By Joey Nolfi
October 05, 2018 at 10:00 AM EDT
Guy D'Alema/Freeform

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As the immortal gospel of Life-Size‘s theme song “Be a Star” tells us: Eve’s great. But when producer-actress Tyra Banks sought to continue her character’s journey beyond the 2000 made-for-TV movie starring Lindsay Lohan as a grieving, motherless child whose magic spell grants a maternally inclined plastic doll a human body, she wanted Eve to be an even greater beacon of girl power. The series just had to grow up first.

“Some of them are moms now!” Banks says of Life-Size’s fan base: millennial women raised on the original. Thus, its long-gestating sequel follows a 25-year-old, Grace (grown-ish’s Francia Raisa), navigating a quarter-life crisis after inheriting the toy company that produced Eve (who serves as Grace’s guardian angel of sisterhood).

Guy D'Alema/Freeform

“I connected a lot with Grace because she’s going through lot of the pain I went through in my 20s, and it was so relatable,” admits Raisa. “The essence of the movie is to have this guardian looking over you, this best friend who helps you find yourself…. Grace was lost, just like [Lindsay’s character] was in the first one, and she’s found because she’s introduced to a new type of love she didn’t know she had within herself, or that people could have towards her. It has the essence of the first one, but it just grows up with everyone else.”

Banks won’t reveal how Eve reenters the real world at Christmas to shepherd Grace through tough times, but says she “becomes less doll-like, more human” and “more endearing” for round two, both in the story and in Banks’ experienced eyes as a producer: “Eve’s here to show [Grace] you can be that boss bitch,” she explains. “I play her differently now. There are a little bit more layers, and much more comedy. There’s something I find a bit more endearing with this Eve than the first one…. I think a part of it is approaching it from a producer’s perspective…. I feel like I’m stronger because it’s [more fulfilling] to make something better than to do it from scratch.”

As progressive as her soul is, Raisa says Eve’s brain is slightly less tuned into culture this time around, if only for comedic effect.

Guy D'Alema/Freeform

“The world is different than the first one for Eve. She already existed at one point, so she understands the world a little better, but it’s definitely a different time,” she says. “She’s stuck in 2000, so it’s really funny.” So is Banks’ nostalgia: Atop a list of callbacks planted throughout, Banks promises a rap-assisted “club banger” remix of “Be a Star” as well as the return of an “iconic outfit,” familiar locations, and past characters.

“There’s something beautiful we do with Lindsay in this movie that’ll speak to die-hard fans,” she teases of Lohan, whose MTV reality-show filming schedule in Greece prevented her from starring in a major capacity. “I can’t say how, but you will see something!”

Guy D'Alema/Freeform

Raisa says taking the reins felt like a natural step for her, having previously absorbed Life-Size’s feminist themes with her sisters as a child (she even performed spells on her own dolls — which she described as her childhood guardians — in the hopes that they’d spring to life like Eve). Now, at 30, she identifies more with the “pain” and “resentment” Grace feels as a woman forced to grow up too soon.

“The challenge with Grace is allowing Eve to love her…. opening her heart, [getting] comfortable being herself,” Raisa — who embarked on a journey of self-acceptance after undergoing invasive surgery to donate a kidney to her friend Selena Gomez — finishes. “I have a scene where my stomach shows. I was like, ‘Tyra, do you want me to cover the scars?’ She goes, ‘No, girl! Show them! It’s part of your life; It’s your story.’ That’s the theme throughout the movie: be you, show you, love people, don’t be afraid of who you are.”

Eve might’ve outgrown her razzle-dazzle raincoat, but the empowering embrace of Life-Size still fits all.

Life-Size 2 premieres in December as part of Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas. Scroll on for more of EW’s exclusive images.

Guy D'Alema/Freeform
Guy D'Alema/Freeform
Guy D'Alema/Freeform
Guy D'Alema/Freeform
Guy D'Alema/Freeform

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