Good morning, and welcome to today’s round of Star Wars: The Force Awakens updates! With the release less than a few weeks away, the details and videos and photos (and…and…) haven’t slowed down one bit. Today brings a new featurette exploring Daisy Ridley’s Rey and her background, while an extensive cover story in Empire reveals J.J. