In Town & Country’s September issue, the actress is featured on her first cover since Fisher and Reynolds’ deaths in December. In a conversation with her American Horror Story costar Sarah Paulson, Lourd opens up about how she’s becoming her own person in the wake of their deaths.
“I’ve always kind of lived in their shadows, and now is the first time in my life when I get to own my life and stand on my own,” Lourd, 25, said. “I love being my mother’s daughter, and it’s something I always will be, but now I get to be just Billie.”
She continued: “It’s a lot of pressure, because she had such an incredible legacy, and now I have to uphold that and make it evolve in my own way.”
Lourd is paving her own way as an actress with roles in Scream Queens and the upcoming season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, but she said her mom had a hand in her decision to pursue acting after they appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens together.
“[On set] my mother would pull me aside and be like, ‘It’s weird that you’re so comfortable here. This is the most uncomfortable environment in the world. If you’re comfortable here, you should do this,'” she said.
Fisher, best known as Star Wars’ Princess Leia, suffered a heart attack while on a flight from London to Los Angeles. She later died in the hospital at the age of 60, just one day before Reynolds.
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To get through both losses, Lourd remembered her mother’s sense of humor.
“If life’s not funny, then it’s just true – and that would be unacceptable,” Lourd said. “Even when she [Fisher] died, that was what got me through that whole thing. When Debbie died the next day, I could just picture her saying, ‘Well, she’s upstaging me once again, of course – she had to.'”
After toxicology reports showed Fisher had drugs in her system at the time of her death, Lourd addressed her mom’s battle with drug addiction and mental illness in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE, saying Fisher would “want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles.”
“Tons of people grow up with mentally ill parents who have drug problems… It’s such a common thing, and people really don’t talk about it, ” she said about why she decided to make the statement. “It ultimately helped so many more people.”