Kelly Marie Trans first recording session for Raya and the Last Dragon involved a leap of faith As the eponymous warrior princess, she stood in a booth in the Burbank offices of Disney Animation and conducted the dialogue, an incantation intended to awaken a mythical creature that could help save the world

The recording went smoothly, but just before the scene ended, Tran said, “Hey, actually would you mind if I tried something? “

She explained to directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada that she would feel much more contradictory and almost annoyed to find herself in Raya’s situation – after prolonging a gesture of friendship, only to betray the end of the world Invite when contacting with no guarantee everyone would reply you told her to try

“We really – we really need your help,” mumbles Tran as Raya, alone in a cave “To be honest, I need your help I made a mistake I trusted someone I shouldn’t have. And now this is World broken, “she said, her trembling words almost whispering

López Estrada says: “There were five or six of us in the cabin on the other side and we all had tears in our eyes”

The final cut is Trans’s own words, “[Raya] sees the world in this idyllic way and then the world collapses and it changes the way she interacts with the world,” she says now , shortly before the film was released on Nov. March in theaters and on Disney “That was my way [into the character] I’ve definitely seen the world through rose-colored glasses in the past and now I feel like I’m behind, smoke a cigarette and say,” I’ve seen things ‘”

When the world first met Tran, she was the girl who won a gold ticket – and wanted to take everyone on her tour of the chocolate factory, The Unknown Actress, who moved from improvisational stages to Star Wars, the biggest film The world’s franchise, catapulted, hit her moment with a dash of joy. She was grateful to have been selected

Not that she was a starry-eyed naive When pre-release for Episode VIII – The Last Jedi began, she opened an Instagram account and used it to poke holes in the Hollywood myth, thus creating the unknown how smaller mortals feel “I never thought I’d be in a world where someone would pay to have people dress me, do my hair, do my makeup. We spend all our lives adjusting to a standard that is truly unreachable, “wrote Tran in the headline to an October 2017 post where she posed a photo on the red carpet with a snapshot of herself in a Jaws T-shirt and novelty oversized glasses “That chick on the left is who I am 1% of the time. The girl on the right is who I am 99% of the time. And guess what? They’re both worthy of love”

“TBH, this is the only way to act when you get famous,” BuzzFeed explained in an article celebrating their report in December 2017, a week before The Last Jedi premiered. p>

Everyone knows what happened after the film came out Rian Johnson’s vision of a galaxy far, far away shared obsessive fans, and Tran, the most prominent newcomer and first black woman to star, bore the brunt of the haters’ hatred (John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were similarly molested when they were featured in Episode VII) They polluted her feed with racist and sexist slurs, she deleted all of her posts, and when The Rise of Skywalker premiered in December 2019, the girl was two years earlier had cried happily over her first red carpet, been replaced by a woman who stared at the cameras at the El Capitan Theater, her lips sealed in a defiant pout

It would be no surprise if Tran, now 32, were closed and unwilling to engage with a public who returned their goodwill with bile So it’s a relief to look through a zoom screen instead and find her bare-faced and smiling and a game to process the unique life experiences that took her from darkness to Star Wars pioneer to Disney princess, accompanied by two streams of intense scrutiny and poisonous fandom

Trans decision to delete her Instagram – all that’s left is a one-line bio: “Afraid but do it anyway” – in June 2018, to her dismay, headlines made “What interests me about working in this industry is that certain things get so public, even when you don’t really mean that they are the sequence of events where I left the internet for health reasons, “she said.” Basically, I was like, ‘Oh ‘This is not good for my sanity I will obviously leave this’ “

At the time, she was on the final week of production for the first season of the Facebook Watch drama Sorry for Your Loss, a meditation on grief in which she plays a recovering alcoholic, “She was very open about it, in a really unknown Territory, “says creator Kit Steinkellner of their conversations on the CBS Radford property in Studio City,” It’s a rare and terrible thing to have this level and amount of hatred come so relentlessly towards you, I was really impressed with how she dealt directly with the intense and complicated feelings that everyone would have about it while continuing to really give as an artist, friend and person “(Steinkellner compares trans performance to a chiaroscuro painting -” all lights and darks “)

