“It’s something I really can’t grasp and understand but I’m just riding every single wave of this and enjoying every single moment,” Payne, 37, tells PEOPLE. “Taking it all in.”
The Grand Prairie, Texas, mom of two – Cadence, 7, and Duncan, 6 – skyrocketed to Internet fame last weekend when a Facebook live video of herself infectiously laughing while wearing a toy Chewbecca mask broke site records, garnering millions of views (over 145 million to date!).
While Payne, dubbed “Chewbacca Mom,” is obviously a natural in front of the camera (she was a musical theater major in college), she never expected noteriety – especially not for her love of Star Wars.
After marrying husband Chris – a man she affectionately calls “her rock” – nearly 16 years ago, Payne says she put her dreams on hold. “And that’s fine,” she explains. “We all go through different seasons, and I’ve loved every single season.”
So how is her family handling this new season? The kids are too young to fully process their mother’s newfound celebrity, she tells PEOPLE, but her husband is still her “biggest support system.”
“He knew that when he married me he signed up for a lot,” she laughs. “And he absolutely loved everything about me and whatever that would include in our future together, whatever that would include in our journey together. That’s really what marriage is, when you sign up, you sign up for everything. Even the stuff you don’t know that’s coming.”
It was Chris who first introduced Payne to Star Wars, and eventually, after gauging their readiness, the pair showed Cadence and Duncan the series.
“Just recently in all honesty, they’ve started really enjoying the action movies,” she shares. “Things that aren’t necessarily animated or new, but that are really just fan favorite stuff that mom and dad liked growing up.”
And they immediately loved Star Wars, Payne says: “They just were engrossed in it as we were when we were kids.” When The Force Awakens hit theaters last winter, the stay-at-home mom made it a family outing, taking her kids to a special reserved seating theatre.
Star Wars is like family to us, with the way that it has incredible story lines and adventure, and good versus evil,” she says. “You’re always trying to see the good guy win. Who wouldn’t want to show that to their kids? It’s awesome.”
Her affection for the series was even more evident while meeting director Abrams on James Corden‘s show, Monday. “That was probably the coolest thing that has ever happened in my life,” she says, calling Abrams “absolutely brilliant,” and citing Lost as one of her favorite television shows of all time.
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Soon, she’ll meet the actual Chewbacca – when she comes face-to-face with actor Peter Mayhew – and, on Tuesday, Payne visited the famed Lucasfilm headquarters in San Francisco. “I was just happy that I got a special badge and they let me in,” she shares, laughing. “I just kept thinking to myself, ‘They’re gonna kick me out at any minute. I’m not worthy!’ ”
But Payne says she isn’t intimidated by the rotating door of big names that have come into her life since last week. “I think I can hold my own, but man I am extremely grateful for every opportunity,” she says, adding, “I’ll tell you that the people that I’ve met the past few days have just been incredible people – and not just the ones that I’ve been sitting on the couch with. Those on the street, or in the hotel, or in the airports wanting to take a photo with me. I’ve just been blessed.”
So what’s next for Payne and her family of four? It’s limitless,” she says.
“If this happened to you overnight, what would you do?” she asks, adding, “Doors have been opened for opportunity, and I’m just excited to see what the future holds.”
Payne will appear next on The Star Wars Show, which airs Wednesday at 12 p.m. PST on the Star Wars YouTube channel and at StarWars.com.