Mark Hamill
Credit: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

Luke Skywalker was a huge part of Mark Hamill’s past, and although he still can’t talk about the plot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the actor has opened up to EW about the emotional experience of returning to that far-off galaxy.

The first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens roused extreme feelings from fans around the world, and Hamill says returning to role of farm boy turned Jedi Luke did the same for him.

“I don’t know that I’m even completely recovered from my state of shock,” Hamill says. “Part of the experience of [Star Wars] in my life was coming down from that, putting it behind me. We had a beginning, middle, and an end. And I certainly, in a million years, never expected to return. I thought, even if they do more trilogies, my story is over.”

Hamill made the comments as part of an interview to promote his new Christmas special, a stop-motion animated version of Elf, with him voicing the James Caan role and Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons in the Will Ferrell part. (Check out a clip from the show, which airs Tuesday on NBC.)

George Lucas once toyed with the idea of following the characters into the future, but when he decided to make the prequels instead, Hamill said the Star Wars creator made it clear to him, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and the rest of the original cast that he wouldn’t be exploring the world beyond the events of Return of the Jedi.

“George had told us that he wasn’t going to do them many, many years ago—but times and circumstances change,” Hamill says. Like when the Walt Disney Co. paid north of $4 billion for the Lucasfilm empire in 2012, for instance.

Given a second chance at playing Skywalker, three decades after that hero’s journey, the now 63-year-old actor says he tried to appreciate the experience more than he did before. Back when he made the original trilogy, he was just launching his career and the pressure was on. This time he said it was different than when he wrapped shooting on Jedi in 1982. “It’s kind of like Scrooge on Christmas morning. ‘Oh my God, this time I’m going to appreciate it in a way I wasn’t able to as a young man,'” Hamill says. “The fact that it is so special to so many people … it’s hard to believe you could take something for granted like that.”

He pauses, and corrects himself. “That’s probably not the best way to express what it was,” he says of the first three movies. “We knew it was special, but [returning for the new trilogy] reminded me of taking out a pair of trousers from the back of the closet and discovering a $20 bill in the pocket.” Hamill laughs. (Obviously, he got much more than a couple sawbucks for reprising the iconic role.)

After getting used to the idea that Luke Skywalker was a character he used to be, Hamill says “it’s an unexpected thrill” to inhabit him again. Except for one thing…

“I’m not really a beard person,” Hamill says. After sporting shaggy, wise-old-man facial hair throughout the shoot, he showed up at the cast’s London wrap party clean-shaven. “I suppose if I got used to it, I could become one. It’s just one of those things. I think they look fine on other people, it’s just not for me.”

His main complaint: “Every time you take a sip of coffee… Ugh, you’re always getting food and drink in it.”

Add that to list of “things Ben should have warned Luke about,” alongside “Darth Vader is your father.”

Hamill says he knew in advance that he and the other Star Wars veterans wouldn’t be featured in the teaser trailer. Director J.J. Abrams and producer and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy gave them all the heads up that their appearance was being saved for later. “They showed us the footage, that’s all their decision, and we’ll just have to wait and see,” Hamill says. “Of the people involved, I think these kids who are doing these new characters show it is in very good hands.”

He said he got even more enjoyment seeing others lay eyes on the new Star Wars for the first time. “My favorite thing about the whole endeavor was when my daughter showed me a video with split screens of all the people watching the trailer. What a thrill that was, to see those people who were so happy. That’s the kind of thing we have to remind ourselves of when we become jaded or cynical or take things for granted,” he says. “Remember there are kids out there who just love this thing, and it made a lot of people happy.”

And, in a way, Luke is present in the trailer. That sound effect of a lightsaber activating at the end of the footage matches perfectly with the sound of Luke’s weapon from the earlier films.

Hamill’s only response to that is: “Ha ha ha. You’re a clever, clever boy.”