Kelly Marie Tran used her The Last Jedi salary to pay off student loans
When Kelly Marie Tran finally landed her very first part in a film after eight years as a struggling actor, it was the role of a lifetime: fan favorite Rose Tico in “Stars Wars: The Last Jedi.” All at once, after almost a decade, she had made it — and making it meant, among other things, paying off her student loans.
Before the offer came to make her cinema debut with director Rian Johnson, the 28-year-old UCLA grad had gotten used to grinding, supporting herself by working odd jobs and at a temp agency while also trying her best to put herself out there to get cast in projects. “She’d wake up at 5 a.m., answer phones and grab coffee, leave for two or three auditions in the afternoon, then come back to the office and stay until 8 or 9 at night,” reports Buzzfeed.
Gigs were scant, and she was weary. Her acting experience consisted of a few appearances in CollegeHumor skits, a web series she shot with her friends, and some improv shows. Tran told Entertainment Weekly she thought about quitting.
“I remember thinking, ‘This could be my life forever,'” she said. “Like, I could just never make it. I could work this hard for the next 20 years of my life and still be struggling.”
Then, when the world-changing news came, she couldn’t even share it with her parents, refugees from Vietnam who had brought their children to America in search of a better life. Because of her contract and the secrecy of the shoot, she explained to Buzzfeed, Tran had to tell her family that she was off to Canada to shoot some indie film.
While it’s not clear how much Tran held in student loans or made in the role, the average monthly student laon payment for a borrower in their 20s is $351 and the median monthly payment is $203. And Variety reports that newcomers to the “Star Wars” series make between $100,000-$300,000 per film. Enough, Buzzfeed reports, that Tran “finally paid off her student loans.”