By Sydney Bucksbaum
August 24, 2019 at 03:58 PM EDT
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Carrie Fisher may be gone but her legacy lives on with Princess-turned-General Leia in the Star Wars films.

When sitting down in the EW and PEOPLE video studio at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif. on Saturday, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams and LucasFilm head Kathleen Kennedy discussed how they were going to handle the late Fisher’s role in the upcoming conclusion to the latest trilogy.

“There was a huge sense of responsibility,” Kennedy says. “We spent a lot of time talking about what do we want to feel? First of all, Leia. That was a really, really complicated conversation but we knew that she was such an important character to the story.”

And Abrams adds, “It just felt wrong to say that she wasn’t around, to say that she had gone somewhere, to say that she had passed away in between, it just felt like there was no way to end this story. She’s such an integral part of it.”

“Finding the end to this in an emotional way was paramount,” Kennedy says. During the D23 Expo panel, Abrams revealed that “we realized that we had footage from Episode VII that we realized we could use in a new way. So Carrie, as Leia, gets to be in the film.”

When it came to figuring out the ending to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Abrams knew had a monumental endeavor on his hands. Not only does this film end the most recent Star Wars trilogy, but it also promises to conclude the nine-film saga that began with 1977’s A New Hope.

“It’s not just the end of three movies; it’s the end of nine movies, three trilogies,” Abrams says. “So the story needed to end emotionally, it needed to end with scale but with intimacy. It was a bit of a juggling on a tightrope act. But it was really important to us that we tell a story that makes people feel and where there’s a sense if you’re a kid watching all nine movies years from now, you see this beginning, middle, and end and you feel like it was all coming to this.”

Check out our full interview with Abrams and Kennedy above.

Before Abrams and Kennedy sat down with EW and People, they debuted a new poster at D23 Expo showing Rey (Daisy Ridley) facing off against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), as well as an epic sizzle reel that is expected to be released online Monday, representing the first new footage of the film since the teaser trailer was released in April.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is set for release Dec. 20, 2019.

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