VARIETY – Audiences might flock to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for the chance to reunite with Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) after thirty years, but they’ll walk out of the theater as fans of Daisy Ridley’s Rey, whose optimism, hope and courage echo the same guileless wonder with which Luke Skywalker (and, by extension, all of us) approached his unlikely hero’s journey at the start of “A New Hope.”

We first meet Rey on the desert planet of Jakku, where she was abandoned by her parents at five years old, and it doesn’t take long before she’s swept up on an equally momentous quest alongside John Boyega’s Finn and the scene-stealing new droid BB-8. Variety spoke to Ridley about the surreal experience of joining the “Star Wars” universe, watching director J.J. Abrams turn into a “fanboy” around Harrison Ford, and her own star-struck moment meeting “Star Wars: Rogue One” lead Felicity Jones.

What do you relate to most in Rey as a character?
Her hopefulness. I think that was something driving me through the auditions — even though it felt so insanely out of anything that I could’ve imagined, there was something inside of me that was telling me that I could do it, even though I was riddled with doubts and insecurities. So probably that. She’s much more hopeful than I am, and much braver than I am. For a woman who had been alone for such a long time to be so open to what’s going on, and letting journeys happen, and letting relationships happen, I think is really incredible.

How collaborative was the process of creating her as a character, in terms of what was mapped out versus what you worked out with J.J. as you went?
She changed from when we first began, she became softer. And I think that’s probably me, because Americans tend not to understand me, so it helped, slowing down the speech and everything just made it softer than I am. And that’s nice, because watching it, I was surprised, like, “Oh, that was cool and that’s not me.” But it was definitely a collaboration. Obviously, the script was incredible. I didn’t have to do anything with that, but J.J. is incredibly collaborative. Every day, we would all run through the scenes, and depending on how we felt, things would change. We would tweak things. We would just talk things through to make sure we were all on the same page … To see Harrison and J.J. together was amazing, because J.J.’s a huge fanboy so he’d be like, “Oh my god!” and then obviously they would talk through things. And I’m incredibly inexperienced, so to see someone as experienced as Harrison, seeing how he works and what it is that he does to make things click so well is incredible.

What was the best piece of advice you got before you began?
I was emailing Simon Pegg and he said, “Here’s where the fun begins” — as Han Solo said — and that’s nice because I guess I’ve been told by millions of people that my life’s going to change and am I ready? And it gets to the point of “okay, all right.” So remembering to enjoy it and to be in the moment so it’s not passing me by, so I can really remember how it felt at that time … because when I first got cast, I was in another plane — I was certainly not having an in-body experience for months, so when I finally felt like I came back to myself, I tried to hold on to that.

I’d imagine it’s so surreal, just watching yourself…
Yeah. Watching it was not pleasant for me. The film was. My performance wasn’t.

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