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Kelly Marie Tran breaks silence on screen time in Rise of Skywalker

The discourse over the narrative choices of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (and its abandoned script under a former director) have begun dying down in recent weeks, but at the 2020 Oscars on February 9, MTV News asked a question that's still on many people's minds: how does Kelly Marie Tran feel about what happened to her role as Rose Tico in the final Skywalker saga entry? 

Fans cried foul after her screen time in Rise of Skywalker amounted to less than five minutes, especially after the harassment she experienced in the wake of The Last Jedi that caused her to delete her Instagram account in 2017. On the surface, none of that past difficulty seems to weigh on Tran, however, because she replied to MTV's question with all her usual pleasant poise. The actress shared that she's simply happy she has a place in the Star Wars universe at all.

"Last Jedi was my first movie, so I think I'm finally starting to realize that when you're in something of that caliber, there's so many people working to make something out of love and, no matter what you do, there's always going to be people who aren't happy with that," said Tran. "I think that the best lesson I've learned is just to have fun and be present in the moment. So, I'm really grateful that I got to be a part of it." 

Tran's response is one meant to float over a minefield, but MTV's question and the actress' answer are more than it seems.

Other stars' controversies and that old Rise of Skywalker script

The question MTV News asked on the red carpet is one any entertainment media company would want to ask, given the events that have transpired since The Rise of Skywalker was released in theaters. Finn actor John Boyega stirred up a bit of controversy of his own through multiple posts on Twitter that were less-than-diplomatic towards both the film and Star Wars fans who were rooting for Daisy Ridley's Rey and Adam Driver's Kylo Ren to spark up a romantic connection (which they did). Oscar Issac has also been a bit cheeky (bordering on rough) during his time on the press tour. In particular, Isaac voiced his opinions about LGBTQ+ representation through his character, Poe Dameron and John Boyega's Finn, leading many on social media to comment on how much that correlates to how he feels about the film's end product.

The biggest reason to ask how Tran feels about Rose Tico's limited screen time is the fact that since Rise of Skywalker's release, an alternate script draft from former director Colin Trevorrow leaked online. At first considered a potential hoax, the leaked Rise of Skywalker draft was ultimately confirmed when old concept art appeared online, backing up the plot presented in the draft. Trevorrow himself confirmed their veracity. 

How that all ties back to Tran and her role as Rose is simple. In Trevorrow's version of The Rise of Skywalker, before he left and J.J. Abrams replaced him, Rose was front and center in a vastly different story that made her important to the plot. Anyone might suspect that Tran could be feeling a little ripped off, so it's understandable why MTV News brought this topic up.

Playing fair

Despite how topical the question is, both the fact that Rise of Skywalker is still in theaters and the fact that Tran has faced massive public backlash in the past makes it feel a little unfair to turn on the camera and demand an answer out of her over controversial creative decisions she had no part in. Oscar Issac and, to a lesser extent, John Boyega already had successful careers before being brought onto Star Wars – and, as actors behind high-profile principle male characters, they'll continue to get work bolstered by their time performing for the biggest franchise on Earth, no matter how salty they publicly get over directorial choices.

None of these things are true for Tran. As she said in her response, The Last Jedi was her first major film role, and she already has press surrounding her from the role that could (and probably will) deeply affect her future hirability in ways she never could have possibly anticipated or controlled. To answer the way she did is graceful and polite — and a smart sidestep for the sake of her image and mental health. That's not to say her answer isn't true; she probably has learned to live more completely in the moment and appreciate her blessings. The most important lesson she learned from her experience is one that a lot of Star Wars fans could themselves learn: a little humility. Her sign-off to MTV's question sums it up: "There were so many characters and at the end of the day I got to be part of something so much bigger than me so that's special." Hopefully Tran can feel that kind of special in a central role someday.