When the first wave of toys for Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit shelves, there was one conspicuous absence: the movie’s protagonist. Indeed, Daisy Ridley’s Rey was noticeably left out of a number of Force Awakens toys in favor of John Boyega’s Finn and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, with the assumption that young boys wouldn’t want to play with a “girl toy.” Filmmaker J.J. Abrams expressed his frustration over the issue, specifically noting Rey’s absence from the official Force Awakens Monopoly game. After Abrams’ comments and justified anger from fans, the problem was subsequently rectified, with toy companies including Rey in the second wave of merchandise. And in an ironic twist, after the movie opened it was Rey toys that were flying off the shelves, not Kylo Ren toys. Apparently boys don’t mind playing with “girl” merchandise after all!
But when Star Wars: Episode VIII toys roll around, you can be sure Rey will be front and center. Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently spoke with Daisy Ridley in anticipation of the release of the documentary The Eagle Huntress, which Ridley narrates and executive produced, and the actress revealed that she’s already meeting about future toys for the franchise:
“Interestingly, I had a meeting yesterday about merchandise and what’s happening going forward, so I had a lot of questions that were answered and some, you know, issues.”
Ridley admits the exclusion of Rey in the first wave of Force Awakens toys caught her off guard:
“I think when it really became a big thing is when J.J. [Abrams] talked about Monopoly. There had been conversations long before that that I was having with people because I didn’t really understand what was going on. And John Boyega in fact told me that he had written to someone and I was like, ‘huh’ because he is more of a toy person than I am. Moving forward I think what they’re planning—I’ve been told what the plan is for next year and it’s really cool, really exciting.”
And when it comes to ensuring that Rey has a strong presence in ancillary streams aside from the film itself, Ridley stresses that it’s not about responding to backlash, but about making sure an important character is given the appropriate exposure:
“My whole thing is it’s not anything about the backlash, it’s if a character is important in the story, then that should be dealt with in every platform whether it’s merchandise, whether that’s posters, anything, it needs to be dealt with in the correct way regardless of gender, regardless of color. So to be honest, how the public reacted to it was amazing, because it was a testament to the character and to what J.J. did with the casting. And yeah, it’s going to be super cool going forward.”
Ridley also addressed how the sales numbers bucked the thinking that boys wouldn’t want to play with girl dolls:
“I think it’s a great moment of what’s happening in the world with girls and how different people are playing and how they’re interacting with the things they see in popular culture. So yeah, it’s cool.”
Obviously Rey is a character that has resonated with people of all ages, and Ridley says that reaction—especially from young girls—has been more striking than the box office records that the movie set:
“I mean, I’ve never really been motivated by money, so that for me I’m not really interested in, though it’s great, oh my God, fantastic. But for me it’s more about parents coming up to me and saying, ‘My little girl…’ –In fact, who was I talking to? Someone at Pixar actually, really nice guy, he said he was in the cinema with his daughter and something happened and his daughter went, ‘Wow’ And when he told me honestly I almost cried, because for me that is far more important, and when little girls kind of dressed up like Rey, that’s…Yeah.”
It’s a testament to Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy that they consciously chose to make the protagonist of the biggest franchise in history female, and it’s great to see Ridley really understanding and appreciating how much this means to so many people. Men the world over grew up idolizing Indiana Jones, and now Rey offers an entirely new generation a female hero worthy of the same adoration.
Look for Steve’s full interview with Ridley about Eagle Huntress on Collider soon.