The Actress Who Plays L3-37 In Solo: A Star Wars Story Is Gorgeous In Real Life

Solo: A Star Wars Story may not have had the same impact at the box office as the movies that came before it — but it's still a Star Warsmovie, so we all at least still heard about it. One of the bigger impacts the space fantasy series spinoff had on pop culture arguably came from a character new to the franchise — the opinionated, revolutionary, social justice droid L3-37. 

A feminine android with an angsty human attitude, the character is unlike any other in the Star Wars series so far. But as spunky as the robotic revolutionary is, you can't say a lot of great things about the tin can's looks. (Nor should you really be expected to — unless you're Lando.)

The same can't be said for the woman behind the character's wires and metalworks. In real life, L3-37 is played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, an English writer, director, and performer whose star has been on an accelerated rise in recent years. It took a lot of accomplishments for the actress to reach a global stage with a Star Wars role; if you aren't familiar, follow along as we break down the career so far of the actress who plays L3-37.

Stage to screen

Born in West London in 1985, Phoebe Waller-Bridge first came to prominence as a stage performer, making her debut in 2009 at London's Soho Theatre. Her first work on the stage was just as a performer, appearing in the casts of play productions around the London theatre scene, but before long she was expanding her repertoire to include writing work, mounting projects that she wrote and performed in herself.

As her stage work received more attention, Waller-Bridge also began a career on screen with small appearances in TV shows and movies, starting with bit parts in films like The Iron Lady and Albert Nobbs. By 2011, she was a member of the cast of the English TV series The Cafe, but her first major breakthrough didn't come until she joined the award-winning series Broadchurch during its second season, playing a straight-laced junior barrister named Abby Thompson. The series, a murder mystery popular in both its native England and abroad, significantly raised her profile as an on-screen talent on the international stage.

One-woman show

As Phoebe Waller-Bridge began scoring better and more substantial roles in films and television, her stage career continued to grow as well, particularly with regard to her reputation as a writer. According to The Guardian, she and friend Vicki Jones founded the theater company DryWrite in 2007, which produced its first play, Mydidae, in 2012. As part of the company, Waller-Bridge wrote and produced a series of short plays called Good. Clean. Fun. in 2014, while also helping Jones produce her award-winning play The One

Waller-Bridge's most consequential creation during this time was a one-woman show called Fleabag, which she wrote and first performed in 2013. The stage production proved a great success, making a major impression for its tone of filthy frankness. Even as Waller-Bridge became more successful in other arenas, the stage version of Fleabag continued to tour around the United Kingdom and beyond. 

The success of Fleabag and other projects brought Waller-Bridge her first serious awards attention, with Fleabag winning a Stage Award for Best Solo Performance and Waller-Bridge herself winning the distinction of Most Promising Playwright from the Critics Circle Theatre Awards.

Ultimately, both Good. Clean. Fun. and Fleabag served as foundations for further writing projects, giving Waller-Bridge a platform to head into TV not just as an actor, but as a creative force as well.

Crashing into notoriety

In 2016, Phoebe Waller-Bridge took to TV with the comedy series Crashing, which she created and starred in as part of an ensemble cast. The series, which ran for six episodes, centered on a group of young-ish Londoners living together in an out-of-use hospital as sanctioned "property guardians," providing "live-in security" for the abandoned building in exchange for reduced rent, according to The Guardian

The series was inspired in part by Waller-Bridge's own Good. Clean. Fun. series of plays, which included vignettes about the show characters Anthony, Lulu, Sam, and Fred. Waller-Bridge herself played Lulu, a ukulele-wielding weirdo trying to carve out a place for herself in an unconventional environment. 

The well-received series, of which Waller-Bridge wrote every episode, reflects a reality of urban living that's far from exclusive to London, showcasing the misadventures and compromises young people make in order to make a living in a big city. 

"Six people in their 20s living in a flat — that kind of Friends set-up — is not really relatable any more," Waller-Bridge told The Guardian around the time of the series' premiere. "Everyone I know is struggling with where to live. It's just become part of reality that most people don't expect to be owning their own place by the time they're 30 any more."

World-famous Fleabag

Although Crashing was a strong start, Phoebe Waller-Bridge's major career breakthrough happened largely thanks to her next project, Fleabag. Also premiering in 2016, the series is an adaptation of Waller-Bridge's one-woman show of the same name, starring her in the lead role as well. The series, which Waller-Bridge again exclusively wrote, portrays the performer as a nameless young woman referred to only as Fleabag, navigating life in London in a frank and profane way. 

Distributed internationally by Amazon, the series debuted to significant acclaim, reaching a wider audience than Waller-Bridge had ever reached before. The six-episode show won a large number of awards both for the production as a whole and for Waller-Bridge herself, who was lauded for both her writing and her performance. The show made enough of an impression that The Telegraph in 2018 included it in a rundown of the greatest TV shows that Britain has ever produced. Naturally, a second season was commissioned on the strength of the acclaim; at the time of this writing, the continuation is in the works for release in 2019.

