It’s finally here! The Last Jedi, the next installment in Star Wars canon, is about to be unleashed on the masses – and the excitement is palpable.

The sequel pretty much picks up where The Force Awakens left off, with the most compelling storyline revolving around Luke Skywalker, Rey and Kylo Ren and their good/evil stance within the Force. Also, the Rebels are still fighting the good fight, as Poe, Finn and General Leia square up against the First Order and Supreme Leader Snoke. The film is a great ride and filled with more humor and emotional moments than any of the previous installments.

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At the recent press conference, we got to hear from the entire cast, along with director Rian Johnson, and here are seven we learned about Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

On differentiating The Last Jedi from The Force Awakens and also The Empire Strikes Back as a second chapter in a trilogy?

Rian Johnson: It’s a second movie in the trilogy and I think we’ve been kind of trained to expect it’ll be a little darker and obviously it looks a little darker. The thing is for me, I loved the tone of the original films and also that J.J. [Abrams] captured in The Force Awakens the fun. It’s a Star Wars movie, first and foremost and that means you have the intensity and you’ve got the opera, but it also means that it makes you come out of the theater wanting to run in your backyard, grab your spaceship toys and make them fly around. That’s a key ingredient to it. So we’re going to go to some intense places in the movie but I hope also it’s fun. It’s funny.

Mark Hamill: My answer will be in direct proportion to the amount of screen time I have.

John Boyega: I just think the story’s moving forward. I just feel like J.J. had a blueprint, a foundation of Force Awakens that was pretty good and now it’s about moving forward with the story and just challenging the characters. All the characters are under intense pressure, and so it’s a time which everyone has their own specific reckoning, and it’s all different. It’s like a lot going on. I’ve only watched it once and the first thing is that I want to watch it again because of the amount of information and Easter eggs in there as well.

Oscar Isaac: I think the thing as well is that often with the second chapter in a story of three, because the first one kind of sets the tone and the world and the new characters, introduced them, in the second one you don’t have to spend so much time doing that. You can really just delve into the story, into what’s happening, like John said, to the conflict of each of the characters. I think what Rian’s done so incredibly well is that he’s challenged deeply every single character, including the droids with like the biggest challenges they’ve ever faced, and that’s how you’re able to really get to learn about them, on all sides of the spectrum, from light to dark. You know, it’s like he’s found a way to get to the central point of that character and try to challenge them as best as he can. I think it’s really amazing what he’s done.

On the newcomers geeking out about being in a Star Wars movie:

Kelly Marie Tan (as technician Rose): I’m trying not to cry right now because this is so weird and different. Yeah, I feel like Rian has said this before but it definitely feels like you have to find a way to just do the work and kind of block everything out, but then C-3PO comes up and you’re like, ‘Oh god!” So you’re constantly figuring out how can I figure out how to work in this environment and then you’re like, but also this is awesome.

Laura Dern (who plays Admiral Holdo): And just to add to that, what Rian spoke to, that he does so beautifully describing the intimacy of discovering each character’s conflict, which is just extraordinary, given the enormity of the cast. That he gave us that in the experience of the workplace, and it was shocking. Oscar and I always talked about just how stunned we were that we were in such a massive environment, but it did feel like we were making a indie movie. [Rian] was always encouraging us to try things and explore character, and explore this duality of the light and the dark within characters. The movie speaks to so beautifully, not just that there are alternative universes but what lies within, which seems to be the place that George Lucas first started the mythology. It’s just so brilliant. And a group of us sitting together watching it for the first time was amazing because it was like we were with 3,000 people. We were screaming, standing up, crying.

On taking some of his visual cues from The Empire Strikes Back:

Rian Johnson: My cinematographer Steve Yedlin, who I’ve been best friends with since I was 18 years old, we met in film school, and so to be standing next to each other on the Star Wars set was pretty surreal. I think Empire is just the most beautiful, of all the films. So Steve and I looked at the lighting in that it’s also kind of the most – it’s pretty daring in terms of how dark they were willing to go with some of it – literally dark, and how gorgeous they went with some of the choices they made with the shaping of the lighting.

