With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arriving in IMAX theaters in two weeks, fans have almost fully embraced the new cast of characters, buying merchandise and posters even before the movie comes out. Along with another female taking the main role of the film, the cast of Rogue One is very diverse, probably the most diverse we’ve ever seen the Star Wars franchise be. We have representation along all fronts, as well as having our first Asian characters in the Star Wars universe, played by Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe), Jiang Wen (Baze Malbus) and Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook). They have their own action figures on shelves ready for purchase, and people are buying. Yen talked to Variety about his character and what to expect of him in the film.
“I play one of the characters who is connected with the Force. He’s not a Jedi. His line is, ‘I AM the Force.’ Obviously, it’s a big deal, being the first Chinese actor asked to play a prominent role in a ‘Star Wars’ film. That means a lot.”
It is incredibly important, like he says, and hopefully others will see it that way too. He’s known for being a Chinese martial artist, film director and producer, action choreographer, and multiple-time world wushu tournament champion, as well playing roles that include martial arts in the Ip Man films, among others. Yen said that that wasn’t way he was picked for his role in Rogue One though.
“When I asked [director Gareth Edwards] why he wanted me for the role, he told me he’d studied my films and I had the persona he wanted, that he had the perfect role for me. The focus isn’t on my martial-arts ability but my ability as an actor. But there are still scenes to satisfy the martial-arts fans.”
This is refreshing to hear; even though I myself am a fan of his movies, it’s nice that we’ll be seeing him more as an actor than as merely a martial arts aficionado. I have a lot of faith in this film, and hopeful that this film will usher in a new era of movies that cast a more diverse slew of characters.