Carrie Fisher died on Dec. 27, 2016, but continues to remain a commanding presence in the Star Wars universe

“No one is ever really gone.”

With those final words from Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher‘s General Leia Organa is seen hugging Daisy Ridley‘s Rey in the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, three years after Fisher’s death.

The scene tugged at heartstrings as the unseen footage was shown at the Star Wars Celebration in Chicago on Friday.

While Fisher died on Dec. 27, 2016, she has remained a commanding presence in the Star Wars universe, with J.J. Abrams revealing that her character was alive in Episode IX.

“As I’ve said, we couldn’t,” Abrams said of filling the void with unused footage from The Force Awakens. “We all talked about how to move on. She was the best, she was glorious, she was amazing. We all just loved her. It was impossible, there was no way. You don’t recast that part, and you don’t have her disappear. Using CGI was out of the question.”

He continued, “There was actually a way to use those scenes to continue her story. And the crazy thing is, every day it hits me that she’s not here, but it’s so surreal because we’re working with her in scenes. She is alive in these scenes, and in some with Billie [Lourd], her daughter. Princess Leia lives in this film in a way that is mind-blowing to me.”

Earlier this year, Fisher’s brother Todd spoke to ABC News about his sister’s inclusion in the upcoming film.

“There’s a lot of minutes of footage. I don’t mean just outtakes,” Todd said. “This is unused, new content that could be woven into the storyline. That’s what’s going to give everybody such a great kick. It’s going to look like it was meant to be. Like it was shot yesterday.”

He continued, “We’re not allowed to talk about the details of anything … But we’re thrilled at what’s been done.”

And last year, Abrams released a statement assuring fans they had no plans to recast Fisher’s iconic character.

Carrie Fisher will appear in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
| Credit: Lucasfilm

“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” Abrams said. “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is set to premiere on Dec. 20, 2019.