As you surely know, Star Wars: The Force Awakens releases this December. It’s a new era for the franchise, with Lucasfilm now a subsidiary of Disney and George Lucas no longer involved. Kathleen Kennedy leads the charge at Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abram is at the helm of Episode VII. There’s even a whole new trio of fresh-faced, young heroes: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac – Star Wars, the next generation.

But not all is shiny and new. Original Star Wars actors Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford are reprising their iconic roles as Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo, and their involvement plays heavily on fans’ nostalgia (something which the marketing has been keen to capitalize on). Yet, absent from practically any promotional material for The Force Awakens is Luke Skywalker, causing rampant concern and speculation over the Jedi’s whereabouts. Abrams has assured us that Luke is a “very important aspect of the story,” but to know what that is would give away The Force Awakens‘ biggest surprises.

Though limited in what he can say about The Force Awakens thanks to a very strict non-disclosure agreement, Mark Hamill continues giving interviews the same as the rest of the cast. And in the latest issue of Famous Monsters, Hamill discusses how The Force Awakens combines both old and new:

“It is about setting up the next generation of heroes and villains, but the fact that half a dozen cast members from the originals can be there to place it in some sort of context, to be there for the historical side of things, I think it’s wonderful. … Young people can see the progression of the characters. I’m old enough to be Luke’s grandfather now, and that’s a healthy, natural thing for people to see.”

While there were characters (and even a few actors) from the original Star Wars trilogy who appeared in the prequels, there wasn’t as strong a connection between the two trilogies as there is now that the main leads from those original films are returning. Their involvement – along with John Williams, Lawrence Kasdan, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and practical effects like BB-8 – are a link between Episodes VI and VII, between Stars Wars then and Star Wars now.

But with such strong nostalgia all around Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there’s also a sense of dread, of disappointment that the film won’t live up to our expectations. There’s something to be said for wanting to keep our impressions of Luke, Leia, and Han what they were, without having our heroes grow old and frail. Hamill, however, finds that to be Episode VII‘s appeal, noting how things will be different but exciting all the same:

“I think [The Force Awakens] could be every bit as exciting for the audience, [but] it’s not going to be like it was then, when we’re rattling around in the Death Star, and exchanging quips, and jockeying for the affections of the princess. It’s going to be age appropriate. The story has moved on, and our purpose in the story is different than it was then.”

Carrie Fisher Mark Hamill Harrison Ford Star Wars The Force Awakens Star Wars 7: Mark Hamill on the Franchises Generational Shift

Not that we fully know what Luke’s purpose is in The Force Awakens, but it’s clear from the trailers that both Leia and Han are now mentors for the next generation, offering guidance and aide but no longer the driving the story. In the original Star Wars, it was veteran actor Sir Alec Guinness who served that purpose as the wise Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi. And the fact that he is now the same age as Guinness was back then in 1977 is not lost on Hamill:

“Intellectually, I know I’m the same age as Alec Guinness. Emotionally, I’m thinking, “Are you kidding me?!? I still like The Three Stooges and the Rolling Stones. How could I be old?”

How could you be old? Because you like the Three Stooges and the Rolling Stones. Zing! All kidding aside, we’re very lucky The Force Awakens has been able to incorporate the original Star Wars trio. Their involvement is a connective thread not afforded the prequels. Though the story may no longer be theirs, they’ll be there to pass it on to the next generation.

NEXT: 10 Things We Want to See in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.

Check out Famous Monsters of Filmland #283 for their full interview with Mark Hamill. Available on newstands December 8th or for pre-order via CaptainCo.

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