Kelly Marie Tran definitely doesn’t regret her big decision to quit social media in 2018. ET recently spoke with the 31-year-old actress about her role on the new Hulu series Monsterland, and she also talked about no longer engaging in social media after dealing with severe online harassment when she played the character Rose Tico in the Star Wars franchise.
Tran called the bold move the “best decision ever.”
“I mean, I think that, you know, it’s a different decision for everyone,” she tells ET’s Ash Crossan. “And I think that people should do what they think is right for them. I also think that … it was the best thing I ever did. I don’t know. It’s funny, it feels like people are still shocked by it sometimes. I’m like, no … I just did what was best for me.”
“Why is that so shocking?” she continues with a laugh. “Yeah, I feel great about it.”
Tran’s latest project is the horror series Monsterland, which premiered on Hulu on Friday. Based on the collection of stories from Nathan Ballingrud, the show features encounters with mermaids, fallen angels, and other strange beasts which drive broken people to desperate acts. In an episode titled “Iron River, MI.,” Tran plays the character Lauren, who’s just returned to her small hometown of Iron River, Michigan, to be married following the disappearance of her best friend, Elena, when they were 16.
“It’s so much fun,” Tran says about playing the complex character. “Because in those moments, a lot of the times, she doesn’t know if she’s good or bad. Like, she doesn’t know what she’s gonna do next, you know? And I think that is very true to life. Like, what makes a good person? What makes a bad person? A lot of times there is not an easy answer. It’s not just, this person is a bad person because they did this one thing. Most of the time it’s, oh, we’re not actually aware of the context in which this person performs this act, and there’s all of these other aspects and all these other factors that are not being considered. And, are there bad people, and are there good people? And are there only good people that do bad things sometimes? Or are there bad people that do good things sometimes? All of these questions were things that I was wrestling with as I was playing this character. And it was really fun and also scary.”
Another huge project Tran has in the works is voicing the main character in Disney’s upcoming animated film, Raya and the Last Dragon. Tran’s Raya is a lone warrior who sets out to find the last dragon in existence and save the kingdom of Kumandra from the villainous Druun. She told ET that the emotions she feels in regard to the role is on par with her Star Wars experience.
“When Last Jedi came out and I was so overwhelmed by emotion, I didn’t understand it,” she recalls. “I’m having a very similar experience with Raya and the Last Dragon, if that makes sense.”
“I’ve always wanted to be a performer, I’ve always wanted to tell stories,” she adds. “But I feel like the things that I’ve been able to do thus far say a lot more about the people around me than me, if that makes sense. Like, Raya and working with [directors] Carlos and Don and all these incredible people, and also having Jamie Roberts who cast that movie and who believed in me more than I did — and probably still does. Like, I have not grasped that yet. It feels very, very unreal and doesn’t make sense. And I am so excited for people to see it.”
Tran shared that she’s already done extensive work on the highly anticipated film, which is scheduled to be released on March 12, 2021.
“We’ve been basically doing a lot of the voice-over throughout quarantine,” she reveals. “So, I can’t even count how many times I’ve recorded for it. But, I think it’s pretty much done. And it’s such a beautiful movie. The writing’s incredible. I mean, obviously the animation is incredible. And the story itself I think is really, really powerful.”
Meanwhile, in August 2018, Tran explained why she quit social media in a powerful essay she wrote for The New York Times.
“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them,” she shared at the time regarding the online hate she received. “And those words awakened something deep inside me — a feeling I thought I had grown out of. The same feeling I had when at 9, I stopped speaking Vietnamese altogether because I was tired of hearing other kids mock me.”
“Their words reinforced a narrative I had heard my whole life: that I was ‘other,’ that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t good enough, simply because I wasn’t like them,” she continued. “And that feeling, I realize now, was, and is, shame, a shame for the things that made me different, a shame for the culture from which I came from. And to me, the most disappointing thing was that I felt it at all. Because the same society that taught some people they were heroes, saviors, inheritors of the Manifest Destiny ideal, taught me I existed only in the background of their stories, doing their nails, diagnosing their illnesses, supporting their love interests — and perhaps the most damaging — waiting for them to rescue me.”
Last month, Tran’s Star Wars co-star, John Boyega, publicly criticized the movie franchise for how it treated his character, Finn, as well as Tran’s character, Rose. In a candid interview with British GQ, Boyega talked about how their two characters in particular were sidelined.
“It’s so difficult to maneuver,” the actor said. “You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a Black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.”
“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” he continued. “You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know f**k all. So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”
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