Gwendoline Christie On Captain Phasma, Playing Strong Women

From the Isle of Tarth to a galaxy far, far away, Gwendoline Christie has taken on the roles of three very different, very powerful characters, and is helping to change how the world sees women.

Christie talked to Variety magazine about the task of tackling three roles that can only be seen as groundbreaking.

“It’s great to be involved in three big franchises, but [they’re] big three big franchises that are looking to expand our consciousness about each other as human beings, and that’s very exciting,”

Brienne of Tarth ( Image: HBO)
Brienne of Tarth (Image: HBO)

Christie fell in love with her Game of Thrones character, which is what she is most known for, well before reading the script for the show. After reading the book she was doubtful that the show runners would maintain the richness and honesty found in the female characters George R.R Martin had written,

“[I] totally fell in love with the character [of Brienne], but the books were so fascinating because the narratives were so unconventional. There were character viewpoints from women, and women were written about in a three-dimensional way with depth, with reality, with huge positivity and with faults — you’ve got human beings. And the only way I can sum it up is with a quote from George R. R. Martin … I remember he said this to me and I was so bowled over by his brilliant intelligence and insight, he said, ‘I’ve always thought of women as people.’ Its simplicity is beautiful. So I read these books and I thought ‘how fantastic — obviously they’ll cut down the women and just make them girlfriends for the TV show.’ And then when I received the scripts I saw that that wasn’t the case at all, and that David Benioff and Dan Weiss had honored the text and had brought it to life and continue to bring it to life further and further.”

Her character in the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma, has caused a buzz without a word spoken. Though what is more exciting than the character being female is the promise of Christie’s coming performance,

“It was very important to J.J. that I was there acting a part. I found it to be a really interesting acting challenge, not just because of what I felt this character was representing — and it was just what I felt, and we talked about it a little bit, but it was never like a manifesto, ‘this is what it must be’ — and it was exciting to me to have that weight of responsibility taken away, of having to be a certain way as a woman, to have to be mindful in a way that isn’t always useful. To have that stripped away was very liberating, and it meant that as an actor I had to focus on other things. I had to focus on what my body was communicating and what exactly my voice is communicating.”

While Christie’s work on Game of Thrones has been powerful, the promise of what an actor of her caliber can achieve when they start using words like ‘liberating’ means potential goose bumps.

Instead of shying away from the fact the character is a woman, a fact that seems hard for some fans to swallow, the collective that is Star Wars seems to be taking any criticism head on. When Captain Phasma first appeared in the movie’s trailer, some fans couldn’t get past what she was wearing,

Christie was proud of how Star Wars social media team handled the comment

“It was beautiful because it was informative, which is what we all need in order to tackle prejudice of any kind in our world … to be fed information,” Christie said of the response. “That’s just my opinion, that education combats fear, and fear leads to prejudice — so if we all become more educated, and if our mainstream media continues to expand and show a more realistic representation of women and of men”

Captain Phasma ( Image: Lucasfilms)
Captain Phasma ( Image: Lucasfilms)

While some fans might be worrying about the armors lack of feminine allure, the very nature of the armor lends itself to a more challenging role for Christie. Behind her polished helmet she has the job of conveying both power and femininity,

“I don’t think many female actors get the opportunity to play a part where they’re not having to think about the way their face looks, but I found exactly the same thing with Brienne of Tarth, and that was very liberating,” she said. “It was great as an actor to work on your skills — that it isn’t about holding your head so you look beautiful. It’s about what you’re transmitting, and to be in service of an idea greater than yourself, whether it’s the character’s overriding objective or, beyond that, hopefully something more sociopolitical. We have seen an image of [Phasma] and again, it’s an unconventional kind of woman exhibiting a kind of strength, but in a very different way to my other two characters.”

Christie will also appear in the upcoming finale to the The Hunger Games saga, Mockingjay- Part Two as Commander Lyme, a leader in the rebellion against the Capital.

Commander Lyme ( Image: Lionsgate)
Commander Lyme (Image: Lionsgate)

While each of the roles represent strong women, Christie, with all of her talent and success, is herself a bit of a hero. From the sound of it, it seems she’s taking the responsibility seriously.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 hits theaters on Nov. 20, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens December 18, and Games of Thrones returns to HBO next spring. If you can’t wait till December to show your support, they’ve already released some Phasma toys for order – figures, or if you prefer Funko Pop.

And for more Star Wars and Game of Thrones stuff, check what we know so far about Episode VIII or take a trip to the Medieval Land Fun-Time World Park! And be sure to check back at GrizzlyBomb for more of what you’re looking for. And stuff. 

Images: LucasFilm, HBO, Vanity Fair, Lionsgate

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