By Joey Nolfi
October 04, 2018 at 01:00 PM EDT
Guy D'Alema/Disney Channel; Everett Collection

For more on Life-Size 2, see 13 exclusive images from the film here, or pick up the new Outlander issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

When news broke in August that Lindsay Lohan wouldn’t appear opposite Tyra Banks in the upcoming Life-Size sequel, fans likely felt a pang of sadness akin to a CEO requesting an important dossier only to receive a Word file filled with typed gibberish. Hope isn’t lost, though, as the producer-star has revealed a juicy tidbit about the cinematic continuation that’s sure to turn those frowns back into hundred-watt smiles: Lohan — or at least her character’s spirit — will appear in Life-Size 2 after all.

“There’s something beautiful we do with Lindsay in this movie that’ll speak to die-hard fans,” Banks exclusively tells EW of the Freeform movie, which is set for release this December as part of the network’s 25 Days of Christmas. “I can’t say how, but you will see something!”

Guy D'Alema/Freeform

Lohan, who fronted the original 2000 film as Casey Stuart — a grieving, motherless tomboy whose magic spell accidentally brings a Barbie-like doll named Eve (Banks) to life — was not available to shoot major scenes for the film earlier this year due to production conflicts with her planned MTV reality show Lohan Beach House. But Banks, who admits returning to the character left her with a “sentimental” feeling, found a way to fit her essence into the film anyway.

“I think it’s normal,” Banks continues, referencing fan reaction to Lohan’s absence. “It’s normal to have comfort, particularly with what you know, and the unknown is kind of fearful and kind of scary. [But] when [fans] see this movie, they’re going to be like, ‘Woah, this is a really good movie!'”

While Lohan doesn’t have a substantial part in the holiday-themed sequel, the first movie’s iconic theme song “Be a Star” got a “club banger” makeover for round two, complete with help from Banks’ singing chops and a pair of assisting rappers: Janine the Machine and a mystery performer known only as “New Fears Eve.”

Guy D'Alema/Freeform

Taking the reins from Lohan as the sequel’s lead, however, is grown-ish actress Francia Raisa, whom Banks praises as “comedic but also dramatic.” And, in fitting fashion for the queen of smize, the 30-year-old won her way into Banks’ heart with her fierce peepers.

“The role needed somebody who could cry at the drop of a hat and make people laugh. She had that ability. There’s something about her eyes that can be very soulful. She can tell a story with just her eyes, which is really beautiful,” Banks finishes. “When we were casting the movie we were non-race specific, we just wanted the best actors in all of the parts, and once we cast Francia we were excited that we had to tweak the script. We were excited that she represented this heiress to a publicly traded company her Latina mom started on her own. That’s a good message, particularly in today’s climate in our country.”

Life-Size 2 airs this December on Freeform. Head here for 13 exclusive first look images from the film.

Guy D'Alema/Freeform