“I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s amazing!’ ” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue of when she was first offered the role. “But then I thought, ‘I’ve got to get to the gym!’ ”
For months, Jones was trained in combat, and she even became an expert at using a truncheon (baton): “I spent hours wielding it in my apartment.”
But putting in a little hard work was well worth it for Jones, who after earning an Oscar nomination for her role in 2014’s The Theory of Everything and packing an emotional punch in this year’s A Monster Calls says she struggled to find a project that spoke to her in the way that Star Wars did.
“I had wanted that kind of role for so long,” she says. “It was just the kind of thing I’ve been looking for for years.”
And now that she’s done fighting off the Empire, she’s looking forward to some time off.
“I’m going to be with my family and taking it easy. I love being in the kitchen, cooking for friends and family,” she says. “I throw a lot of ingredients together and pray to the gods.”
But don’t expect Jones to disappear for good — she’s only just beginning. “It’s been an absolute dream,” she says. “And I’ve been enjoying every single minute.”