When Daisy Ridley was cast to play Rey in 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” she vaulted from the quiet anonymity of a young working actor in the United Kingdom to sudden global mega-fame as the star of one of the most anticipated movies of the century.
Since then, she reprised her role in Rian Johnson’s 2017 sequel “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and J.J. Abrams’ upcoming “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the conclusion to the Skywalker saga. Unlike her co-stars, however, Ridley has only made two other films in between: Kenneth Branagh’s whodunit “Murder on the Orient Express” and Claire McCarthy’s revisionist “Hamlet” reimagining, “Ophelia.”
Now that her time in the “Star Wars” universe is likely coming to a close (“I just don’t know if anything could top this one, honestly,” she says about returning), Ridley is ready to start her next chapter. The 27-year-old actor spoke with Variety about what her life and career might look like after living in the center of one of the biggest franchises of the decade.
You’ve played the main hero in some of the biggest movie of all time. How has that changed your sense of the world?
I would say I haven’t played the hero because I think that “Star Wars” is a group of heroes all working together. But in terms of being part of that [phenomenon], it makes the world smaller in a way, being in something that unites people is easy access to entering a space. And especially when we’re promoting the film, you go to different countries, and everyone has a similar reaction, a similar expectation. It makes everything more accessible.
How has it changed your sense of yourself?
Um. [Sighs] I really am working on liking myself and feeling like I am where I need to be. And it has been helped by working with people that made me feel good and in a really safe working environment. So I feel like I can do my best work and work with a group of people that I really love.
Rey is a character who was thrust right into the center of this enormous saga out of nowhere, and then had to figure out what that meant for her, and what her place in the world is. Could you relate to that, given your experience making these movies?
I can relate, and that is why I’ve had to make myself feel part of things, because otherwise you just felt like, “Why am I here? Why did they choose me? What is going on?” And then it gets to a point where you think, “Well, it’s not normal, but it’s my normal.” So I’ve stopped trying to apologize for doing this because I know how lucky I am. I’m having a great time. Before, I was like, “Oh, I don’t want to be like, ‘This is best thing ever!'” But it is really great.
And now it’s ending. Have you come to terms with that?
It feels strange when we’re in a group doing things and people ask us how it feels because then you’re like [as if in pain] Oh! And we genuinely all really do get along. So that’s sad.
But also, I think this story, from what we filmed, [screenwriter] Chris [Terrio] and J.J. have done such an amazing job at wrapping it up, it feels like the right time to say goodbye. So even though it’s sad, it feels right. But cut to Dec. 20 when we’re done, and I’m going to be like, “Take me back!”
So do you want to continue be the person who’s at the center of the giant movie?
Well, my main thing — which is why I did “Orient Express” immediately afterwards — is I really like to be part of the group. And I’ve only really done one like leading thing, which was “Ophelia,” which was overwhelming. I like to be part of a group of people.
So being the big movie star, is that something that’s an ambition of yours?
I don’t even know if that’s like really a thing that exists. I want to be a working actor. And I currently am unemployed, so I’m not succeeding right now. But I just want to be in good things and work with great people.
Do you feel like you’re getting opportunities presented to you?
Oh, yeah. I read amazing things a lot of the time. Obviously a struggle that a lot of people are having is, like, financing and is this gonna sell, and financial blah, blah, blah, and which is like the icky logistical side of it. But in terms of content, there is amazing stuff, scripts and books, that are sent my way.
Are you feeling that you’re getting stuff that’s asking you to be a warrior-type character, something similar to Rey?
There was one thing that was just physical. But for the most part, no. The one thing I’ve noticed, it’s just, like, meatier parts. I don’t really have anything to compare it to, because I was thrust into this thing in such a fortunate position that I do not have the struggle that most women have had. But they’re just great roles — just three-dimensional, super, great, meaty, emotional roles.
Is there anything that you think you wouldn’t do?
I don’t think so.
I mean, for me, I won’t go to a horror movie.
Oh, see, I’m terrified of horror films, but I like them. So I’d like to be in one. But I think it would also, like, screw me up a bit. I feel like you’d have to be living with your family to exorcise the bad juju when you left set. The one thing I can’t see myself doing is comedy because I don’t think I’m a funny person — but I could be the straight person. [Sighs] Also, you know, it’s time to be brave. So, I’ll go for it!