Karol Cristina Da Silva played Naboo Handmaiden Rabé in The Phantom Menace. She answered a few questions via email for this interview.
What is your first Star Wars memory?
Return of the Jedi. Holidays at my grandparents and it was showing on TV and I started watching it and was amazed by this whole created world. With treehouses, super cute bears. I loved it.
How were you cast as Rabé in The Phantom Menace? Did you audition for any other roles? Did you know during the audition that it was for a Star Wars project?
I had a modeling agency at the time, Elite Premier, and they put me forward for the casting. I only auditioned for the role of the handmaiden and yes, I knew it was for Star Wars.
Were you a Star Wars fan when you were cast? I’m curious what your favorite film was?
I wasn’t a fan. I had watched the trilogy before but it was such a long time ago. I was a kid so my favourite was The Return of The Jedi.
How were the handmaidens explained to you as characters?
We didn’t have much explanation and I think that was part of the process for the decoy to really work. We knew we were her loyal handmaidens and needed to be there at all times and that we loved her very much.
Keira Knightly shared in a TV interview years ago that she wasn’t aware she was playing the Queen’s decoy during the filming of The Phantom Menace – were you aware of much of the plot in the film?
No, that was quite funny. No one was aware and after a few days I remembered Natalie asking her Mum why some of us really resembled her. She was puzzled. We all were.
How did you find George Lucas as a director on set?
George Lucas was always very focused. Also very friendly and down to earth.
Can you share any fun memories of being on-set or shooting particular scenes during the making of The Phantom Menace?
Once we were filming a scene where we were walking beside two rows of guards wearing helmets. After a few times I heard someone calling my first name Karol (which took some time for me to realize it was me because I’ve been using my middle name Cristina since I started modeling). He came to talk to me, he was one of the guards in helmets. He was good friends of a friend of mine. I met him a few times and we laughed together about meeting on the set of the new Star Wars film.
Did you have a favorite scene during production you worked on?
The fighting scenes were very exciting. We were running , getting our guns out and being part of the action. It was wonderful because it involved a lot of people too.
The costumes in The Phantom Menace are so amazing. Do you have any memories of working with the handmaiden’s or Padmé’s costumes? Did you have a favorite costume?
The costumes were to die for, the feel of the fabric was so gorgeous, the velvet, so smooth, I loved them. Queen Amidala’s costumes were so much more elaborated and some of the headpieces looked tricky and heavy. For the premiere of the film on Leicester Square I was invited to dress up as Queen Amidala and came to greet the crowd. That costume was beautiful but I found the headpiece to be a slightly heavy.
My favourite costume was our battle costume in a deep burgundy colour, with the long black leather boots. The only trousers costume we had. It was super comfortable and soft velvet. We didn’t have our hoods and it gave us a lot of freedom for movement and expression. It also felt powerful and ready for whatever came our way.
How long did the handmaiden scenes take to shoot?
As we were always next to Queen Amidala, so it took weeks. The only place we didn’t go was when she went as Padmé to the desert.
Were any of your scenes on location or were they all in a set with lots of green screen?
Most were done in the studio, with sets, green screen, we also went once to the woods. One of the most wonderful locations was the castle in Casserta, near Naples Southern Italy. We flew in a private plane, all the crew and actors. It was fantastic!
Do you remember shooting any scenes that didn’t make the final version of the film?
Have you kept in touch with any other handmaidens or anyone else who worked on the film over the years?
Yes, I kept in touch with Hugh Quarshie we became good friends. I also saw the handmaidens Liz and Candice in conventions.
What do you remember about the lead-up to The Phantom Menace releasing in theaters and the fan reactions?
George Lucas once told us on the set that the new film was for the young generation out there. Some of the fans from the old films weren’t very excited about it but some were. I remembered that everyone was so excited and happy that a new Star Wars was coming out.
Over the last few years it’s become apparent that Padmé and her handmaidens were extremely popular characters with many fans including those who grew up with the prequel trilogy. Have you had the chance to meet many handmaiden fans in person and have you seen people cosplaying as handmaidens at conventions?
Yes, I have. The fans are lovely. And it was through a fan that I first heard about the book Queen’s Shadow by E. K. Johnston in a convention. He came to me and said Queen’s Shadow is out. You must read it and know more about your character.
What did you think of Queen’s Shadow?
I’m just finishing Queen’s Shadow now and I am really enjoying it. It’s incredible, reading the first chapter I was transported there with all of them. I could see their faces Natalie, Keira, Hugh, Liz, Candice, Sofia, and their smiles. It was so fantastic to be reading about our characters and also so surreal. I never imagined that new stories would arise from our characters.
Can you share any projects you have coming up?
I’ve created a live Instagram weekly conversation/interview about the Magic of Human Beings. Due to the past year we all have been going under a lot of pressure, stress, anxiety and fear but we should not keep our focus on there. There are so many amazing and inspiring people around doing beautiful things and I thought it was very important for me to share their stories. and to connect with one another in that human level. So I started by having conversations with people that I love, respect and are truly inspiring. It is important to me to share and celebrate their creativity.
You can find Karol on Instagram at karol_cristina_da_silva.
Want to learn more about the Naboo Handmaidens? Check out this article that lists handmaidens from all three films and The History of Naboo Handmaidens Part 1.