Adam Driver in 'The Last Jedi' + J.J. Abrams and Vic Mahoney begin work on 'Episode IX'

The final installment of the newest Star Wars trilogy will be different in one huge way that has nothing to do with lightsabers or the Force. For the first time in the history of the franchise, a woman of color will be behind the camera. On Tuesday, Ava DuVerany confirmed that Victoria Mahoney is the second unit director of Star Wars: Episode IX. This means, though J.J. Abrams is shooting everything with the primary cast, Mahoney is pretty much shooting everything else.

Mahoney has experience as both an actor and a director, and most recently is known for her work on the TV shows Claws and Power. For Star Wars, being the second unit director means shooting scenes that involve everything that might not be scenes with the principle cast. In other words: a galaxy of extras, stormtroopers and aliens. The second unit directors on previous Star Wars films have all been men.

On the original Star Wars, most of the second unit directors — Gary White, Gerry Gavigan, and Terry Madden — were uncredited. The second unit director on The Empire Strikes Back was John Barry. And, some rumors persist that though Return of the Jedi was directed by Richard Marquand, that George Lucas himself was the second unit director on that film.

The primary director of a huge movie generally gets all the spotlight, though that will probably change because of the historic hiring of Vic Mahoney. In less than a decade, Star Wars has gone from having a mostly all-white, all-male cast, to being extremely diverse in front of the camera. Now, that diversity is starting to exist on the other side of production, too.

After Episode IX, all the forthcoming Star Wars projects — Rian Johnson’s trilogy, David Benioff and Dan Weiss’s films, and Jon Favreau’s TV series — are each being helmed by some white dudes as writers and directors. In the case of the TV series though, Favreau could obviously hire all sorts of talent to write and direct individual episodes.

Reportedly, J.J. Abrams wants to “unite all three trilogies” with Episode IX. But, with the hiring of Mahoney, it looks like he’s figured out the greater need to unite fans of all backgrounds. - Star Wars Episode IX will be out in theaters on December 20, 2019.

Photos via Lucasfilm