Tran says the whole experience felt like she fell in love very publicly and then had an embarrassingly awful breakup very publicly. “She relied on her close circle of friends, including members of her all-Asian American improvisation troupe Number One Son, and went to therapy where she learned, “If someone doesn’t understand me or my experience, it shouldn’t be my job to internalize their misogyny or their racism or all of the above. Maybe they just don’t have the imagination to understand that there are different kinds of people in the world “

Aside from a statement in the New York Times in which she penned an assertive, moving statement of re-purpose to combat the “lies” society teaches about women and people of skin color, Tran also withdrew completely back from the spotlight

“I left. I said no to a lot of things,” she says. “It felt like I was just hearing the voices of my agents and advertising team, and all of these people were telling me what to say and do And how I should feel And I realized that I no longer knew how I felt And I didn’t remember why I was there in the first place

“Every time that happens I have to close the shop and walk away for a while and really interact in the real world – reading books and diaries and going on hikes and looking at a tree and reminding myself that there was a fire that burned in me before Star Wars, from all of this and I had to find that again “

Considering the lengthy gestation period for animated features, Raya and the Last Dragon land with some contemporary parallels.Although an eerie atmospheric force (much like a virus) is the obvious threat in the film, the real antagonist of the story is the disagreement as that fictional land of Kumandra has been divided into five kingdoms as people indulge their impulses of power, greed, and forbearance with suspicion first Disney animated film directly inspired by Southeast Asian cultures, additional resonance (even during the film) was also criticized for casting East Asians in several key roles)

During development, Disney added new members to the project’s creative team – directors Hall (Big Hero 6) and López Estrada (Blindspotting), and playwright Qui Nguyen (Vietgone) to join screenwriter Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians) Joining various elements of the story and character, including Raya herself Originally voiced by Degrassi: The Next Generation alum Cassie Steele (who is partially Filipino), the title character was recast as she went from being a stoic loner to a warrior who is something has more lightness “We went to the Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord for a competition to get some of that boast,” says Hall. “I don’t exactly remember the moment we called Kelly Marie [‘s name ] but we all got infected just because we knew they had improvised comedic gifts, lightness and buoyancy but also in a bad mood “

For Tran, the role was not just a bucket list for a die-hard Disney nerd (her email handle in high school was “lil_disney_dorko”), but also an opportunity to share her legacy for the first time in her career “I’ve never had this experience before, looking at pages and reading words derived from the Vietnamese language,” says the actor, who worked with Nguyen to refine the pronunciation and slang used in Kumandra and To make suggestions

As the first Star Wars leading actress and first Southeast Asian Disney princess, Tran is aware that she is a symbol of representation and can wear the coat better without it choking her. “I understand why there is such a label on the Things that I’ve done as a kid, I saw people working in this industry and thought they were somehow exalted people and if I ever got to this place I would never feel insecurity or doubt, and it just isn’t true, “she says,” So I acknowledge and affirm that these things are historical and I am so grateful to be a part of them, but for my own health I don’t have to think too much about them “

Activist Amanda Nguyen, a close friend who was related to Tran because they were rare Vietnamese-American young public figures in their respective fields, said: “It is a constant move to find out,” I do that because I love it ‘but also because you are so aware of the lack of representation and because of that you are suddenly the de facto person representing the whole group of people that is an immense amount of responsibility, which is frankly a little unfair to people, and Kelly handled it with so much grace “

Ask the filmmakers and creators who worked with Tran how she was on her sets, and they’ll all volunteer a certain version of the same anecdote: “She would introduce herself to any member of the crew,” says Johnson of The Last Jedi “She poked her head into the departments and asked, ‘What are you doing here?’ I would turn around and she would help sew in porg feathers “

Steinkellner says, “You hear about divas and superstars, and there are also [actors] who just come in and do the job and are polite and courteous to the crew on the bottom line, but Kelly really cares about people To use a Woo-Woo L, ONE word to honor everyone you would respectfully ask if they could just shadow and watch the other parts of the machine that an actor would not normally be concerned with”

Raya is an animated film that was produced remotely during the pandemic, but Tran was “more embedded in our family than actors usually do,” says López Estrada. She was part of the crew’s extracurricular activities throughout the production of the Participation in a Laotian Baci blessing ceremony at the start of the project via the questioning of several crew members about the making of featurettes up to the recording of a silly duet of “Mockingbird” à la Dumb and Dümmer with López Estrada as a gift for the animators “I think if we weren’t doing the work from home, she would probably have come to the studio once a week to just hang out with everyone, “he says

