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The reason Keri Russell refused to remove her helmet during Rise of Skywalker

Contains spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker

Most actors might find the idea of helmet hair horrifying, but The Rise of Skywalker actress Keri Russell so fully embraced the mystery ⁠— and heavy headgear ⁠— of her new character Zorii Bliss, her cast mates and director didn't see her face for two whole days during filming.  

For the last tale in the Skywalker saga, the former Felicity and The Americans star re-teamed with long-time friend, collaborator and Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams, to add yet another dogged female character to its ever-expanding list of heroes and villains. Russell's was the highly stylized Zorii Bliss, a tough rogue who hangs out at the darker edges of the galaxy and has a very specific past with everyone's favorite smooth and charming Resistance fighter, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). While she's an intriguing character on her own, Bliss' luxe maroon bodysuit and rose gold accents are unquestionably one of the best costuming additions to the Star Wars universe. To cap off the look, Bliss dons a matching chrome helmet that obscures Russell's face throughout her entire appearance in the two and half-hour film. (The only part audience see are her eyes, for a brief few moments, when she speaks with Poe in a heartfelt scene.)

Over the course of The Rise of Skywalker press tour, Russell repeatedly championed her character's look, telling late-night host Stephen Colbert during an appearance on The Late Show that she had "the coolest costume." It was apparently so cool that for her first couple days of filming, Russell refused to remove her helmet even when Abrams was trying to talk to her between scenes. 

"Kerri loved the mask so much, that the first two days she worked on set, I never saw her face," Abrams told IGN. "She walked on set with her mask on, and wouldn't take it off. I got to work with her for a few days and never saw her." Russell recalled in a separate interview with USA Today, "J.J. kept just trying to hang out and talk to me and he's like, 'Seriously, are you not going to take that off?' And I'm like, 'No, I love it.' He's like, 'But I can't see your eyes and it's freaking me out.'"

Russell's Rise of Skywalker co-star Oscar Isaac said there was "a lot of mystery" around acting opposite Russell, who described the choice to refrain from removing her helmet as "kind of amazing." In response to Abrams' requests to ditch the headgear, the actress told the director to buck up and deal with being weirded out. "It's my power right now," she said, adding while speaking to IGN alongside Abrams, "J.J. told me about the idea of the mask, and I love the mask. It's a real power play because no one can see what you're thinking but you can see everyone else."

The feeling is somewhat understandable. While most actors probably prefer to have their faces visible in a role, when a viewer's eye isn't completely trained on every small detail of their physical appearance, the job of embodying a character like Zorii Bliss can offer a kind of creative and personal freedom actors otherwise wouldn't have. Not only are they less caught up on their physical appearance, but they can also put more time and effort into exploring how to express their character's personality, emotions, and development through their tone and physicality. 

Russell clearly enjoyed being able to play around with her character and her costume's shadowy nature, but she's far from being the only actor in the Star Wars universe who's worn or enjoyed the power of a helmet.  

Zorii Bliss joins a history of shadowy, helmeted Star Wars characters

Undisputedly, the most iconic helmet-bearer in Star Wars is the one and only Darth Vader. But the galactic big bad isn't the only ⁠— or the most colorful ⁠— character in the franchise's universe to wear some dazzling headgear. Of course, the entire stormtrooper ground force wears the standard black and white helmet, and more notable individual wearers include the legendary Boba Fett, the Mandalorian, and Captain Phasma. For the actors behind each, putting on their respective character's mask has been a uniquely different yet meaningful experience. 

Beyond Baby Yoda's ability to win the hearts and minds of literally anyone who lays eyes on him, Pedro Pascal's helmeted bounty hunter on the Disney+ series The Mandalorian has quickly become popular among fans. In a Vulture interview with Pascal's body-double, John Wayne's grandson Brendan Wayne, it was revealed that a significant number of the show's scenes were filmed using Wayne in the full suit. And yet, in an interview with Collider, the former Game of Thrones actor pointed to his experience trying on one specific piece of the character's armor as the moment he "knew" he was fully in the universe and the character.  

"Putting the helmet on, for sure," Pascal said. "They had it handy, in our first meeting, to see if it would fit, and it fit perfectly. Very simply, trying the costume on, for the first time, and looking in the mirror, you can't see very well in the helmet, but I got a pretty clear impression of it."

Gwendoline Christie, another Game of Thrones alum, played J.J. Abrams' favorite Episode 7 character, commander of the First Order stormtroopers Captain Phasma. Between her appearances in the sequel trilogy's first and second chapters, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, we never once see Phasma take off her helmet. For the actress who plays her, it was an exciting experience for the freedom it allowed her and her female character, especially when it came to being viewed and judged by audiences. 

"I thought it was a really interesting opportunity to play a female character where we formed an opinion of her based on her actions rather than the way she has been made flesh," Christie told Entertainment Weekly. "And that concept within a Star Wars movie, a mainstream phenomenon, was very modern and interesting and exciting. ... To be in it as that kind of character – she's a woman, she's in armor, the armor isn't sexualized, and in the film we don't see the actor's face – I thought that was an exciting, modern concept." 

In her interview with USA Today, Russell admitted that she found the experience of wearing Bliss's helmet "empowering." While she didn't quite go as far as Christie in her statement, the Rise of Skywalker star's comments allude to similar feelings as Christie. Russell's decision to keep on the helmet — which she said "wasn't light" — was about something different than just a playful power trip, feeling like the character, or even representation. By opting not to remove it between takes, the actress was also able to help reinforce her role in something bigger.

"When you step on a Star Wars set, you're not imagining something. The world is there," Russell told USA Today. "They created it. Some crazy snowy planet with hundreds of Stormtroopers and creatures, there's so much art involved. That's why I wanted to wear the helmet — because I wanted to show up and do my part."