Kelly Marie Tran Says Racist, Sexist Star Wars Bullying Felt Like an 'Embarrassingly Horrible Breakup'
Kelly Marie Tran's casting as the first woman of color in a major Star Wars role led to vicious harassment from some fans
Kelly Marie Tran is getting candid about how harassment after her Star Wars casting impacted her mental health and her decision to leave social media.
Tran, 32, first made headlines for being cast as Rose Tico in 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, making her the first woman of color to lead a Star Wars movie. But even though her casting received much fanfare, Tran very quickly realized it drew attention from a subset of online trolls who began harassing her with sexist and racist comments.
The actress eventually wiped her social media and withdrew from public life after penning an emotional essay for The New York Times hitting back at the bullying. Her character's screen time was later significantly reduced in 2019's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Now, the actress, who stars as the latest Disney princess in Raya and the Last Dragon, told The Hollywood Reporter that the entire Star Wars experience felt like she "fell in love very publicly and then very publicly had an embarrassingly horrible breakup."
"If someone doesn't understand me or my experience, it shouldn't be my place to have to internalize their misogyny or racism or all of the above," she added of what she learned in therapy after the harassment. "Maybe they just don't have the imagination to understand that there are different types of people living in the world."
"What's interesting to me about working in this industry is that certain things become so public, even if you don't really mean them to be, [like] the succession of events in which I left the internet for my own sanity," she added. "It was basically me being like, 'Oh, this isn't good for my mental health. I'm obviously going to leave this.' "
Still, the bullying took a toll on Tran, who explained her need to hide away for a time.
"I left. I said no to a lot of things," she said of her career post-Star Wars. "It felt like I was just hearing the voice of my agents and my publicity team and all of these people telling me what to say and what to do and how to feel. And I realized, I didn't know how I felt anymore. And I didn't remember why I was in this in the first place.
"Any time that happens, I have to close up shop and go away for a while and really interact in the real world — read books and journal and go on hikes and look at a tree and remind myself that there was a fire that burned inside of me before Star Wars, before any of this. And I needed to find that again."
Raya and the Last Dragon hits Disney+ premier access and select theaters on Friday.