Then in terms of an actual visual aesthetic, I made a choice very early on that I thought, well, I can either try and copy my idea of what the original movies did, which was much more of kind of a formal, the camera didn’t move a ton and it was a much more formal type visual aesthetic, or I realized we’re going to take visual cues lighting wise and design wise from the previous movies. I need to just shoot this movie the way that I would shoot a movie, because at the end of the day, if I’m not engaged with it, and I’m not trying to tell the story the way that really makes me excited, then it’s not going to be up there on the screen. So I kind of cut myself loose camera movement wise and shot wise from trying to imitate the past and just try to tell the story as excitingly as I could up on the screen.

On the female characters and what they represent to little girls everywhere:

Daisy Ridley: As a girl growing up in London, obviously I knew there was a disparity in films but I wasn’t so aware of it. Growing up in a liberal household, I was never really made to feel any one way. So when I got involved I didn’t really – like, I knew it was a big deal — but the response was so beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s not like I ever took it for granted or anything but it was just so monumental, the response and how people felt about it, and obviously that’s a testament to everyone who created the characters in the beginning. I think what’s great about everyone is it’s not like she’s a girl, this is a guy, this is anything. Everyone’s just, just great characters that happily are falling into broader categories now, so I’m thrilled.

Kelly Marie Tran: I agree. I think that it feels like both an honor and a responsibility at the same time. I feel like from the beginning when I initially found out I got this role, I just felt like I wanted to do the whole thing justice, and I’m so excited that guys, the girls in this movie kick some butt. Every single one is so good, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.

Laura Dern: I just want to pay tribute to Rian for being one of the most brilliantly subversive filmmakers I’ve ever been able to bear witness to. In the case of the look of my character, I was moved by the fact that he really wanted her strength to first lead with a very deep femininity and to see a powerful female character, but also be feminine that moves away from a stereotype that’s sometimes perceived in strong female characters, that they must be like the boys. I thought that was a really interesting choice to get to witness.

Gwendoline Christie: I was so delighted. I wasn’t cast in the first Star Wars film yet when I heard about the casting, and I was utterly delighted to see that there was a more representative selection of actors that were going to be in these incredible Star Wars films, and that has continued. You know, everything that my amazing colleagues say is absolutely right. You get to see women that are not being strong just because they’re acting like men. They’re doing something else. And also you’re seeing a developed character or at least a developing character, that’s showing some complex character traits. And I’m just delighted about that. I’m delighted that something as legendary as Star Wars has decided to be modern and to reflect our society more as it is.

Andy Serkis: Well, speaking as the leader of the First Order, I would say that Snoke is very unimpressed with the fact that there is such a huge female force that seems to be growing in the universe. Its deeply threatening, it’s deeply undermining, it’s got to be stopped.

On feeling a responsibility to lead the way for a next generation of actors to come into the Star Wars world:

Adam Driver: I don’t think that the lesson that I learned from the first one from Mark, Carrie [Fisher] and Harrison [Ford] is not so much telling you and other people that I’ve worked with, it’s not telling you what your experience is going to be because we’re all different and we see the world differently. It’s hard to impose an idea on someone that you don’t know. I think it’s everyone’s relationship to – certainly within them I would imagine is different, and that’s kind of for them to discover, and it’s almost more generous to give someone space, to make it personal to them.

On returning to the character all these years later:

Mark Hamill: I don’t think any line in the script epitomized my reaction more than “This is not going to go the way you think.” Rian pushed me out of my comfort zone, as if I weren’t as intimidated and terrified to begin with, but I’m grateful, because you have to trust someone and he was the only Obi Wan available to me, not only in my choices as an actor, but my choices in sock wear.

Rian Johnson: You have learned well, young padawan.

