If you’ve seen Episode II, you’ve no doubt noticed the many female Jedi who have no problems keeping up with the male guardians of peace and justice. One of the first female Jedi ever to grace the screen was Barriss Offee, a Jedi played by Nalini Krishan. Complete with ornate robes and diamond tattoos, she stands out on screen in her far too few scenes. I had the pleasure or working with Nalini for a time and even hosted her website for a while. I was her assistant at the Star Wars Celebration II in Indianapolis in 2002 and we had a great time. We had many a conversation about all kinds of things, but I felt it only necessary to post a more formal interview so the fans could experience Nalini’s enthusiasm and get to know her a little better, as I have. (Original posting: April 8, 2003)
Nalini Krishan is a beautiful name. Does it mean anything?
Yes, I think it means Lotus flower in Indian. I was born in Fiji, but my great grandparents are a combination of Nepalese and Indian. I would say there is more Indian in me then Nepalese. I think that there are elements of each of the countries that makes them slightly different, but Buddhism and Hinduism are both religions that started in India. The people of Nepal, their culture is hugely influenced by these two religions. To me they are almost the same. India is more diverse. Being so big there is a lot more change and difference now compared to back in the time of my great grandparents.
You’ve lived in Australia almost all your life. Have you ever thought about living somewhere else?
Well all my relatives are scattered anywhere from New Zealand to America to Canada. Most of them are in Canada. I have been there quite a few times. In 1995 and 1996 I spent time there relaxing and partying with cousins. It was a time to celebrate the end of school and the start of a new era in my life. I would love to live there but the weather would steer me away as it is so cold. The people are so friendly though. It reminds very much of Australia. It would be nice to live someone different but I see Australia as always being my home.
What prompted your interest in acting and how did you go about joining an agency?
Well I was always interested in acting, even in high school which is when I pursued it. I happened to join an agency at the beginning of the first year of university and it all just happened.
Have you been in any Bollywood productions?
Yes I have been in Indian movies. I did enjoy them. I used to watch a lot of Indian movies when I was younger and then as I got older I lost my appreciation for them. I did a couple of movies and gathered a great understanding & appreciation of what it takes to put an Indian movie together. I think they have come a long way. They are very melodramatic, entwined with the inspiration of comedy and music. There’s some great choreography as well. A lot of time and effort goes into them. I am proud to see that India is the biggest film industry in the world. If anything the movies are delightfully entertaining.
It looks like you’ve done quite a lot of modeling.
I did it as work. It was something I enjoyed and had the opportunity to do.
What’s the biggest disappointment you’ve had so far in the acting field?
I think going for auditions and not making it or not being given the chance to go for auditions and losing the opportunity.
Give me the story of how you got to be Barriss Offee in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and how long were you there?
The truth is Lucasfilm already had an idea of what Barriss looked like or an idea of what they wanted. I just happened to fit the bill. I think my looks were different and this is something they wanted. They happened to see me in a photo with blue contacts and my character wears blue contacts so I think my image was a helping hand in the role. My agent called me as said I needed to do costume fittings. So that was how I got in. No auditions at all. I was lucky this time around. I was on set five days in total. I am down to earth and normal, so I treated it just like that. I spent enough time on sets to know that it feels quite normal and you need to treat it like a job. You need to have a certain amount of professionalism. It was fun experience. The people were friendly and I had fun.
Did you know your character’s name during filming or did you find out later on?
I knew nothing at first, then I went in on the 3rd day of the shoot and my character’s name was labeled on my clothing. Then I knew it.
What kind of direction were you given on the set?
My direction involved movement and expressions. I did not have any lines of dialogue, therefore it was very basic. When we did the fight scenes we had another director for that. He was very specific about what he wanted but then again the stunt coordinator gave more directions as he choreographed the movements. You get enough training to know your movements. But it feels awkward because it’s not like anything you’ve done before. After a few takes I think I got the hang of it.
How long was it between set-ups and takes and what did you do during that time?
It could be up to 6-7 hours before we did a scene. Then we’d shoot the scene. Then you could be waiting a couple of hours again. I mingled with people, had my makeup retouched, and relaxed. I remember talking to Sam Jackson about anything and everything. We spoke about my university degree, the movies he had done, the people he had worked with, just whatever led from one conversation to the next.
How much time were you given to prepare for “battle?”
Well for one scene maybe an hour, then specific movements that were filmed may have taken another couple of hours. I had a one on one with the stunt coordinator. He was brilliant. He showed me some movements he wanted me to use and then he showed me and Mary Oyaya [Luminara Unduli] some movements that we were to do together in unison. It required a pair of strong arms and good coordination. There were quite a few stunt people and then there were some people from the council scene in it as well. I think I was one of the worst ones! Most of the stunt people were flexible and quick. When we saw the actors do it though, it was funny watching how some of them were so uncoordinated. It was all great fun though. My assistant on the set spent most of his time laughing at my scenes, so I must have been doing something ridiculous!
How hard was that makeup to keep on?
It took 5 hours to apply. It had to be constantly retouched, but being so thick it did a good job!
How heavy was the costume?
The cape was very heavy, especially the shoulders. My shoulders started to ache on the set, but it was a superb and an amazing costume. It was no burden wearing it. The last thing that bothered me was the weight. It was very detailed and extravagant. The details showcased the huge effort that was put into the costumes and they were just beautiful.
Did you film anything that didn’t make it into the movie, besides various lightsaber swings?
We had a close up in the Chancellor’s office that was deleted, I believe. There was not much to it, they filmed a scene to show our reactions to Obi-Wan Kenobi being attacked by that droid.
How do you feel about having your own action figure!?
You cannot believe how strange it is! I am used to it now, but it was unbelievable at first. I’ve worked on a lot of projects but nothing like this!
You don’t do many convention signings but you were at the Celebration II in Indianapolis (2002). Tell me about that experience and the first time meeting fans in person.
It was great! I had so much fun, I had a great network support of people who helped during the convention and there were fans who were in awe of all the characters. I was very ecstatic. I had people dressed as my character, I had presents. It was great! Hopefully I will be doing more of these now that the figure is released. Meeting all the fans and actors was great. I loved having the opportunity to meet so many people. It was fun!
Did the female fans say anything special to you?
Most of the females were happy about the female prominence and the girl-power, whilst men were in awe of the women in general. They enjoyed the female prominence in the movie as well. I think they appealed to the females kicking butt!
Now that there are plenty of women Jedi to go around, how does it make you feel that you were one of the first female Jedi to be seen on screen?
I feel special. It’s an honor and I feel quite proud to be presenting such a strong female character.
It’s been made known that your character has officially survived the battle in Episode II. Do you think she’ll be back for Episode III?
I hope she will, but we will have to see. I have had no contact from Lucasfilm but I received a card from them at Christmas time!
Have you bonded at all with any of the other female cast members?
Yes I actually keep in touch with my “master” Mary Oyaya who played Luminara Unduli in the movie.
What did you think of Episode I compared to Episode II?
I think Episode II is a lot better. The storyline becomes more interesting at this point. It becomes more romantic and appeals to a different side of people. The action scenes were more interesting, especially with the presence of Master Yoda!
How has Star Wars changed your life?
It has revealed more opportunities for me. It has also given me the confidence that I needed to further my career. I am a part of film history—Star Wars history—and that is something very special.
* This interview has been slightly edited from its original form.
(Original posting: April 8, 2003)