Monday, April 25, 2016

Casting Director Nina Gold Discusses Finding Daisy Ridley and John Boyega for 'The Force Awakens'

By: Dominic Jones

The two lead actors in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, John Boyega as Finn and Daisy Ridley as Rey, went from being unknowns to international stars over night when they were cast in the film.  The person responsible for finding them and showing them to director JJ Abrams was casting director Nina Gold, whose other credits include Game of Thrones and The Martian.  Gold recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the process of finding Ridley and Boyega.

THR: How did you go about finding them? Were you involved from the start?

GOLD: I had cast John before, when he was 18, in Attack the Block. Finding him then took months and months meeting teenagers, not even necessarily professional actors, but young kids who wanted to act and from all sorts of drama groups and other weird and wonderful ways of finding them. John actually had a job, a part in a play at London’s Tricycle Theater, and I saw him in that and it started from there. Daisy was working in a bar, but also acting. We did see gazillions of people for both roles. But her agent sent her in, and she was really good. She straight away struck a chord and seemed to have the right feel from the first moment, which is unusual. 

THR: A major blockbuster having a female and a black lead is something you don’t often see. Was that something that you helped push?

GOLD: It’s unheard of! But they had written a male and female character. Daisy’s was a great female character, which was good. But I think in the casting department, and very much [director] J.J. [Abrams] and [producer] Kathy Kennedy, they were incredibly aware that they didn’t want to make a film without a black character in one of the major parts — that would be a weird way to look at casting a film and a strange approach in 2014. While it was "Let's cast the most amazing, most right person for this part," nobody was saying, "He’s got to be black and she’s got to be white." It was a general awareness that we didn’t want to ignore the reality of the modern world — even though it’s not even the modern world, it’s a galaxy far, far away! But you know what I mean.

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