Thandie Newton makes history in Solo: A Star Wars Story and she takes the honor seriously.
As Val, a no-nonsense member of a group of criminals who would “just defy anyone or anything,” the 45-year-old London native is the first black actress to play a major role in the Star Wars franchise.
“This is momentous,” she tells PEOPLE for the special issue, Star Wars: The Secrets of Solo, on newsstands today. “And the fact that it gets to be me, it’s like, ‘Wow, that is so dope.'”
The Westworld Emmy nominee worked with the Solo team to create Val’s look, including wearing her natural Afro in character.
She says she asked herself, “‘What would the little girl Thandie have wanted to see up there?’ A black woman in all her glory… I got to do that!”
The Ron Howard-directed adventure stars Alden Ehrenreich, who takes on the title role originated by Harrison Ford in 1977’s Star Wars. The origin story costars Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian who was played by Billy Dee Williams in the original trilogy.
Solo: A Star Wars Story flies into theaters May 25.