Who Is Daisy Ridley? Watch All of the New 'Star Wars' Star's Earlier Roles

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  • Daisy Ridley
    Daisy Ridley
    British actress
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Daisy Ridley at the premiere of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ (AP)

When fans pour out of the theaters after seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the first time, they will be left with plenty of questions. Among the burning mysteries: Where did Daisy Ridley come from?

The 23-year-old British actress is one of the new film’s breakout stars. Her character, a scavenger named Rey, is tough and smart and knows how to fend for herself; by embodying those characteristics herself, Ridley also stands up to the tall task of sharing the screen with the franchise’s legends.

Ridley has been described as a newcomer, and it’s true that she’s the least famous of the big newcomers (even John Boyega, who plays Finn, starred in the 2011 action flick Attack the Block). But she’s not exactly a rookie professional actor, as she has spent the last few years building a résumé and reel in British TV shows and indie films after graduating from the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts in Hertfordshire.

“I went to a performing-arts school, but the reason I went was because I was naughty at my primary school,” she recently told The New York Times. “So my mom thought if I was busy, then I wouldn’t be. And it worked.”

Ridley focused on musical theater, a serious pursuit that evidently involved dancing to the song “Banana Phone” with her classmates.

After graduating, Ridley was signed by an eagle-eyed agent. As she revealed to the Times, was fired from a tiny TV role and cut from a movie, but the early setbacks soon gave way to a run of small successes, starting with a role in an interactive government advertisement for emergency services. In a sign of things to come, she plays a young woman who runs to save the life of a total stranger and takes command of a dire situation.

The video, released in 2013, was one of many small turns she played that year. Ridley scored a starring role in an episode of the long-running British drama Casualty, playing a party girl named Fran who tries to cheer up an old pal with a day at the carnival. Spoiler alert: She’s got a bit of the Dark Side in her in this one.

Her other big TV appearance that year came in the teen comedy Youngers, in which she played a member of a school orchestra — and ends up in a scene in which John Williams’s Star Wars score is discussed with great reverence.

In another short, Blue Season, made for the Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Challenge in 2013, she played a kidnapped woman who spent half of the film hanging upside down, like Luke in the Wampa cave.

Ridley’s first real film role began filming all the way back in 2012, when she co-starred in a very indie horror film about a comic book artist whose creations come to life. The film, Scrawl, is currently playing various festivals and looking for a release sometime in 2016. The trailer is here.

The roles kept growing, as Ridley landed a part in Jeremy Piven’s British drama Mr. Selfridge and starred in a two-part episode of the crime show Silent Witness. The Selfridge appearance was pretty short, but she did get to wear a great hat and talk in a silly old-time accent.

Still, despite the growing résumé, Ridley can comfortably say that Star Wars has changed the trajectory of her career — when she was cast by director J.J. Abrams, she was working as a waitress in a London pub.