Fe­lic­ity Jones

Star Wars’ war­rior princess

Glamour (South Africa) - - Glamour 2017 April -

growingup, I al­ways felt Star Wars be­longed to the boys, how­ever much I played with lightsabers. When the galaxy fi­nally in­cluded a fe­male lead – Daisy Ri­d­ley’s Rey in 2015’s The Force Awak­ens, I re­joiced. Rogue One, which takes place 34 years prior, gave us another bold woman: Fe­lic­ity Jones’ Jyn Erso, a char­ac­ter who is rash and as­sertive – messy, thrilling traits that too few ac­tresses get in big-bud­get ac­tion movies. And Fe­lic­ity un­der­stands how Jyn changed the game. As a lit­tle girl, she dreamt of play­ing love-struck Ariel from The Lit­tle Mer­maid. But at 33, the Ox­ford-ed­u­cated ac­tress got the chance to play a new kind of Dis­ney princess: “a very con­tem­po­rary, kick-ass princess,” she says. And her CV is filled with take-charge roles like Jyn – her first Os­car nom­i­na­tion was for her por­trayal of Jane Hawk­ing in The The­ory of Every­thing. Says the self-pro­claimed fem­i­nist, “What I love in my work is show­ing a full-sided woman, a woman who is strong but flawed.”

glamour You started act­ing as a kid. How did you per­suade your par­ents to let you go on au­di­tions?

FE­LIC­ITY They never put up huge ob­sta­cles. But there was an em­pha­sis on get­ting a good education. So I would work as hard as pos­si­ble at school so that I could keep act­ing along­side. Most of the time I was in the back­ground. I never played [the Virgin] Mary. I was al­ways kind of the third angel.

Where did you get your work ethic?

My mother worked in­cred­i­bly hard when she was bring­ing us up. She was a work­ing mother and a work­ing sin­gle par­ent. [Fe­lic­ity’s par­ents di­vorced when she was a child; she lived with her mom.] That in­stils de­ter­mi­na­tion in you. But my fa­ther, a jour­nal­ist, is a fem­i­nist as well. He talked to us about school and work, and also gave us a strong sense of iden­tity in terms of find­ing what we wanted to do.

Was it im­por­tant to you, even as a kid, to make your own money?

I al­ways had a strong sense of in­de­pen­dence. I liked be­ing able to buy my Ala­nis Moris­sette Jagged Lit­tle Pill al­bum. I wore that as a badge of hon­our. I love not hav­ing to rely on anyone.

Which role did you want as a kid?

The first film I ever saw at the cinema was The Lit­tle Mer­maid, so I wanted to be Ariel. Now I’m play­ing a Dis­ney princess. [Dis­ney bought the rights to Star Wars from Ge­orge Lu­cas in 2012.] A kick-ass Dis­ney princess!

Who in­tro­duced you to Star Wars? My boy cousins used to sit my older brother and me down and take us through a film-stud­ies course. It in­cluded Tre­mors, The Goonies and, of course, Star Wars. That was when it be­gan: sit­ting cross-legged watch­ing as the open­ing crawl goes up the screen.

What was your au­di­tion process?

My agent called me and said, “There is a tremen­dous fe­male lead in the new Star Wars film, and I think you’re go­ing to like it.” The op­por­tu­nity to play some­one de­ter­mined, who is try­ing to find her skills as a leader; to be in a fan­tasy movie; to be able to do a lead­ing fe­male role in a film of that scale – that’s very, very rare.

Jyn is reck­less, ag­gres­sive and undis­ci­plined, traits we see in male he­roes, but rarely in fe­male he­roes.

She’s a bit of a wounded an­i­mal when you meet her. There were mo­ments when she’s been blown over, she’s scram­bling to get up, and she falls. It’s im­por­tant that she’s not per­fect. [The di­rec­tor] Gareth Ed­wards and I wanted to see her be­ing a hu­man be­ing.

You could de­scribe Han Solo us­ing those same words.

She’s ob­vi­ously com­pletely her own woman, but I felt like she was a rather beau­ti­ful blend of Luke Sky­walker and Han Solo – and that came up in dis­cus­sions around the cos­tume de­sign.

Was your cos­tume util­i­tar­ian from the start, or did you have to push back against sex­ing it up?

Not for a sec­ond. Ev­ery­one wanted to cre­ate a char­ac­ter that was not in any way ob­jec­ti­fied. We didn’t want to sex­u­alise Jyn.

So... no mo­ment where Jyn is a prisoner in a gold bikini?

