While much of the hype surrounding Jurassic World Dominion has been about the return of the original Jurassic Park trio, it’s not just relying on nostalgia. The film’s bringing some new faces to the franchise, too, including DeWanda Wise’s Kayla Watts. As a pilot who helps the group get from place to place, and indulges in some dino action of her own, Kayla seems primed to be an important part of the film’s cast.
In a recent cover story for Variety, Wise and director Colin Trevorrow explained what led to Kayla’s creation, along with what she’s meant to bring to the franchise going forward. Trevorrow sees Kayla as a new character who could “potentially define the future of this franchise”—someone that young fans to latch onto the same way they did with Laura Dern’s Ellie Satler and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing. Initially, Kayla wasn’t written as a Black woman, but after seeing the actor in the Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, Trevorrow hired her, and together they helped Kayla become a more defined person.
Part of that process was making sure that Kayla wasn’t connected to the prior films. After tweeting a photo earlier in the year featuring Kayla and Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady, a theory spawned that Wise was secretly Kelly Curtis, the daughter of Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) who was previously played by Vanessa Lee Chester in The Lost World. Trevorrow stressed that inventing new Black heroes is important, while Wise’s response was more about Black solidarity. “Vanessa’s here, and she’s an actor,” said Wise. She admitted that she would’ve turned down the role of an older Kelly if offered, adding “It’s one thing to reboot a character like Nola Darling 30 years later, and another thing to be like, ‘I’m this person now.’”
Wise came in with a “really specific portrayal,” according to screenwriter Emily Carmichael. Wise wanted to ensure that Kayla has an interior life of her own, describing her as a bisexual Air Force pilot who helps Owen, Claire, and the others because of her own moral code. Getting to portray Kayla as a 3D person, said Wise, was a “really dope and atypical opportunity ... you can feel the difference between a character who’s one-dimensional and one who clearly has had an entire life before she has met any of these people.”
Overall, the online reaction to Kayla has been positive, even taking the requisite trolls out of the equation. Of the Jurassic fanbase, Wise described them as “very pure ... Maybe it’s the love of dinosaurs, but everyone wants to see you win. I don’t think that’s common. They’re just like, ‘We can’t wait to meet her.’”
Jurassic World Dominion hits theaters on June 10. Look for io9's review closer to release.
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