The Rise of Gwendoline Christie: Why We Love the New Addition to 'Star Wars 7'

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When news broke yesterday morning that Gwendoline Christie joined the cast of 'Star Wars: Episode 7,' there really couldn't be anything cooler (except that maybe also Lupita Nyong'o is joining her; #TrueDetectiveSeason2). Best known for her role as badass Brienne of Tarth on 'Game of Thrones,' Christie also recently joined the cast of 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay' films. 'Star Wars,' 'Game of Thrones,' and 'The Hunger Games'?! She's dominating our favorite franchises and quickly becoming one of our new favorites, thanks to her commitment to playing strong women.

By now you're undoubtedly familiar with Brienne of Tarth, the statuesque hero and lady knight from 'Game of Thrones,' who forms an unlikely bond with Jaime Lannister on her mission to return him to King's Landing. Christie was actually cast after her agent was alerted to fan postings suggesting the actress for the part. But, she's also a total fan of George R.R. Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' book series on which the show is based, and according to Martin, she won the role effortlessly.

Since she's been on the show, Christie has played the warrior maiden beautifully, giving Brienne an intense depth of character, sometimes just in her facial expressions and body language. Like all characters on 'Game of Thrones,' Brienne is wonderfully complex: a woman who takes agency for herself in a realm where feminist ideology doesn't quite exist, and who uses her strength, innate capacity for empathy, and commitment to her own code of honor to establish herself as a true hero. The only thing keeping her from being recognized as the greatest knight in Westeros is her gender, and it's these sort of themes that make Brienne not just an amazing character, but an excellent role model -- particularly on a show that's caught a lot of grief for its portrayal and treatment of women.

BBC

Before 'Game of Thrones,' Christie starred on a BBC series created by former 'Doctor Who' showrunner Russell T. Davies. On 'Wizards vs. Aliens,' Christie played Lexi (shown above), a member of an alien race who comes to Earth to consume wizards and absorb their power, but eventually finds herself falling for one of the young wizards as her understanding for the Earthbound deepens. Like Brienne, Lexi is a complex and strong female character -- although she is intended as an antagonist, the series allowed viewers to empathize with her and see through multiple character perspectives, rather than reducing it down to "good guys vs. bad." This was Christie's first major role, and here she seemed to lay the basic outline of the blueprint for her career choices, though it wasn't until she became the imposing and honorable Brienne of Tarth that Christie really cemented the kind of strong-woman type we respect and love.

Up next, Christie is playing the role of Commander Lyme in both 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1' and 'Part 2.' Lyme is a victor from District 2 who won the Hunger Games tournament over a decade before Katniss and Peeta came about, and she helps in the rebellion against the Capitol in a pretty big way. Of course, Christie will be playing another badass character, and we wouldn't expect anything less as she continues to help audiences understand that women command the same respect and admiration as their male counterparts. Christie, like 'The Hunger Games,' challenges outdated ideas about gender-exclusive media and roles. Thanks to heroes like Katniss and Brienne, young women are learning that they can kick ass and take care of themselves, while still being women. We begin to look at them as human individuals instead of defining them by their gender because theses roles demand that's what we do.

This all culminates with yesterday's big announcement that made thousands of fans rejoice: Gwendoline Christie has been cast in J.J. Abrams' upcoming 'Star Wars: Episode 7,' along with '12 Years a Slave' Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o. Will she play a Jedi? An alien warrior? A rebel of sorts? A dark Sith villain? She could fill any of those roles effortlessly. Not only is she more than physically capable of going toe to toe with her male co-stars, but she has an emotional vulnerability that comes through in her acting that could lend itself well to this unique universe, helping us relate to something so otherworldly and, well, alien.

Between her role in an epic television show and her upcoming parts in not one, but two major nerd-friendly franchises, Christie is absolutely killing it right now, and her roles are epitomizing what it means to be a strong woman on screens both big and small, not just in her physicality, but in her ability to portray complex characters who allow us to embrace and love their flaws. We can't wait to see what she does next, and if there's any righteousness in this world, she'll be playing Captain Marvel or heading up her own franchise very soon.

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