When she is told that her behavior is unusual for an actor: “It makes me want to die,” says Tran. “Perhaps it is because I have worked as an administrative assistant longer than as an actor and not until now Growing up in the industry When I went into my first movie, I remember people saying, “Oh, you hang out with the PAs on the weekends,” and I said, “Yeah, so?” I want that made-up status -Titles we have in Hollywood still don’t believe I keep telling my agents, “The day I get, I’ll go back to college and become a scientist ‘”

Tran was an open-minded theater kid from San Diego who appeared in local music productions and actively participated in too many high school clubs. Her parents were refugees from Vietnam who did what they had to do in their new country (including work in a funeral home) to care for their three daughters

Tran, the middle child, studied communications at UCLA and then joined up and coming actors in Los Angeles.During her day-to-day work as an office assistant, she honed her comedy skills on local improvisation shows and video sketching that highlight the opportunities for an Asian American who tried to act on screen in the early 2010s, spawned her roles as “Daughter”, “Boba Chick” and “Full Asian” While Tran worked on specification scripts in Koreatown cafes on his days off, it became a running gag among friends: “You guys, look at us We do what we want to make a living! Is isn’t it cool? “

Comedian and writer Jenny Yang, a close friend Tran met 10 years ago in a class in the Upright Citizens Brigade, recalls the first time she saw the future star on the improvisational stage, “She was a brilliant one Knopf, “says Yang,” her energy, purity, enthusiasm, her smile – you can tell that she was so happy to be there, and I think that attracts people because she is in an industry that exhausts people can do “

Yang believes these aspects of trans nature became a lightning rod for the polarized reactions to her involvement in Star Wars “Do you remember ‘Protect Kelly Marie Tran at all costs’? That was a line people always use Had to say again because she embodied relativity. She came from such a humble path and became a movie star, “says Yang.” I think it also makes sense that the worst on the internet would hold on to it and say, ‘Yeah, bitch you should being grateful “This is the simple flip people can make of the energy they conveyed to what their gratitude and vulnerability is”

Tran is unlikely to return to social media. “I was really that much happier without being on the internet,” she says. “I learned from my agents that I was going to be abandoning branded partnerships, but I’m not here to sell flat-stomach tea to young girls “She admits she is engaging in what she and her friends call” one-sided social media, “where she is very aware of current events and trending topics, but she sits down even “extreme limits” when looking for responses to her own work

“We can talk about the interaction between mental health and social media, but we can also talk about mental health and that notion of fame and what it does to you. It’s not normal For me, this navigation is about how I feel like myself protect that I can continue to work in this world and further save the stories I need to hear for the world “

These stories include Lily Topples the World, a documentary that Tran is executive producing and premiering on SXSW this month.The feature follows college student Lily Hevesh, a Chinese adoptive and the most successful domino artist in the world World (her YouTube channel has amassed over 1.1 billion views) Tran describes a scene where Lily is having a business meeting with a group of middle-aged white men about her upcoming domino line: “She is much younger than me, and here is a woman in this room who does her thing without having to be that way “How does it feel to be Asian?” I want to go deeper into these stories, but I also want to be that person “

She gets there “Kelly has definitely gotten more of a shit kicker,” says Yang, referring to someone willing to “cut the bullshit” and improve Hollywood norms. “She’s a lot more willing to draw the line , she proactively asks what she needs and brings her team the work she wants “

When she thinks about her intense journey over the past few years, the part that is choking Tran now is not the public personal assaults that tarnished the most exciting time of her life. It’s this part, “I think we’re forgetting as working actors that it’s a miracle to be in this world at all “Her voice is heavy with relief that she has managed to keep that part of herself – that passion for the magic of storytelling – that she values ​​most “Hope to me looks like reminding yourself that you survived some shit to get to where you are,” says Tran. “When the world is moving so fast and all these voices are saying, ‘If if you don’t, you will never work again ‘if you really come into your power and surround yourself with people who honor your voice and their own voices – I think that’s how I got through “

This story first appeared in the March 3, issue of Hollywood Reporter Magazine March Click here to register

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Kelly Marie Tran

World news – USA – The resurrection of Kelly Marie Tran: On surviving “Star Wars” bullying, the pressures of representation and “Raya and the last dragon”