‘Top Gun: Maverick’ star didn’t want to be known as the token female pilot

Monica Barbaro may be the first to portray a female pilot in the Top Gun franchise, but the actress is having none of the distinction, and hopes that her character, Natasha “Phoenix” Trace, is read beyond her gender when the public finally gets a taste of Top Gun: Maverick. By the sounds of it, she certainly played Trace in a way that turns the tables on the tokenism trap.

Barbaro features as one of the mission candidates alongside the likes of Miles Teller, Glen Powell, and Lewis Pullman. In an interview with IndieWire, Barbaro pointed out how the exaggeration of her presence as a woman among a primarily male cast wasn’t terribly different from the dynamics found in the Navy.

“It was a lot of getting to be in these military spaces and walking into various squadrons and immediately seeing a couple of women and being like, ‘Hi, I’m here to ask you questions.’ That was incredible. One of the first things they said was, they would love to just be ‘pilots.’ You don’t need to delineate that it’s a ‘female pilot.’”

She would go on to point out how Trace’s womanhood is explored in the film, and how she advocated to keep certain scenes in the film so that conversations could be started.

“It’s Hangman who gives her shit a couple of times, and I think there were actually a few more [lines] that we filmed and there was conversation about potentially taking them [all] out. I was a real advocate for keeping that in [the film], because I think — even though in large part, what I saw around the fighter pilot community was respect for female counterparts — I mean, we’re women. We know. We know there’s going to be a comment somewhere. There’s going to be some guy in a room who thinks it’s OK to make a joke or say a thing in a certain way or make a joke and then be like, ‘Sorry!’ to the one woman in the room.”

Top Gun: Maverick releases to theatres on May 27.