In episode five of the Disney+ fantasy series, Kellyman’s character Jade learns big news that changes the trajectory of her life.
[This story contains spoilers for Willow episode five.]
With only three episodes remaining in the first season of Disney+ fantasy series Willow, the strong and determined knight-to-be Jade has seen her world completely turned upside down.
Played by The Falcon and Winter Soldier actor Erin Kellyman, Jade learns life-altering news in Willow’s episode five — her family wasn’t killed by the skull-donning Bone Reavers. They were Bone Reavers, and Jade has been lied to about her family history for her entire life. Welcomed back into the Bone Reaver fold as the long-lost daughter that has finally returned home, Jade embarks upon a new journey, one much different than the life of knighthood she had always imagined for herself.
“She’s finally seeing this whole new side of herself and seeing something that she can potentially be,” Kellyman tells The Hollywood Reporter about her character’s journey. “So, it’s upsetting that Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) has lied to her and she’s been away from her family this whole time, but now she has two families.”
And for audiences that have been awaiting Jade and her best friend Tir Asleen princess Kit (Ruby Cruz) to reveal their true feelings for one another, the moment arrives at last in episode five, as both women finally feel free enough to make the move.
“Literally the second that happens, Jade is all-in,” the actress says. ”She’s been waiting a long time.”
Adds Kellyman with a laugh about the tension between the two characters over the past few episodes: “It’s so frustrating watching two people who so blatantly love each other not talk.”
As part of Lucasfilm’s current slate, Willow’s queer representation reflects a growing frontier of inclusivity for the studio. The show premiered just days after the season finale of Star Wars series Andor, which also featured an openly queer relationship between characters Vel (Faye Marsay) and Cinta (Varada Sethu).
“It’s not a story where they’re worried about being gay,” Kellyman says about Jade and Kit’s relationship. “It’s not a story where they’re hyper-sexualized. It’s just two people being in love.”
Kellyman, who is openly gay, hopes that Kit and Jade’s journey can be the normalized representation that the actress didn’t have growing up. “Having not seen these shows when I was younger, now being able to be the representation that I didn’t have is something that is so peaceful,” she says. “I know that if I saw this when I was a kid, I would have been completely in love with Kit and Jade, and I would have felt a lot less isolated and scared and weird.”
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Kellyman on all things episode five, Jade and Kit’s long-awaited moment together and the importance of LGBTQ+ representation on-screen.
Since the show premiered, have you been keeping up with the audience reaction on social media?
I’m not really. I kind of just put my head down once it’s out, but I did go into a Kit and Jade edit hole. Ruby had sent me something, and I was like, “I’m just gonna have a little look on TikTok.” I saw some edits, and I was like, woah, this is really fun and cool, and people seem to be enjoying it. There’s only a couple, but it was fun to watch. It’s so cute.
This episode changes a lot for Jade. She finds out the history behind her family, which sort of upends everything she’s ever been told. At the same time, she’s reunited with her sister and welcomed back into the Bone Reavers. How important is that turning point for her?
It’s massive. All her life, I think Jade has been conditioned and told that she has to be a certain way, and she wasn’t against it. This is something that she wanted to do. So to find out that you’re the complete opposite — in fact, you’re the thing that you were trying to destroy most of your life — because Jade thought that Bone Reavers had killed her family. I think Jade had that in mind. It wasn’t the sole reason she was becoming a knight, as I think a lot of it had to do with protecting Kit, as well, and honoring Sorsha for raising her. But I think a big part of it was being able to avenge her family someday. So to find out that she’s actually one of them, I think it sent her into a complete spin. Her whole world has been turned upside down. But then, she’s finally seeing this whole new side of herself and seeing something that she can potentially be. So, it’s upsetting that Sorsha has lied to her and she’s been away from her family this whole time, but now she has two families.
When we meet her sister Scorpia (Adwoa Aboah), you both have a really great, hand-to-hand combat fight scene at the start of the episode. What was it like training and working with her on that sequence?
It was incredible. That was really tricky because that was Adwoa’s first ever fight scene in anything ever, and I didn’t have the time to practice it, either. I think I learned it the day before and some of it on the day of, as well. It was intense too, especially because in the rest of the fight scenes, I’ve had a sword. You sort of get used to having something in your hand and remaining on your feet. Then they were like, “No, we’re gonna wrestle now.” I was so excited to try something new, and to do that with Adwoa, as well. I did kick her in the head, and she had a little bump. It was a really cute bump, but it was a sad bump. (Laughs.) I was upset that I hurt her, but it was really fun.
This episode is also a major turning point for Kit and Jade’s relationship. Amid all the miscommunication and tension, they finally reveal their feelings for each other at the end. Where does Jade stand now?
