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Star Wars cast at D23: Keri Russell's role and Carrie Fisher's final performance

By Don Kaye & Benjamin Bullard
Keri Russell

Lucasfilm brought out the brightest points of light in the Star Wars universe at Disney's D23 Expo on Saturday, rolling out the main cast of the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker to tease (but not spoil) the film that'll be bringing the Skywalker saga to an end later this year.

Keri Russell joined fellow cast members John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, Joonas Suotamo, and Billy Dee Williams along with director J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy, with Russell serving up the slightest of previews about the mysterious character she'll be playing. Oh, and Lucasfilm also debuted a killer new poster that shows off a certain sinister Sith, a fresh tease that only reignited fans' fevered speculation over how Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) will figure into Abrams' story.

"She's really funny and a little bit shady — kind of a criminal," Russell said of her new character. "And an old friend of Poe’s." The Rise of Skywalker also marks the last appearance of Star Wars royalty Carrie Fisher, who'll be featured posthumously once more as Princess Leia.

Russell is making her Star Wars debut with the final film in the original Skywalker series, playing a masked character named Zorri Bliss. She didn't elaborate on her "old friend" tease, so Zorri's relationship to Isaac's Poe Dameron could hint at a romantic backstory, a revealing expansion of Poe's own hidden history, a Lando-and-Han-style case of good old-fashioned frenemies — or potentially even some combination of all of those things.

Russell recently revealed that her first read through the script for Episode IX even turned on her waterworks, telling the Associated Press that "When I read his script that [J.J. Abrams] wrote, I cried. I mean, who knows what it will turn out to be, and I hope it remains true to what he originally wanted."

With The Rise of Skywalker drawing to a close a story line that's now more than four decades in the making, and with the film serving as a final goodbye to the Princess Leia we've known and loved since her first Darth Vader defiance all the way back in 1977, we suspect Russell's tears won't be the only ones flowing once the movie warps into theaters. Star Wars — Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker makes its debut on Dec. 20.