I still love it as much as I did then. It still moves me, it still fills me with awe and excitement, and it still really makes me laugh.” And what a laugh it is. The British actress — who plays the nefarious Captain Phasma in the new Star Wars and, of course, heroic Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones — has an absolutely delightful one that erupts frequently during our conversation. Here's how it went.
It’s an exciting time.
“I can’t believe any of this is happening.” You’ve been in the swirl of a mega franchise for a few years now with Game of Thrones. Is this just a much bigger deal?
“I can’t believe it every time I have a job! [Laughs joyously] And long may that feeling continue!” Speaking of these two worlds you work in, you’re used to secrecy, so I don’t stand a chance here of getting anything out of you, do I?
“Why would you want to? Why would you want to do that? You wouldn’t want to spoil it for people!” I’m just dying to know for myself! I grew up with these movies. I’m also on a mission to convince the people I work with to become superfans. It’s hard to explain the importance of Star Wars if you didn’t grow up with it, if it's not part of your soul, infiltrating your speech and pop culture references, like, “These aren't the droids you’re looking for” and so many others.
"[Nods] There was something about the story that struck me. That it had all those really incredible elements, seemingly disparate elements brought together by that group of characters, all thrown together, all working together. They were all different — how sardonic Han Solo is. I always wanted to be Han Solo! And also Princess Leia because I just thought she was so cool. I loved the hairdo, I loved it. I thought she was so brilliant. I was so young, but I do remember thinking, 'Oh, I’m not used to seeing a woman like that in films.'” Especially because she was a princess and that tough. She’s not a wimpy fairy-tale princess.
“Yes! Yes! And so smart, so intelligent, so witty. I do remember thinking, 'Oh, I’d like to be like her.' Did you think that as well?” Oh, god, yes. Every day of my childhood. So...What can you tell me about Captain Phasma?
"[Leans over, spreads hands in a way that says, “Right, let’s get down to business now.”] Okay, well, I can tell you that Captain Phasma is the captain of the Stormtroopers. She is a member of the First Order and part of the dark side. And I can tell you that she is a Boba Fett-style character in that she is not at the forefront of the action, but she definitely makes an impact. [Smiles] What about that? What about that?You have to tap dance very carefully as a member of this cast. I appreciate that. A Vulture writer recently confirmed that Captain Phasma was originally written as male.
“Right, yeah.”
That ties into a question I’ve also asked your co-stars Daisy and Lupita. The original Star Wars trilogy was very male, with the exception of Princess Leia. But with this one, the filmmakers seem to have made a very conscious decision to involve more women in major roles. Were you conscious of this difference during filming?
“It was definitely something I was aware of when that first lot of casting news came out. I felt happy and actually relieved that there was a modern outlook on the casting of this film. For something that’s been longed for and so eagerly anticipated, I thought it was a refreshing and necessary choice to have a more diverse cast. I was pleased about that. But really, my moment came when I saw the costume and the incredible chrome armor. I can’t tell you how pleased I was when I saw that the armor was practical. It’s Stormtrooper armor; it hadn’t been sexualized in any way. It hadn’t been feminized — whatever that is — in any way. And I thought, 'Oh! That’s progressive.' "And I’m so overwhelmed by people’s positive response to Captain Phasma, because in our society, we’re used to forming a relationship with female characters due to the way they are made in flesh. The fact that this part seemed to be transcending that — that we are relating to Captain Phasma, a woman, due to her character and her actions and the choices that she makes, rather than the more conventional means — really excited me. I didn’t think I could get much more overjoyed about being in Star Wars, but to be in Star Wars playing that part — truly mind-blowing. Mind-blowing!" Daisy also mentioned that she appreciated that her character wasn’t sexualized. No dis to George Lucas, but it seems like we’ve come a long way from the metal slave bikini, to movies with action heroines whose sex is incidental.
“You have been much more succinct than I could be, and I’m going to take that and use it! [Laughs]" I didn’t mean it that way!
“No, I know didn’t, but thank you. I’m taking that with me.” I’ll look for it in future interviews.
“Yeah, do. ‘That’s mine!’” On a scale of 1 to Joffrey, how evil is Captain Phasma?
"[Laughs] Well, obviously and unfortunately I can’t say anything — this is the point where you love me — I can’t say anything that could potentially relate to the plot. However, Captain Phasma is the captain of the Stormtroopers and she is a member of the First Order and she is part of the dark side. [Pauses] So, I think that’s an indication. Trying to give you something. Really trying!” Did it seem like an extra milestone to be playing the first female villain in Star Wars?
“Oh, well, yes. Obviously, yes. But I’ve recently received word that, in terms of on screen, I think there was some sort of debate… Someone sent me something about maybe a mutant fighter pilot or something who has a line? And who is female? Well then, let’s say the first major character who is a female villain.
“Yes! Thank you, thank you. Do you know what? You should be training me. I appreciate that.” Oh, no. I should be more careful, because if I make an error in laying out the canonical knowledge of Star Wars, the geeks — and I say that with great affection — will flay me.
"[Laughs] What I love is the fact that the fans and the audiences seem to be saying, ‘We really love it when there’s diversity in casting. We really love it when we see unconventional men and women in our entertainment because we feel like our society is being reflected.'” You filmed The Force Awakens while also juggling the fourth season of Game of Thrones. Were there times you wore Brienne’s armor one day and Captain Phasma’s the next?
“Yeah. [Laughs] I’ve grown used to Brienne’s armor, although it can be very heavy. And I did think, ‘I feel so phenomenally lucky. Yesterday, I was Brienne on Game of Thrones! Today, I get to be Captain Phasma in Star Wars! This week is amazing! My life is absolutely off the hook, this is off the scale! Is it real? Don’t depend too much on the fact that it’s real, because if you wake up, you’ll be really disappointed.’ So, there was that. "And I was so overwhelmed to be on the [Force Awakens] set that you can ask me, is it [Phasma's costume] heavy? I’ve got no idea! Cause I was just like a child, enraptured! It could have been steel, it could have been made of solid steel. I was so overwhelmed, it took so much to get myself to just click into being professional and doing my job because I was screaming inside with utter joy.” Going from valiant to villainous — did it scratch another itch to play evil?
“It was hugely satisfying because I’ve always wanted to play lots of different parts. But after playing a character which I love so much for so many years who is dedicated to a moral good, it was very nice to inhabit a completely different psychology. And isn’t it always fun to be bad? [Laughs heartily]" Okay, last question. In a cage match between Brienne and Captain Phasma, who wins?
“What I think is more interesting is that if they got together, they could take over the universe.” Ooh, Brienne brings Captain Phasma to the light side? Or Phasma brings Brienne to the dark?
“Let’s just say working together. Working together.
This is the third and final installment in a series of interviews with the women of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opens December 18. Click here for our sit-down with Daisy Ridley and here for our chat with Lupita Nyong'o.

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