I think for their entire relationship Jade has been holding back because she knows that she is a knight. She knows that she can’t have any sort of relations with princesses or anybody, so she’s always kind of kept her distance. We’d [also] discussed Ballantine (Ralph Ineson) maybe noticing Jade looking at Kit a type of way, and letting her know that that can’t happen. So, she’s kept in line. Then all at once, she’s realized that she’s probably not going to become a knight. She’s a Bone Reaver, which is the complete opposite to anything from Tir Asleen. They’re carefree, they run things how they want to run things, and they’re so accepting. Then having that confirmation from Kit that she will go anywhere with her, that [Kit] needs her and has basically told her that she loves her — Jade has got all of the green lights to be like, “Okay, I can make my move now.” She needed to wait for all of those lights [to be] green in order to feel like she could pursue anything with Kit. And literally the second that happens, Jade is all in. She’s been waiting a long time.
For the audience, it’s quite frustrating because right as they’re about to have their moment, everything goes to hell. They’re under attack and Jade is literally snatched out of the sky.
They get caught up very quickly. But I do appreciate that they got out all of what they needed to say. It’s not like anything was unclear. They both know where they stand. Jade obviously wanted to kiss Kit, and that’s the thing that got cut off, which is so frustrating.
We were all just waiting for them to finally talk it out.
It’s so frustrating watching two people who so blatantly love each other not talk.
When it comes to representation, queer stories depicted on-screen can sometimes be pigeonholed. In Willow, Kit and Jade are both very much on their own personal journeys as people, in addition to this relationship they share together. Was it exciting for you to take on a character that was so multifaceted in that way?
I think it’s so beautifully written. It’s been so beautifully created. It’s not a story where they’re worried about being gay. It’s not a story where they’re hyper-sexualized. It’s just two people being in love. The gender is secondary. They’re just in love with each other. I think it’s really beautiful and also needed. I think for anybody that is struggling with realizing that they’re gay, or knows somebody that’s realizing that they’re gay, having this normalized representation is just so important.
Working with Ruby, what was the preparation and discussion like for your two characters?
There was so much prep. We obviously had that month of training, but then when we weren’t at work, we were together, having sleepovers, hanging out, exploring Wales. We became so close, so quickly. From the very moment that I first spoke to Ruby, it was like I’d known her for years. There was no icebreaker, really. [We were] just immediately really close friends. We did a lot of prep into their backstories. Deciding whether this was the first time that they’ve kissed or not, deciding when they first realized that they had feelings for each other. It was really great to have somebody to bounce off.
It seems like there was a lot of space on this production for the actors to get creative with their characters.
It’s so beautiful. I don’t know any other production — I’ve not been on a production before — where we’ve had an entire month just to hang out and train and get to know each other. I think that really changed the course of how the series was shot.
In the past, there haven’t been many LGBTQ stories from Lucasfilm and Disney, but in recent years, there seems to be greater strides being taken toward more inclusivity. Just before Willow, audiences also saw an openly queer relationship in Andor, and now, the love between Jade and Kit. How does that feel for you to be a part of these stories that are sort of paving the way for more inclusivity in this universe?
It feels like I’m healing my inner child. Having not seen these shows when I was younger, now being able to be the representation that I didn’t have is something that is so peaceful. There’s something so peaceful about it, something so reassuring and calming. I know that if I saw this when I was a kid, I would have been completely in love with Kit and Jade, and I would have felt a lot less isolated and scared and weird. So, it’s just really beautiful to be able to do that now.
We’re more than halfway through the season now. What do you hope that people take away from Kit and Jade’s relationship?
I hope people take away that if you communicate, things get a lot easier. Kit and Jade go through a lot of episodes of just not talking, and it’s so tense. As soon as they literally share three sentences with each other, or three words with each other, it all eases. The tension goes and they can finally just be. I’d probably say that. Talk to the people you love.
Have your friends and family seen all the episodes yet, or are they watching as the show goes along?
Yeah, they’re watching as they go. For some reason, in recent years [my friends and family] have been like, “Don’t tell me anything that happens!”‘” They want to watch the things that I do as just a viewer, rather than knowing what’s going to happen. So none of them know what happens in the show, which is really cool. That’s also why I’ve wanted to keep Kit and Jade so low-key in the beginning because it is just so satisfying, especially as a queer person, to watch that confirmation of two women being in love, you know?
Definitely. It was also announced last week that you’re going to be appearing in Steve McQueen’s upcoming film Blitz. What can you tell us about that project?
I’m not too sure how much I’m allowed to say. I’m in the hotel right now, so I’ll start filming this week. I’m really, really excited. I think this is going to be something really special. The script is so good, and I’m really excited to bring this character to life.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity. New episodes of Willow debut every Wednesday on Disney+.