Writer Chris Terrio Offers an Unsatisfying Explanation for Kelly Marie Tran's Limited Screen Time in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker [Updated]

Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico.
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico.
Image: Disney/Lucasfilm

Wait, where’s Rose? As anyone keeping up with the state of Star Wars discourse has undoubtedly heard, Rose Tico, the Resistance engineer introduced in The Last Jedi and played by Kelly Marie Tran, has a very small amount of screen time in The Rise of Skywalker. Like, compared to her role in The Last Jedi, where she’s a member of the lead cast, it’s absolutely miniscule.

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This has, understandably, made a lot of fans and onlookers upset, particularly since Tran herself was the victim of an awful harassment campaign for her role in the franchise. Now, Chris Terrio, co-writer of The Rise of Skywalker, has commented with a partial explanation for why Rose was so thoroughly sidelined.

“One of the reasons that Rose has a few less scenes than we would like her to have has to do with the difficulty of using Carrie Fisher’s footage in the way we wanted to,” Terrio told Awards Daily, via Entertainment Weekly. “We wanted Rose to be the anchor at the rebel base who was with Leia. We thought we couldn’t leave Leia at the base without any of the principals who we love, so Leia and Rose were working together … As the process evolved, a few scenes we’d written with Rose and Leia turned out to not meet the standard of photorealism that we’d hoped for. Those scenes, unfortunately, fell out of the film.”

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This explanation makes sense, but it still betrays a lack of consideration of Rose’s role in the film. In a situation where a character’s place in the franchise has been widely heralded as a win for diversity and touted by Disney as the beginning of a new era for the series, it seems more than a little ill advised to stake that character’s appearance in the film almost entirely on untested effects technology. Especially when that character’s absence, then, feels so much like validation for all the worst parts of fandom.

“The last thing we were doing was deliberately trying to sideline Rose. We adore the character, and we adore Kelly—so much so that we anchored her with our favorite person in this galaxy, General Leia,” Terrio continued.

Which, again, is not an entirely unfair position. But it’s worth noting that in the original trilogy, there was also a controversial member of the core group introduced in the second movie, who came from an underrepresented group and whose character destabilized the central dynamic in a way that was, at the time, pretty polarizing. That character was Billy Dee Williams’s Lando Calrissian, a character who has a good deal more screen time in The Rise of Skywalker than Rose has in the conclusion of her own trilogy. Even if it was an honest product of a crunched timetable and bad effects work, that still sucks.

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The Rise of Skywalker is out now.

Update, Dec. 30: Terrio released a statement to Vulture that walked back his “not [meeting] the standard of photorealism” explanation: “I badly misspoke if in an earlier statement I implied that any cut scenes between Rose and Leia were the fault of our VFX team and the wizards at ILM,” Terrio said, noting that the specific scene in question was actually “cut at the script stage before the VFX work was done” because “Leia’s emotional state in Episode VII did not seem to match the scene we wrote for use in Episode IX.” Read the full statement at Vulture.

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io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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DISCUSSION

Seriously, fellow fans, I think we all need to step back and get some perspective here. Accusing JJ and Disney of pandering to racists and sexists is downright fucking absurd and just giving power to the toxic vocal minority trolls by letting them dictate the discussion around these films. This is not a civil war, this is not even politics, they’re movies.

We’ve let our deep political divisions drive us into extremism on all fronts and it’s spilled into Star Wars fandom, where it frankly does no good. I’m a proponent of diversity (being a liberal Asian male, I’m still waiting for an Asian man to play a Jedi - which blatantly appropriates Asian culture), but what you all are doing is hurting rather than helping. Nothing less than a full 100% catering to your political desires in the new Star Wars film seems like it would have satisfied you the way you are talking. This kind of extremism doesn’t move the discussion forward. We’re smarter than this, as Obi Wan said (also: only a Sith deals in absolutes).

Take a look at the fan ratings for TLJ and TRoS on something like Metacritic. Largely all very negative or very positive reviews from fans. Extremely polarized. But look back at TFA. None of that polarization is there. If this controversy was really about the Star Wars movies adding diversity, then TFA would have gotten hit the hardest. Consider: female Jedi protagonist, black male lead, female Stormtrooper villain, white guy villains. Yet not a peep. Why? Because TFA came out in 2014, BEFORE the 2016 election turned us into a house divided against itself.

I know it’s a lost cause to call for moderation and rational thought here, but please, I beg you, try to get some perspective and see what you’re doing. Actually look at TRoS and how it adds a black female hero, a black female lesbian pilot who is the wife of a high-ranking woman, brings back Lando, keeps Rose in the picture (when, if they wanted to appease racists, they could have just cut her), has Resistance and First/Final Order officers of all colors and sexes being represented, has female stormtroopers (in non-boob armor) and has the white male “hero” completely sidelined while the woman protagonist defeats the ultimate evil that’s been the antagonist of all 9 films. Does that REALLY sound like a movie trying to appease racists and sexists?

Off my soapbox now.