Rise of Skywalker may be Naomi Ackie’s first major Star Wars role, but it’s not her first game in the Star Wars universe. Like many people their age, Ackie grew up in playgrounds with lightsabers. This is part of a larger, shared performance that she is now literally entering as one of the stars of the highly anticipated finale, Episode IX.
Ackie brings a fresh face to the Star Wars universe and screens in general. She only started her acting career a few years ago when she appeared in Idris Elba’s directorial debut Yardie and in British television series such as the dark comedy The End of the F *** ing World.
Now that the audience is about to get to know their mysterious Jannah, Ackie sits down with Polygon to join such a huge franchise, ride horses in strange costumes, fend off flying ants and live out one To discuss childhood dreams.
Polygon: Do you know what was from your work that JJ Abrams made you throw you?
Naomi Ackie: Not me! I think there was one element that we worked on in the film that he might like, being vulnerable and strong at the same time. I can only base that on what we worked on during the making. It was something he wanted to push and could have seen in me before.
Photo: Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images for Disney
From her bow and arrow to the horse-like orbak she is riding on, it seems like Jannah is a less technology-intensive figure.
Yes, Jannah definitely has the feeling that she was super resourceful with her surroundings and took everything around her for a lifestyle in the room she was in. It’s really cool. Jannah has an incredible backstory, of which we have a snippet in this film. But yes, it’s kind of everything that surrounds it, from its weapons to what it rides. Even her costume has a story. Going into it and knowing that they thought about it before I got into the role was brilliant.
What was the first thing you learned about them?
I can’t say the first thing I learned about them! But what I soon learned about her was where she came from. That helped us a lot and explained how important it is to history and what it means to advance for both the film and the legacy of Star Wars.
The word Jannah in Islam means heaven. Is that something that is somehow related to the character?
That’s a good question. You have to ask JJ about it. I think there is some kind of connection to go for something bigger. I think that’s something everyone who takes part in the rebellion has in common. You are fighting for this idea of a larger good. Or it’s even about creating a sky in the environment you are in. Maybe your chosen name has something cryptic about it.
Tell me a little bit about your relationship war of stars before you were occupied.
I don’t remember when I first saw the films. They were always there. I made like lightsabers when I was six years old in my garden. Strangely, I made a bow and arrow. I mean, it has nothing to do with Star Wars, but it’s a strange crossover. It’s such a part of the culture around the world. It felt super discouraging to me, but also familiar. I knew the sound and the bigger message from Star Wars.
I wanted to ask about the creatures you ride, the orbaks. Are these real horses in costumes?
Yes! There are horses in there, oh bless them, those lycra costumes that all had hair. They figured it out because Star Wars is so good at being practical and adding CGI only when it’s needed. You have figured out how to make these amazing creatures. They needed the movement of how hair would flow and they blew the wind when they were riding. So we had horses. I trained to ride horses. I am a London girl so it was crazy for me. Then they obviously added CGI to do the rest. But much of it is real. Real horses ride through explosions in fields. You are unbelievable.
You already have an action figure that appears to be the coolest in the world. What was it like to see it for the first time?
So strange! But how in the best way. It’s about portraying your character so that it can last forever. I’ve been tagged in Instagram posts by people who bought Jannah toys, and it’s something I try to part with as best I can. Because if you think too much about it, a head can grow big. I’m really happy to have that. If I ever have children, they will definitely get a lot from me.
Picture: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Obviously, keeping something secret is a big deal. How difficult is it to keep secrets?
Do you know how i feel As in life, some secrets are easier to keep than others. These are big secrets and it is very easy to keep big secrets. Personally, I’m an idiot for a spoiler. I personally love spoilers. But I would never want to do this to anyone else. I think part of the joy in the Star Wars spotlight is all theories and the idea of secrecy. It excites people a lot. Above all, I want to honor this tradition.
Who was the first person you told after the cast?
My pops. My father was in the house when it happened and he heard me screaming, so he ran to my room and asked, “What’s going on?” He found out at the same time I did it. However, he kept it a secret.
How was your first day on set?
It was crazy. Daisy [Ridley] said it too and I really agree: Sometimes the bigger moments with all the information are difficult to capture. I only remember that I was overwhelmed and had more people on the set than ever before. We had the horses on the set that day. We had flying ants that were not invited but were on the set that day. I ended up with an afro full of flying ants, which wasn’t fun, but that was at the end of the day. I remember people saying, “If you have a moment, stop. Take it up. Stay in the present moment “which is basically all you can do when you are in the huge, larger than life situations right now.
Do you think that’s the end for you and Jannah, or can we see more of her?
I dont know. You have to ask the big boys upstairs. I would love to have the opportunity to continue their story. I would hug it with open arms. I loved playing Jannah. But if that’s the end for Jannah, I’m so thankful that I’ve spent this time working on this character, and I’m just going to do some other cool things somewhere else.