And why the character is now a part of her identity
After a 32 year absence, Princess Leia is coming back to the big screen. Carrie Fisher is reprising her iconic role for the highly anticipated The Force Awakens, which comes out Dec. 18. Fans know very little about how Fisher’s character factors into the plot, except that she’s now referred to as “General Leia.”
The actress recently spoke to TIME about what it took to get back under the princess from Alderaan’s skin. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation:
Was it a difficult decision to come back and do this movie?
No, I’m a female and in Hollywood it’s difficult to get work after 30—maybe it’s getting to be 40 now. I long ago accepted that I am Princess Leia. I have that as a large part of the association with my identity. There wasn’t a lot of hesitation.
Did you miss making Star Wars movies?
No. That unstable I’m not. I miss being young, that was fun. They were fun to make. Not to the degree I imagine people think they were, like playing on a jungle gym. They’re not fun like that because there’s early calls and, as you get older, there are memory issues and pressure with that. But I was glad to do it.
Had Leia changed over the years?
Oh my God, she got so much older. I tried to stop her, but apparently that includes death so that didn’t seem like a good solution. Along with aging comes life experience so in every way that is consistent with even being human, Leia has changed.
Do you bring aspects as an actress to this that you didn’t when you first played her?
Probably, but I try not to. I mean, one hopes that I at least indicate that I have wisdom. Whether I’m successful with that indication or not remains to be seen. And I wear less makeup and I need it more.
You wear less makeup in this film? Was that the director’s decision or yours?
No, it’s me. I’ve seen pictures of myself with makeup on and I look like those women who look like they’re wearing makeup so they can look young, and I don’t think that’s good. They have all these products now called—wait, what’s it called, it’s my favorite—youth suppressant, or age go away, they don’t work. I didn’t wear a lot of makeup to begin with and I was always—you have to be very careful with that stuff. It really annoys me that I’m vain, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to discard that tendency.