Killing Eve

In 2016, Phoebe Waller-Bridge moved on to a new television project, being hired to develop a TV series adaptation of the Luke Jennings-written novella series Codename Villanelle. The result was the eight-episode first season of the series Killing Eve, which was produced for BBC America. The series, which stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer as a government agent and assassin wrapped up with each other in a cat-and-mouse game, was created and produced by Waller-Bridge, who also wrote the screenplays for half of the episodes.

Premiering in April 2018, the series was greeted with great critical success, being praised by outlets like Rolling Stone for its tension, humor, and originality. Rather than simply produce a rote adaptation of the thrillers that the show is based on, Waller-Bridge and her fellow writers infused the show with an unexpected and offbeat tone, which critics worldwide credited for making the show compulsively watchable.

A second season of the series was commissioned before the first was even released, and though Waller-Bridge announced she would be leaving her role as lead writer for the second season, she also expressed an intention to remain with the project as an executive producer.

L3-37 lifestyle

It was more than just a thriller show that made 2018 Phoebe Waller-Bridge's biggest year yet. In May, she starred in Solo: A Star Wars Story, bringing the droid pilot L3-37 to life with biting wit and energy. The character, a one-of-a-kind independent robot who continually rebuilds herself with parts of other droids throughout her life, was one of the more notable creations of the Star Wars spinoff, being unlike any other droid in the movie series before her. 

While Star Wars movies have previously featured characters made entirely from CGI, L3-37 was created via a combination of CGI, motion-capture, and live-action effects, with Waller-Bridge standing in for the wiry droid that would take her place in the final movie. She spent the production in green or blue full-body suits with plastic robot parts attached to her frame, giving her a real physical presence in the movie even as most of her humanity was keyed out in post production.

"It's really cool to be creating a new character in the Star Wars universe," Waller-Bridge said in a behind-the-scenes feature for the home media release of Solo. "I haven't seen a character like her before in Star Wars or beyond, really. And I really believe in her as an inspiring character as well, so I feel very lucky to have embodied her mechanical self."

The human element

Phoebe Waller-Bridge didn't get her role in Star Wars thanks to any passionate fandom for the series. On the contrary, she earned the role in spite of a lifelong indifference to the franchise. Prior to scoring her part in Solo, Waller-Bridge had never seen a Star Wars movie. You'd think that that lack of knowledge would make an audition for the series stressful enough, but it turns out that Waller-Bridge took things a step further.

As part of a cast appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Waller-Bridge confessed that she had no idea that the character she was trying out for was a robot when she went to the audition. "I was going to the audition and I thought, 'This character's amazing, she's a revolutionary, she's really cool, and the dialogue was amazing,'" she said. "But it kind of said just in one of the stage directions, 'droid.' So I was like, 'droid, droid... What's a droid?' And then I Googled 'droid' and then nothing much really came up, weirdly, just pictures. It wasn't explicit that it's a robot."

Waller-Bridge says she didn't put the robotic nature of her character's identity together until she was already in the middle of performing the audition. After delivering a very human take on the character, she was asked if she could try it more "droidy," at which point she said she realized, "it's a f***ing robot."

Doctor... Who?

Star Wars isn't the only geek property that Phoebe Waller-Bridge's name has been attached to. Following the success of the Fleabag TV series, rumors swirled that Waller-Bridge would next make history as the first female to play the role of the Doctor in the beloved British program Doctor Who

The rumors began after the Twelfth Doctor, The Thick of It star Peter Capaldi, announced that he would be leaving the series in 2017. Some fans, having long agitated for a woman in the role after decades of male Doctors, began speculating that the Fleabag star would cash in on her newfound notoriety by taking over the role. Bookmakers in the UK took bets on who would replace Capaldi, with Waller-Bridge being widely perceived as a favorite for the role. 

Waller-Bridge stayed quiet during most of the Thirteenth Doctor's casting process, only further fueling speculation in her favor. The role ultimately ended up going to Jodie Whittaker, who previously starred with Waller-Bridge on Broadchurch. Regardless, Waller-Bridge didn't take the decision as a snub. 

"[It's] so cool to have my name in that mix," she said, speaking to TV Guide in 2017 after her name was taken out of the running. "And so cool they're talking about having a woman be the next Doctor."

The next job

Post-Solo, the future seems to be full of opportunity for Phoebe Waller-Bridge. While the underperforming Star Wars movie is unlikely to get a direct sequel, that doesn't really matter for Waller-Bridge, whose character — spoilers — didn't exactly make it through the movie in one piece. Instead, she's returning to the series that gave her such a global platform in the first place, working to write and produce the next season of Fleabag.

2018 also saw many changes in Waller-Bridge's personal life, as she divorced her husband of four years and began dating Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri director Martin McDonagh. Speaking in an interview with The Guardian, she said she plans to follow the second season of Fleabag with an extended break — the first she's taken since her career took off. 

"Since Fleabag, I've been in a bedroom under a duvet, writing," she said in the interview, leaving out the parts where she's jet-setting around the world doing press and PR for a Disney picture. Now that she's reached a place of success, she's finally ready to enjoy it, traveling the world, relaxing, and seeking inspiration for new projects to come.