Growing up as the daughter of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher and the granddaughter of screen legend Debbie Reynolds, Billie Lourd wanted to make it clear that she was her own person. But their deaths, within one day of each other in December 2016, changed that.
"When they were alive, I feel like I really tried to avoid doing things in their shadow," Lourd said on Wednesday's edition of the New Day podcast. "We got offered all these random photoshoots … but I didn’t want to do them when they were alive, because I wanted to make sure that people knew me separately from them and now I wish I could run back and do all of those photoshoots. And do anything with them, really. I guess I just tried to separate myself from them more while they were alive. And now I feel like I'm kind of trying to do the opposite. I try to connect myself to them, because I miss them. And that's been really difficult and sad for me."
Because of her very famous family, Lourd has had to do much of her grieving in public, like when the paparazzi snapped photos of her at the private memorial held for them. And she was open about the difficulty of that.
"To put it lightly, it was brutal. It was really, really brutal and … I hesitate and stutter, because it's really hard for me, because everything I say gets, you know, turned into some headline that I didn't mean," she said.
Lourd cited a headline about three months after her losses that made it sound like, as she put it, she was happy to be able to just be Billie.
"It sounded like I wanted them to die, and that is absolutely the opposite of what I wanted," Lourd said. "I would do anything to get them back, but it sounded like I was excited."
Even now, Lourd said, she misses her grandmother and especially her mom every day.
"She was the greatest, funniest person ever. She was my best fucking friend ever," she said. "There's no one who will ever be as funny as her."
As much as the Booksmart actress loves her mother, she acknowledged that their relationship was sometimes difficult. When the host mentioned Fisher's books, Lourd pointed out that 2004's The Best Awful, a sequel to Postcards From the Edge, fictionalized her childhood.
"I love that one but it's also kind of rough, cause it's about me and my dad, and it's one of those situations where I was thrust into the public eye without wanting to be thrust into the public eye," Lourd said. "And I'm like 7 in the book, and there's a lot of true stories in it. I read it recently and had to go jump in the ocean … and sit there for a second."
Lourd wishes that her mother would have revisited what she wrote, because she thinks it might have helped their relationship.
"When I read [her books], especially that one, I really wish she would have reread them. She could've learned from her stuff, but she really just, like, gave it to an editor and never looked at it again. And I wish she would have reread it because, I mean, there's a whole section in that one about her being an abusive mother and how, you know, brutal it was for me," Lourd said. "And that’s when I had to go jump in the cold ocean and take a deep breath, 'cause I just was so confused that she didn't reread it and didn't stop being an abusive mother. It was so well written and she was so wise and so self-aware of the things she was doing to me and doing to other members of our family, and she couldn't stop. She couldn't stop. Part of me thinks if she would've reread it, she would've been able to, but who knows?"
As Lourd saw firsthand, Fisher was under a lot of pressure and didn't have much support. It was mainly Lourd who provided that support and, as a result, grew up quickly. Part of the problem, as she sees it, was that Reynolds wasn't there for much of Fisher's childhood, and so Fisher was around too much for hers.
"Because I was her best friend. I was her mother. I was her kid. I was her everything and that’s one of the things I’m learning not to do with my kid," said Lourd, who has a 1-year-old son, Kingston, with fiancé Austen Rydell. "That's one of the things that I will not do to my son is put this pressure on him that I had on me."
In fact, Lourd and Fisher were such a big part of each other's lives that, when asked, Lourd answered that if her mother were still alive, life would be much different.
"I don’t know if I would've been able to do some of the work and some of the roles that I have been able to do, because I was also so busy taking care of her, is the truth," Lourd said. "And I wouldn't have had time for those 16-hour days and had time to say yes to things that I wanted to say yes to, because my main job when she was alive was taking care of her and making sure she was OK."