Family, friends gather at Star Wars premiere, support Tran

On what was supposed to be a  typical Thursday night, dazzling lights shined bright and news cars swarmed outside Edwards Mira Mesa movie theater as Stormtroopers and Jedi greeted the bustling crowd.

From the children racing around in their various, themed costumes to the blasters pointed menacingly at bystanders, excitement was building for the special showing of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

The event was held in celebration of Kelly Marie Tran (’07), who made her Hollywood breakthrough in the movie as Rose Tico, a Rebel Engineer.

The event was run by Kirsten Layug (’07) and Matt Stevens (’07), longtime friends of Tran, and everyone there was invited personally, either by Tran herself or by one of the two hosts.

One acquaintance of Tran, Anna Lopez (’07), said she saw Tran’s passions blossom in high school.

“Ever since freshman year in high school she’s always been singing and dancing,” she said. “In yearbook she was voted most likely to be a singer or something along those lines. She’s always had this talent in her.”

Social science teacher Rob Casas, one of Tran’s former teachers, also knew that her personality would carry her far.

“She was definitely one of the ones who was going to make it somewhere,” he said. “I think we’re all a little surprised by the suddenness of this, I know she is, but honestly it couldn’t have happened to a nicer, sweeter, person. She’s the realest, sweetest, human being. You see her in a glamorous dress on a red carpet somewhere and I guarantee that her shoes underneath that red dress are a pair of beat up, old pair of Converse that she’s had forever.”

As the crowd of 183 was funneled into the lobby and checked into the private theater individually, raffle tickets and action figures were handed out.

Old friends caught up with each other, and long conversations and hugs were shared as the children continued to play. People from all different paths of life came together through the connection of Tran.

After everyone took their seats, the raffle began. T-shirts and lightsabers were given away, and announcements about after-show bar plans were made by the hosts. Soon, the lights dimmed and the screen came to life.

There were no preview trailers. Only a nicely-edited and heartfelt, personal message from Tran, and the movie.

Bright, stellar words appeared: “Thank you. Your support means the galaxy to me.”

Following the statement, Tran popped up on screen to thank all of the audience for being there that night, even though she personally could not attend. She was cheerful yet disappointed.

As she gave her message, people began cheering and laughing, both joyful and proud to see their longtime friend on-screen. One of the members in the audience shouted, “I gave her that necklace!”

After her message, a countdown to the movie appeared on the screen. The crowd began to chant with it.

Throughout the movie the audience remained silent. But whenever Tran’s character, Rose Tico, appeared, clapping, whistling, and cheering filled the theater. Her jokes were received with thunderous laughter, and the audience sat on the edge of their seats the whole time.

Upon seeing her on the big screen for the first time, Casas was lost for words.

“Unreal. I mean I grew up watching these movies, so seeing somebody I know on screen was unreal,” he said. “It was awesome, fantastic.”

Spencer Knowlton, the husband of one of Tran’s friends, was also in awe.

“It’s really cool, it’s a way to further to connect with a franchise that I’ve been connected with since my childhood,” he said. “It’s cool knowing someone before they got the part,hearing about it, seeing the exposure it’s gotten, and knowing how she’s reacted to everything, and now it’s all kinda just leads up to seeing her on the screen. It’s just awesome.”

When the movie ended, the audience cheered one final time when Tran’s name came up in the credits.

Although they all walked different paths after high school, for one night, they were all connected by her.