Felicity Jones drew critical praise for her performance as Stephen Hawking’s wife Jane in The Theory of Everything. Now she’s getting ready to embark upon the role of a lifetime in a galaxy far, far away…

Ever since J. J. Abrams’ stellar reboot of the world’s most famous sci-fi franchise flew into cinemas in record-breaking style, all eyes have been firmly glued to the Star Wars schedule in anticipation of the next instalment in the timeless space opera. Now the release date of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – chronologically situated between the events of 2005’s Revenge of the Sith and 1977’s A New Hope – has been set, and fronting the film’s fearless band of rebels is none other than 33-year-old British leading lady, Felicity Jones.

And despite attracting critical acclaim in her Academy Award-nominated turn as Jane Hawking in 2014’s The Theory of Everything, the thought of becoming an integral part of the Star Wars universe is intimidating enough for any calibre of star.

“I’m very excited – it’s exciting simply because it’s part of an iconic history,” she explains. “I remember going to see the films, with that classic intro, with my cousins and brother. When I think about that now it just seems so daunting, but exhilarating at the same time.”

While details of the upcoming film – slated for release in December – remain under ‘lock and key’ according to the saga’s newest addition, we already know that Jones will be portraying rebel Jyn Erso alongside a cast that includes almost as many stars as the cosmos itself – Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Diego Luna and Ben Mendelsohn, to name just a few.

Jones – following in the footsteps of The Force Awakens’ Rey, portrayed by fellow Brit Daisy Ridley – is delighted to see that the future of sci-fi’s most lucrative franchise rests firmly in the hands of its feisty female leads.

“I enjoy taking on challenges. Getting to be part of a genre that is traditionally dominated by men has become an opportunity to play a very independent and courageous woman,” Jones says of Erso. “She’s someone who knows what she wants in life. I appreciate that kind of determination. In my own life, I’m a hard worker. I’m very passionate about what I do – I think there are aspects of me in all my characters.”

After working her way up through the cinematic ranks from small-time movies to the Hollywood behemoth that is Star Wars, Jones is dealing with her newfound leading lady status with an experienced and unpretentious nonchalance.

“I’ve always had my feet on the ground; I spent many years working in England to be able to get to this point,” she remarks. “I’ve also had the advantage of being part of a very close family which has supported me and given me good advice when it comes to making decisions based on my instincts about the kinds of roles and films I’ve wanted to do.

“I’ve worked very hard in pursuing my dream and I’m really enjoying everything about this time. It’s very gratifying and I hope to keep finding more good roles.”

And a role in one of cinema’s most well-loved stories will surely have one more unique selling point: the inevitable release of a Jyn Erso action figure.

“It’s something I haven’t given much thought to,” she laughs. “But should it happen, that’ll be on the mantelpiece for certain!”

Interview by Jake Taylor
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas on December 15