No way! We don’t even see Jyn’s arms! That’s not her pri­or­ity. She’s a sur­vivor and she has a mis­sion to com­plete.

It’s a big deal that there were no eye candy mo­ments for teenage boys.

Gareth said early on, “I want guys to watch it and be like, ‘I want to be Jyn!’” A fe­male friend of mine said, “I love that Jyn looks how we look, with trousers and a long-sleeved top.” We aren’t in hot pants. When do women walk around wear­ing hot pants?

Were your fem­i­nist needs met by this movie?

What I love in my work is be­ing able to ex­plore a full-sided woman and not pa­tro­n­ise her. Par­tic­u­larly with Jyn, it’s a rare op­por­tu­nity to play a fe­male who’s not just think­ing about ro­mance.

The Force

Did Daisy’s Rey in Awak­ens help to put gen­der wari­ness to bed?

Ab­so­lutely. I hope we’re now in a place where, of course, women are go­ing to be lead­ing ac­tion films as well as men. I feel like Sigour­ney Weaver in Alien, Jen­nifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games and then ob­vi­ously Daisy in The Force Awak­ens, all passed on the ba­ton.

How did you feel on stage at the Star Wars Cel­e­bra­tion fan con­ven­tion, hold­ing up Jyn Erso’s ac­tion fig­ure?

It felt re­ally mo­men­tous in how far we’ve come from when I was grow­ing up.

My mother wouldn’t al­low me to play with Bar­bies. I was a tomboy run­ning around the gar­den. I grew up with all boy cousins, for the most part, and my brother. My mother was in the kind of late ’60s, early ’70s ori­gins of fe­male eman­ci­pa­tion. And she was very much like, “You’re not go­ing to be de­fined by how you look. It’s go­ing to be about who you are and what you do.”

How did you earn the nick­name ‘Tiny War­rior’?

I’m small and I’m pe­tite, but I’m a bit of a fighter in­side. In my work I fight for, I hope, show­ing women in a true way. They’ve got brains.

That’s true of your new string of roles. Is that de­lib­er­ate?

I’ve never taken a role where I don’t like a per­son on the page.

Have you sug­gested a change to a char­ac­ter?

I’m keen to make sure the woman isn’t ask­ing too many ques­tions. Some­times that can be an is­sue – al­ways ask­ing and never speak­ing in state­ments.

How else do you ne­go­ti­ate be­tween work and your per­sonal life?

I’m keen to have bal­ance, as much as pos­si­ble. I put ev­ery ounce of my­self into work, but also it’s im­por­tant that I don’t miss ev­ery sin­gle wed­ding of my best friends. I couldn’t do what I do with­out my friends and fam­ily.

Do you feel com­fort­able talk­ing about equal pay? One re­port says you made twice as much as your male co-stars for

Rogue One. I want to be paid fairly for the work I’m do­ing. That’s what ev­ery sin­gle woman around the world wants. We want to be paid on par­ity with a man in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion, and I think it’s im­por­tant to talk about it. It’s brave of women to come for­ward and make a point about it. Now younger ac­tresses will have a con­fi­dence in those dis­cus­sions with their agents and they will be able to say, “Can we make sure that I’m be­ing paid the right amount for my work?”

A Mon­ster Calls,

In you play a mom who has cancer, but she is more than just the ‘mom with cancer’.

Lizzie is still a bit of a child her­self. She’s not al­ways sweet and light. To cope with what’s hap­pen­ing, she’s quite tough. And she’s phys­i­cally stripped down, too. I hate it when, in films, the girl looks per­fect in ev­ery shot. It’s quite nice if there’s a bit of dark cir­cles un­der the eyes, if we see the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion the per­son is go­ing through. I was so ob­sessed with all the de­tails. So very quickly, the “How do I look?” thing goes out the win­dow. Those mo­ments when you don’t feel self-con­scious, when you es­cape that, are when you pro­duce some­thing mean­ing­ful.

It’s nice to hear an ac­tress say she feels least self-con­scious when she’s not try­ing to look glam­orous.

I do, par­tic­u­larly.

Play­wright Polly Sten­ham, called you “hellishly funny”. Who makes you laugh?

My friends, fam­ily and my boyfriend [di­rec­tor Charles Guard].

When was the last time you re­ally laughed at a TV show or movie?

I both laughed and cried at Girls. I just have such respect for cre­ator and ac­tress Lena Dun­ham. And I got to be in it, which was fan­tas­tic.

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