When Carrie Fisher returned to the Star Wars saga with 2015’s The Force Awakens, she did so alongside her real-life daughter, Billie Lourd. It was Fisher, a.k.a. Princess Leia herself, who encouraged Lourd to audition, and the two wound up sharing scenes in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi (with Lourd’s Lieutenant Connix wearing some familiar-looking hair).
As a child, she writes, her parents kept her away from film sets and cautioned her away from becoming an actor, but as she got older, she found herself fascinated by her mom’s career and how the character of Leia resonated with so many people throughout the years. The Force Awakens was her first time on set, and on her first day of rehearsal, Fisher followed her around like a stage mom. “In the moment, I was humiliated that my mom was moming me on my first day of work, on the Star Wars set, of all places,” Lourd writes. “But now I realize she was just being protective.” (It was Fisher, Lourd adds, that decided to “embrace the weird galactic nepotism of it all” and make sure Lieutenant Connix wore those Leia-approved space buns).
The two went on to appear together in 2017’s The Last Jedi and were set to do the same in the upcoming Rise of Skywalker (in theaters Dec. 20), but Fisher died in December 2016 before filming began. “One of the last times we spoke on the phone, she talked about how excited she was that the next movie in the trilogy was going to be Leia’s movie,” Lourd writes. “Her movie.”
Ultimately, Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams wrote Leia into the story using archival footage of Fisher, and Lourd agreed to reprise her role as Connix one last time. “I knew it would be one of the most painful, difficult things I would ever do, but I said yes for her — for my mom,” she explains. “For Leia. For everyone Leia means so much to. For everyone Leia gives strength to.”
Read Lourd’s full essay at Time.