Who is Admiral Holdo? Laura Dern's Purple Haired 'Last Jedi' Character Has a Thrilling Novel Backstory

Laura Dern as Admiral Holdo in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Walt Disney Studios

Director Rian Johnson introduces several new characters into the Star Wars universe in The Last Jedi, but Laura Dern's Admiral Holdo is the sole character with a fleshed out backstory. For fans who only see the blockbuster films, Holdo will remain a purple-haired resistance leader who shares a mysterious and powerful friendship with Leia. For Star Wars nerds who dig deeper into the lore, however, Holdo is as complicated as they come.

Amilyn Holdo was first introduced in the Star Wars canon novel Leia, Princess of Alderaan, though she popped up simultaneously in the children's book A Leader Named Leia. The novel, written by Claudia Grey, was published in September 2017 as part of Disney and Lucasfilm's package of lead-in material for The Last Jedi.

According to Grey's novel, Holdo and Leia met when they were teenagers during Leia's first "pathfinding" lesson. Pathfinding is essentially just hiking, orienteering and outdoor living skills, and it's customary on Leia's home planet, Alderaan, to teach young people how to survive. When Leia meets her fellow students, she's struck in particular by Amilyn Holdo, a tall green-haired girl from another planet who says she hopes the course is difficult because she likes to contend with her own mortality. Needless to say, this freaks Leia out. Leia likes to refer to the way Holdo talks, quietly and intensely, as "Holdo-speak".

Leia and Amilyn greet each other in 'The Last Jedi' GIPHY

Holdo eventually discovers Leia's relationship with the resistance against the Galactic Empire, and she helps Leia travel to the Paucris system to warn troops of an incoming attack. After the fallen Empire reorganized into the First Order, Holdo joined the Resistance as an adult woman, taking the rank of Vice Admiral and leading the crew onboard the cruiser Ninka.

Holdo's homeworld, Gatalenta, is essentially a planet of space hippies, studying astrology, meditating and valuing serenity above all things. Historically, the planet has housed Jedis, and it was the first place young Luke Skywalker traveled as part of his Jedi training. As a rebellious teenager, Holdo began dyeing her hair unnatural colors and wearing frivolous gowns instead of the customary neutral tones popular among her fellow Galalentians. She keeps that look up in The Last Jedi, appearing in a draped gown and lavender hair, despite being a military officer.

holdo art
An artist's rendering of Amilyn Holdo from Wookiepedia. Wookiepedia

Much like Leia's relationship with Luke or Han, her friendship with Holdo begins in misunderstanding, and the two teenagers find each other bizarre until the resistance gives them a shared purpose. In a conversation about interspecies relationships, the girls describe who they'd eventually like to be with. While Leia says she's only interested in humanoid men, Holdo says, "Really? That feels so limiting." She also says she likes a "pretty pair of dark eyes," but then corrects herself, adding, "Or more than a pair, if you're into Grans. Or Aqualish, or Talz."

All of that backstory is why Holdo's pivotal, affectionate scene with Leia in The Last Jedi is culmination of a decades-long friendship, and not just random happenstance. Like several other characters, including the chrome stormtrooper Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and Rogue One's Saw Gerrara (Forest Whitaker), Holdo is a Star Wars figure best appreciated through novelizations, cartoons, and companion texts. It's exciting to see her onscreen in The Last Jedi, but without her background information, Laura Dern's character feels like a tossed-in one-shot.