PEOPLE – Lucky for the galaxy, Daisy Ridley did not give in to her fear playing new hero Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Fear, of course, is the path to the Dark Side.

“Because I hadn’t made a film before, the whole thing was scary,” Ridley says in PEOPLE’s Star Wars special issue. “I had to get over the overwhelming fear of it. That was the hardest thing.”

After all, the 23-year-old British actress went from a 15-second character in one episode of a little-seen PBS TV show, Mr. Selfridge, to a central character in the globally anticipated Star Wars sequel.

Ridley has since been prominent in The Force Awakens trailers, TV spots, posters, toys and more. Fan speculation is rampant that her character, whom Ridley has described as “solitary” but “not a princess,” is connected to the Skywalker family tree. The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams has deliberately kept Rey’s full name secret until the movie’s Dec. 18 premiere.

What is known, as reported by Entertainment Weekly, is that Rey was abandoned by her family on the junkyard planet Jakku when she was only 5 years old. That’s of course much different from Ridley’s childhood.

“I actually wanted to be a zookeeper when I was 5,” she says. “I was somewhat naughty as a child. My parents found a performing-arts school, and it kept me really busy. I loved the drama classes.”

Ridley will become a galactic star when the movie premieres on Dec. 18, and she’s not afraid of that or what comes next. “I don’t have a dream role after this,” she says. “I’m just going to plod through life and see what comes my way.”

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.

Yesterday (December 2) Daisy was seen with the cast of the hit musical “The Color Purple” on Broadway in New York City.

ROLLING STONE – It is a bleak time for the Republic. It is a period of great struggle for the entire planet, and not only is the dark side winning, it’s no longer clear any other side even exists. Seriously, you guys – Earth is messed up. Just ask a polar bear, or an almond farmer, or a GOP debate moderator. Or maybe check in with Luke Skywalker.

“The world is so horrible,” says Mark Hamill, Luke’s closest earthly representative, sitting in the shadow of swaying trees in his rather pleasant Malibu yard. At 64, Hamill is older than Alec Guinness was in the first Star Wars, and is in the process of regrowing a distinctly Obi-Wan-ish beard. “Between the Middle East and gun violence and global warming and racism, it’s just horrible. And people need this. It’s therapeutic.”

The “this” in question is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, out on December 18th and directed by geek hero J.J. Abrams, fresh from rebooting the Star Trek franchise. It is the seventh Star Wars movie, and the first not under the control of the saga’s gnomic creator, George Lucas, who let it all go in 2012, selling Lucasfilm and its franchise to Disney for $4 billion. The Force Awakens will return to the Star Wars galaxy three decades after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi, launching what Disney intends to be an endless series of movies.

Jedi ended with what appeared to be a total defeat for the evil Empire, capped with what Harrison Ford called a “teddy-bear picnic” of dancing Ewoks, complete with smiley Jedi ghosts at the sidelines. The Rebel Alliance might as well have pinned a “Mission Accomplished” banner to a tree on the forest moon of Endor.

“With any movie that ends with going off in the sunset and a celebratory moment, you can ask, ‘Well, what happened the day after?'” says Abrams. “Then decades go past. We were literally asking, ‘Well, what happened to the disbanded Empire? What happened to the Republic?'”

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The cast of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ covers another magazine for December and this time it is for Rolling Stone Mexico. Scans have been added to the gallery!

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Magazine Scans > 2015 > Rolling Stone Mexico (December)