On how the death of Han Solo carries on in The Last Jedi:

John Boyega: I think we’re just keeping it moving, to be honest with you, man. It’s true, the pressure’s on; there’s no time. I think that’s the one thing that’s unique to me about watching this movie was just the commentary on war. I think there hasn’t been a Star Wars movie yet that has explored war in the way The Last Jedi does. It’s very messy, the categorizing of good and evil is all mixed together, so you know, in terms of Han, there’s no, you know, I’m sure we all feel sentimental if someone was to sit Finn down or sit Rey down, but Rey’s off training, she’s got stuff to do. I’ve got back injury, I’ve got stuff to do. I can’t think about Han at the moment.

Oscar Isaac: I mean, I think it’s reverberating but he’s right. You know, it’s a dire situation; it’s critical. The resistance is on its last legs. You know, they’re trying to survive. First Order’s right on top of us. You know, it is like war, where you go to just keep moving to try to survive, and so you feel I think the momentum of everything that happened in The Force Awakens just pushing and getting to a critical mass in this film.

Daisy Ridley: I will interject there, and I think this is the beauty of having storylines that are sort of happening in tandem and affecting each other, because I would say that Rey at least is very much affected by it. In the first, Rey, as a character has been alone for a really long time and she’s really open to love and friendship, so Finn and BB-8 come along and it’s like this amazing adventure. And then Han, without trying to, she seeks something from him because there’s an intimacy and there’s a sort of father figure she’s never dreamed of for her. Then that gets snatched away, and she’s understanding everything’s new to her, so she’s understanding things in a different way. Luckily for me, because I was trying to get to grips with everything going on, and then Rey’s trying to get to grips with everything going on. So for Rey at least there is some time. Everything’s moving forward but she has some time to ask questions and wonder what it is that would have led someone to do something like that, and also how that directly affects the world around her, ‘cause yeah, and then you know, she’s worried about Finn at home, so I would say she’s maybe a little more affected, at least emotionally on screen, than the others.

On what role did Leia played as a young Star Wars fan?

Gwendoline Christie: Well, she was very significant because I was first shown A New Hope when I was 6, and I remember thinking, wow, that character’s really different. I watched TV and film obsessively from such a young age but it stayed with me throughout my formative years, of she’s really interesting. She’s really smart, she’s really funny, she’s courageous, she’s bold, she doesn’t care what people think, and she isn’t prepared to be told what to do. And she doesn’t look the same as a sort of homogenized presentation of a woman that we had been used to seeing. So that was really instrumental to me as someone that didn’t feel like they fitted that homogenized view of what a woman was supposed to be, that there was inspiration there, that you could be an individual and celebrate yourself and be successful without giving yourself over, without necessarily making some sort of terrible, huge compromise. So it was a big inspiration for me.

To play a character as well from what we’ve seen in The Force Awakens, I was very excited when I was shown just the basic element of the costume, and here we were seeing character whereby a woman wasn’t – her femininity was not delineated in terms of the shape of her body, in terms of her physical attractiveness. Those elements, that weird random group of elements which we’re born with in some kind of odd lottery and then we’re judged on in society. And I was just delighted to be able to have that opportunity.

Laura Dern: A profound impact that she made on me as a girl, and spoken so beautifully by Gwen, but I’ll just speak to this present experience. To say that as we always had with Carrie, not just Leia, her wisdom. People speak about people who are brave or fearless, but beyond that, I’ve known luckily a few people that would hold those descriptions, but not that they would be without shame. That’s what moved me the most about the icon she gave us. But also what she gave us individually and personally which is to say Carrie directly and without shame shared her story, and expected nothing less from any of us. The privilege of watching how Rian has so beautifully captured all of that and her grace in this amazing, beautiful, pure performance, but also I think she found an equal irreverent sub-service and they had this dance that gives us this performance that I was just so moved by.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi sets to blast off Friday!