Film Forward

Why Ava DuVernay Is Celebrating This Woman Joining The Crew Of The Next ‘Star Wars’ Movie

Get to know Victoria Mahoney.

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

A (no too) long time ago in a galaxy (not so) far, far away the Star Wars franchise got a little more diverse, and Ava DuVernay is certainly here for it. The A Wrinkle in Time director shared on social media the "historic news" that a Black woman will help direct the upcoming installment.


Joining first unit director J.J. Abrams for Star Wars: Episode IX is Victoria Mahoney as the second unit director — a notable first for the film series. Mahoney's career has largely been spent directing episodes of TV for shows such as Queen Sugar, Grey's Anatomy, American Crime, Claws, Power, and Misfits.

While Mahoney won't be the movie's primary director, it is still the first time an African-American woman, let alone any woman of color, has served in any directorial role for the franchise. For those not familiar with what a second unit director does, they are in charge of shooting supplementary footage, which includes establishing shots, stunts, inserts, and cutaways, according to

"Cat's outta the bag. Thank you @ava for putting my name in the #StarWars #LucasFilm hat. Thank you #JJAbrams for inviting me on your ferocious ride," Mahoney wrote on social media in response. "This one's for the outliers, dreaming big--in small corners of the Earth. #MaytheForceBeWithYou."

The reason this hiring move is being celebrated so much is because, according to an analysis from Variety's Maureen Ryan, 96 percent of the Star Wars cinematic universe consists of writers and directors who share two identifiers: being White and male.

Of the 17 films, including those already released or those that are upcoming, a grand total of 24 people have been hired to guide the creative process. While 23 of those were White men, only one was a White woman (Leigh Brackett, who has a screenwriting credit for 1980's The Empire Strikes Back).

That means there was very little input from female voices and no representation for people of color in terms of directing or writing since the franchise began. As Ryan puts it, this is "shocking" and "has to change" — having Kathleen Kennedy in charge of Lucasfilm and improving the diversity of characters is simply not enough.

While a small step in the overall scheme for the beloved movie series, it's a big deal for Mahoney and shows that progress is possible and, hopefully, is on the horizon.

(H/T: Entertainment Weekly)

Cover image: Kathy Hutchins /


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