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Disney | ABC Television Group/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)

‘Star Wars’ takes a big step forward in casting diversity with ‘Rogue One’

There's one thing apparent about the first 'Rogue One' photo.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 17, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 3:42 am CDT

With the D23 Expo casting announcement of Rogue One, the first Star Wars anthology film from Disney and LucasFilm, all eyes were on the newest actors to step into that galaxy far, far away. And it’s not because, well, Star Wars.

The Star Wars official website released the first photo of the Rogue One cast after making the announcement for those not at D23, with fans noticing one major thing about it: Aside from the previously announced Felicity Jones, none of the major players shown in their costumes are white.

Pictured in the photo are (from left to right) Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen, and Donnie Yen.

The rest of the star-studded cast includes Oscar-award winning actor Forest Whitaker, Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen, Firefly actor and perennial Disney favorite Alan Tudyk portraying a performance capture character, and Ben Mendelsohn, who do not appear in the cast photo.

Further casting news brought even more gender and racial diversity: Game of Thrones’s Gwendoline Christie as the badass Captain Phasma, Lupita Nyong’o as a motion-capture character, and Crystal Clarke, who went through an open casting call. We’ve seen glimpses of Phasma, but we’ve yet to see Christie under the mask (and we might not at all in this film) and Nyong’o’s face won’t be seen because she’s playing an alien.

It’s a start, but the franchise can always do more. Where The Force Awakens lacks in diversity they make up for with more roles for women. For Rogue One, they have only one role for a woman while bringing more racial diversity to the table.

The diversity behind the the camera is another story. Disney confirmed that Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow will direct Star Wars: Episode IX during D23—becoming the latest white man to direct a Star Wars film. Previously announced were J.J. Abrams to direct The Force Awakens, Gareth Edwards for Rogue One, Rian Johnson for Episode VIII, and The Lego Movie’s Christopher Miller and Phil Lord to take on the Han Solo Anthology film. With more diversity reflecting on film, the pressure to bring that behind it will only grow with each new development in these films.

Hopefully Rogue One’s future casting announcements will include more women into the diverse cast that will connect Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope—both in front of and behind the camera.

Photo via Disney | ABC Television Group/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)

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*First Published: Aug 17, 2015, 7:25 pm CDT