Hamill, 65, subtly honored his Star Wars co-star during Sunday’s ceremony while presenting the In Memoriam tribute, with a special nod to “a princess” the world lost in the last year.
Along with Fisher, stage and screen legends including Garry Marshall, Mary Tyler Moore, Gene Wilder and more were honored.
Before he took the stage, Hamill opened up to PEOPLE about his friendship with Fisher.
“Underneath all the bravado and the acerbic remarks and the cutting-edge humor, she was a really vulnerable woman,” he said. “I think she covered up that because vulnerability to her signaled weakness and so she overcompensated for that. In quiet moments she could be a much different person than when she was on — but we loved her on, too.”
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Both Fisher and her mother, the late Debbie Reynolds, appeared in the moving display set to Boyz II Men‘s “It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” which was sung by a group of Broadway veterans and American Idol alum Justin Guarini.
Fisher died on Dec. 27 at age 60. Fisher had been hospitalized for four days after suffering a heart attack while flying from London to Los Angeles on Dec. 23. He mother, Singin’ in the Rain icon Debbie Reynolds, died at the age of 84 a day later, on Dec. 28.
“I have been trying to deal with this,” Hamill said of the death. “There’s the five stages of grief, and just when I think I’ve gotten to acceptance, I bounce back to anger, because I’m mad. She should be here. She made every celebration so much fun. She deserved to be here.”
The 71st annual Tony Awards, hosted by Kevin Spacey, is broadcast live on CBS on Sunday, June 11 from New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.
- Reporting by DAVE QUINN and LIAM BERRY