"I hope Rey will be something of a girl-power figure," Ridley said of her Star Wars: The Force Awakens character

By Lindsay Kimble
Updated December 07, 2015 05:40 PM
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Credit: Randy Holmes/ABC/Getty

While Carrie Fisher is a seasoned Hollywood veteran and Daisy Ridley is only just making her big debut, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens actresses have something in common: playing strong, empowered females on screen.

The women opened up about their characters in the highly anticipated new installment of the iconic franchise during a press conference for the film in Los Angeles Sunday.

Fisher, 59, who will reprise her role as Princess Leia in The Force Awakens, said she was the “only girl on the all boy set” when she filmed the first Star Wars movie in 1977.

“I am the beginning of girl power,” she joked. “Deal with it!”

She added, “What was really fun about doing anything girl power-esque is bossing men around. I know a lot of you women out there haven’t done that yet and I encourage you to do so late this afternoon.”

Ridley, meanwhile, got more serious about the implications of being one of only a few female characters in the series.

“Well, obviously Princess Leia and Carrie are a source of inspiration for girls for the past 30 years,” the 23-year-old, who stars as Rey, said. “I’m definitely not quite there yet but I hope Rey will be something of a girl power figure.”

The British actress attributed the empowering characters to the writing of director J.J. Abrams and co-scribe Larry Kasdan, and “the story of which [Rey] is woven into richly.”

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“I guess there’s no other way except to say that she will have some impact in a girl power-y way,” Ridley continued, adding, “She’s brave and she’s vulnerable and she’s so nuanced. That’s what’s so exciting playing a role like this. She doesn’t have to be one thing to embody a woman in a film, and for me she’s not important because she’s a woman. She’s just important.”

Ridley said she feels like Rey “transcends gender” and will “speak to” both men and women.

“But obviously we started with Leia and Leia’s still there kicking ass,” she added.

See exclusive photos, get a first look at new characters and learn more secrets from the cast and crew of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in PEOPLE’s Star Wars collector’s edition, on newsstands Dec. 9. And for more exclusive Star Wars news, come back to PEOPLE.com every day until it hits theaters Dec. 18

Fisher said she has enjoyed getting back into character as Leia, but admitted that she was still “very nervous.”

“I’m the custodian of Princess Leia so I never got out of character and I wondered if that would be noticed,” Fisher said of joining The Force Awakens. “It’s been a long time and I don’t like looking at myself at this age in a large way, so that was scary and remains so.”

Through it all, Fisher has kept up her sense of humor – something she thinks Leia also has.

“She would have to. Wearing those hair pieces,” she joked. “I do now have a baboon a– hairstyle. I mean that with love. So you need a sense of humor for that sort of thing. It keeps it lively and fun when you’re getting shot at in everything.”

Reporting by SCOTT HUVER