The Star Wars franchise has announced the casting of little-known actress Naomi Ackie, effectively setting the internet on fire. According to the U.K. media-outlet Express, Ackie will be only the second black female actress to appear visibly in the history of a franchise that has has often featured only white brunette female leads.
The first black actress to appear visibly in the Star Wars films was Thandie Newtwon, who appeared in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
The move to cast Ackie, says Express, reveals that Star Wars is acknowledging the criticism drawn from past cast announcements for ignoring opportunities to cast women of color, “and is taking a step in the right direction with the casting of Naomi Ackie.”
Star Wars: Episode IX will be her first blockbuster role. Even if Ackie’s name isn’t ringing many bells, Ackie is no stranger to the world of acting. She appeared in the 2016 movie Macbeth, for which she won the British Independent Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer. The London-native, who was born in 1992, also has appeared on Doctor Who and Vera, the ITV crime drama. Ackie also appeared in Yardie as Mona, a film helmed by Idris Elba.
Express also reports that Ackie is noted to have been trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
Ackie’s role in Star Wars: Episode IX is yet to be named, but at this point, neither has most of the new cast.
“Undoubtedly, fans will do their best to draw inferences — Star Wars is a universe made up of family connections and blood ties (which is why so many fans were disappointed with Rey’s lack of impressive lineage),” the Express reported.
Ackie stated in an October, 2017, interview with Screen Daily that she sees her acting career as a gallery that she herself is curating.
“I want to be able to curate a vast piece of work collected over years that makes sense to who I am as a person and what I want to say, personally and politically.
“I don’t think there’s anything better than being an actor and really thinking about your work and what you want to say, what impact do you want to have on the world with your work and the stories that you are telling.”