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Kelly Marie Tran opens up about returning to Hollywood after facing online trolls

The "Star Wars" alum endured intense racist and sexist bullying on social media.
Image: European Premiere of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker"
Kelly Marie Tran attends the European premiere of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" at Cineworld Leicester Square on Dec. 18, 2019, in LondonGareth Cattermole / Getty Images for Disney

Kelly Marie Tran is opening up about about her decision to return to Hollywood after facing years of intense online bullying.

The 32-year-old actor, who voices the heroine Raya in Disney's animated "Raya and the Last Dragon," told The Hollywood Reporter she felt she scored the role of a lifetime when she was cast as Resistance mechanic Rose Tico in the most recent "Star Wars" trilogy.

But after making her debut in 2017's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," and appearing again in 2019's "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," the Asian American actor — the first woman of color cast in a lead role in a "Star Wars" movie — was attacked by online trolls who insulted her with racist and sexist remarks.

To protect her mental health, Tran found herself abandoning social media — and even walking away from Hollywood.

"What's interesting to me about working in this industry is that certain things become so public, even if you don't really mean them to be, (like) the succession of events in which I left the internet for my own sanity," Tran told THR. "It was basically me being like, 'Oh, this isn't good for my mental health. I'm obviously going to leave this.'"

Tran compared her experience to someone who "fell in love very publicly and then very publicly had an embarrassingly horrible breakup."

To help process the pain, she entered therapy, where she learned, "If someone doesn't understand me or my experience, it shouldn't be my place to have to internalize their misogyny or racism or all of the above. Maybe they just don't have the imagination to understand that there are different types of people living in the world."

Tran decided to take a break from movie making when she no longer knew how she felt about the business.

"I left. I said no to a lot of things," she said. "It felt like I was just hearing the voice of my agents and my publicity team and all of these people telling me what to say and what to do and how to feel. And I realized, I didn't know how I felt anymore. And I didn't remember why I was in this in the first place."

Now, thanks to her groundbreaking work on "Raya and the Last Dragon" — the movie is the first Disney animated film inspired by Southeast Asian cultures — the trailblazing actor is proud to be a symbol of representation again.

"I understand why there's that sort of label on the things I've done. As a kid, I saw people working in this industry and thought they were somehow elevated human beings, and that if I ever got to that place, I would never feel any insecurity or doubt, and that's just not true," she said. "So I acknowledge and validate the label of these things being historic, and I'm so grateful to be part of them, but for my own sanity I have to not think about that too much."

She also believes her time away from Hollywood taught her more about how to navigate the movie business. "Hope, for me, looks like reminding yourself that to get where you are, you've survived some s---," she shared.

Tran may be happy to be back on the silver screen, but don't expect to find her on social media again any time soon.

"I've truly just been so much happier without being on the internet," said the star.

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