The Rise of Skywalker Press Conference: J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley & More

The final chapter of the Skywalker Saga, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, releases December 20th. Prepare for this momentous event with an in-depth discussion by cast and crew at the Rise of Skywalker Global Press Conference! Held on December 4th in Pasadena, the Press Conference featured cast, photo ops and merchandise. What follows is a spoiler-free look at what to expect in the most anticipated Star Wars film since, well, the previous one!

As soon as we took our seats, a surprise moderator Ava DuVernay (Director of SELMA, QUEEN SUGAR, A WRINKLE IN TIME) took the stage and introduced: J.J. Abrams (Writer / Director), Daisy Ridley (Rey), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Keri Russell (Zorii Bliss), Naomi Ackie (Jannah), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Billy Dee Williams (Lando), Richard E. Grant (General Pryde), Kathleen Kennedy (Producer), Chris Terrio (Writer).

To hear the quotes first-hand, click on the player below for audio from the Press Conference and our discussion (Skywalking Through Neverland Ep. 270). Scroll down to keep reading quotes and highlights from the day.

J.J. Abrams asked writer Chris Terrio (ARGO, BATMAN V SUPERMAN, JUSTICE LEAGUE) to co-write THE RISE OF SKYWALKER with him as J.J. needed someone who had not been working on Star Wars for 6 years to lend a fresh perspective. J.J. felt that he and Kathleen Kennedy were too close to it. So what was it like getting the call to co-write the film that wraps up a 42 year old saga?

Chris Terrio: For a good 8 minutes I let myself leap into the air, and then we realized we have to land the biggest star destroyer in the world on a head of a needle, and we got to work. White boards with dry erase marker became a 10-page word document. Which then became 120 pages and then eventually a script!

J.J. Abrams: We were together in the trenches, with Michelle Rejwan, with Kathy, doing everything we could to make sure we were telling the best possible story we could.

Ava DuVernay called out Keri Russell (FELICITY, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, THE AMERICANS) and asked about her approach to playing Zorri Bliss and what it was like to work in the mask.

Keri Russell: Personally I love the mask! That’s my fantasy dream sequence. I can see everyone as this super tough version of myself and no one can see me. It’s a real power play because no one can see what you’re thinking. I just feel like J.J. got to finish a piece of history with this film. He did such a great job.

Ava again focused on an actress new to Star Wars and asked Naomi Acki (Jannah) about the strength of her character.

Naomi Ackie: Her strength is in her body. So when I got to training I was like, ‘ok, I got this.’ There’s a balance between the strength of a character and their vulnerable side. The strength of Jannah is in her vulnerability.

From the new characters to the veterans, Anthony Daniels (C-3P0) has a completely different perspective on Star Wars. It began as just a job, but turned into a lifetime body of work.

Anthony Daniels: Because I’ve been in all the films, I am so close to it, it’s rather like having your nose up against the planet. You can’t see how big that planet is. I’m just now beginning to gain some perspective on it, and that comes from talking to fans. To people who say what Star Wars has meant to them. It’s meant something completely different to me. It’s a job. It’s kind of fun, it’s kind of awkward sometimes. Finally I’m getting to see it almost from the other perspective – the audience who’ve been there all this time.

Perhaps writing his book “I Am C-3PO” has also allowed him to gain some insight and perspective. Writing is a very introverted endeavor, and often unlocks thoughts and feelings you didn’t understand before.

Lando is back in Star Wars, and so is Billy Dee Williams! Here is he talking about returning to that galaxy far far away…

Billy Dee Williams: This has been a great pleasure for me. Coming back to do Lando. I didn’t think it would happen, I just wrote it off. That was it. But when I got the call from J.J., I just sat there and I chuckled because I thought it was a wonderful gift.

Daisy Ridley returns as Rey, and as the main Force-wielder in Episode 9 she has a huge task. Ava asked Daisy Ridley a great question, “What was harder – the physical or the emotional side of playing Rey?”

Daisy Ridley: With the physical stuff you train and train and train, and then the adrenaline helps you on the day to do the thing. I would say that I was more tired emotionally because there really wasn’t a day when there was just a quick scene. Sustaining the emotion of a scene – there’s more of a singular intention that was tiring. The physical containment is tiring. And really I’ve not answered the question. Both things were hard!

That last sentence was said very cheekily, with the hint of a smile. You cannot help but fall in love with Daisy and Rey at the same time.

Towards the end of the Press conference someone asked a question about incorporating Carrie Fisher into the film. J.J. began answering, and when he says the word “lighting,” several lights went dim in the room, and stayed that way for the rest of the conference.

Carrie Fisher had entered the room. I had goosebumps.

J.J. Abrams: Like everyone here, I loved Carrie. As we’ve discussed, the idea of continuing this story without Leia wasn’t possible. We had an opportunity to use that footage from The Force Awakens, the lines that she was saying, literally the lighting [lights dim]….that was creepy. Hi Carrie.

We could use that footage to create scenes that Carrie is in. She’s been very much alive with us for a year, editing the film. We were able to do something that I think Carrie herself would be happy with. It is inexpressible how sad we all are that she’s not sitting here with us today.”

Carrie Fisher would have said some off-the-wall thing at this Press Conference, like how her outfit reminded her of a gas station attendant, or how her hair was up in a ‘do that looked like a baboon’s bottom. Just some fun nuggets I remember from THE FORCE AWAKENS Press Conference. Now we’ll always remember her turning off lights at this THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Global Press Conference.

Want to hear more conversation from Kathleen Kennedy, Kelly Marie Tran, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver? Listen below to Fangirls Going Rogue 19.13 where Tricia Barr, Teresa Delgado and I discuss their comments. This includes a special Roundtable with writer Chris Terrio and Producer Michelle Rejwan.

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER hits U.S. theaters on December 20th. The Skywalkers Saga ends, and our conversation is just beginning. Post in the comments below what you thought of the film when you see it. We want to know!

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About Richard & Sarah Woloski

Richard and Sarah Woloski are the co-hosts and creators of the Disney / Star Wars Podcast Skywalking Through Neverland. The husband and wife team strives to create a polished, positive and fun weekly show celebrating fandom. They also love writing for Adventures By Daddy. Find them @SkywalkingPod