When Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters this December, it will coincide with the three year anniversary of the death of Carrie Fisher, the legendary actress who played Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy and the first two films of the new trilogy. In the new cover story for Vanity Fair, director J.J. Abrams revealed that Fisher and her daughter, Billie Lourd, will be able to share the screen in the upcoming film.

According to People, Abrams was able to bring the two together when he rediscovered unused footage from The Force Awakens that featured the mother and daughter, and he subsequently rewrote scenes of The Rise of Skywalker to build in this footage. Initially, he expressed hesitation about placing Fisher and Lourd together onscreen, saying that the film would use previously recorded footage of the mother and daughter but that he had planned on cutting out Lourd to spare her the emotional pain--but, at Lourd’s insistence, he kept the footage as it was.

The effect of doing so, he said, was great: “There are moments where they’re talking; there are moments where they’re touching.” Abrams also added that, “There are moments in this movie where Carrie is there, and I really do feel there is an element of the uncanny, spiritual, you know, classic Carrie.”

The experience of using Fisher and her daughter together, Abrams said, was deeply touching to him. “The crazy thing is, every day it hits me that she’s not here,” he shared. “But it’s so surreal because we’re working with her in scenes. She is alive in these scenes, and in some with Billie, her daughter.”

We’ve always been excited to see the next entry in the Star Wars saga, but now we’re especially looking forward to seeing these touching emotional moments on film. If anything, it’s a testament to the power of this franchise, and of individuals as powerful as Fisher, to remain alive in our minds long after they’re gone.