Gwendoline Christie credits Carrie Fisher – with her buns, metal bikini, and laser blaster – as the inspiration for a career that includes fierce medieval fighter Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones and stormtrooper commander Captain Phasma in the record-setting hit Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
“I loved Princess Leia, and that even in my infant mind I remember thinking, ‘She’s a different kind of woman to the women I see in films,'” Christie, 37, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I think it must have been quite forming.”
“I’ve been lucky enough to play a couple of parts of women who are very driven and somewhat unconventional,” she adds. “I love playing women who kick ass!”
Christie, who first watched Star Wars when she was 6 years old, recently told Fisher she was a huge influence on her as a young girl.
“I said, ‘I feel that perhaps watching you planted a seed in my mind.'” To which Fisher joked, ” ‘I did actually plant a seed in your mind. It’s true.’ She’s incredible.”
When the 6’3″ actress finally stepped on The Force Awakens set to shoot, she couldn’t believe the day had finally arrived.
“I said to the people around me, ‘So, is this really happening?’ ” she recalls. “Walking onto the set with that incredible costume, the sets were so enormous and so detailed, everything seemed real … and I was in it.”
The costume, says Christie, made her role even more appealing. “I was struck by how incredible it looked, but also I liked that it was stormtrooper armor. It hadn’t been sexualized or feminized in any way. I thought, ‘That is interesting.That’s very modern.'”
Now she’s one of the Star Wars women future generations will watch closely, as she once did.
“People talk about having dreams come true,” Christie says. “This is really a lot of young dreams come true.”