In a new, emotional essay for Time, the 27-year-old actress opens up about growing up as the daughter of Carrie Fisher, and coming to understand the importance of her mother’s work as one of the galaxy’s greatest heroes.
“I grew up with three parents: a mom, a dad and Princess Leia,” Lourd began her essay. “I guess Princess Leia was kind of like my stepmom–technically family, but deep down I didn’t really like her…. When Leia was around, there wasn’t as much room for my mom–for Carrie.”
Fisher — who died in 2016 — starred in the franchise’s original trilogy, which first premiered in 1977 and went on to garner unparalleled success. She later reprised her role in a second trilogy nearly 40 years later.
In the essay, Lourd explained that as a child, she couldn’t understand why people were so in-love with her mother’s iconic character.
“I didn’t want to watch her movie, I didn’t want to dress up like her, I didn’t even want to talk about her,” Lourd wrote. “I just wanted my mom–the one who lived on Earth.”
It wasn’t until Lourd finally sat down to watch the films as a middle schooler that she came to realize why Princess Leia was, in her words, so “cool.”
“I realized then that Leia is more than just a character. She’s a feeling. She is strength. She is grace. She is wit. She is femininity at its finest,” the Scream Queens star wrote. “She knows what she wants, and she gets it. She doesn’t need anyone to defend her, because she defends herself.”
“And no one could have played her like my mother,” she added. “Princess Leia is Carrie Fisher. Carrie Fisher is Princess Leia. The two go hand in hand.”
After graduating college, Lourd got the chance to act alongside her mother in the second Star Wars installment, with Fisher reprising her role as Leia and Lourd stepping into the new role of Lieutenant Connix. However, their time on-screen together was cut one movie short when Fisher died in 2016, before they could begin filming the final movie in the new trilogy, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
“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. Her movie,” Lourd recalled. “Leia was not just a sidekick one of the male leads had on his arm, or a damsel in distress. She was the hero herself.”
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And to honor Fisher’s legacy in the franchise, the late actress will still appear in the next film through unused footage shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Returning director J.J. Abrams, rediscovered the footage of Fisher and was able to rewrite scenes in The Rise of Skywalker around it, with Lourd’s blessing.
“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. For Leia,” she wrote about returning as Lieutenant Connix in the next film.
“I grew up with three parents: a mom, a dad and Princess Leia. Initially, Princess Leia was kind of like my stepmom. Now she’s my guardian angel. And I’m her keeper.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is set to premiere December 20.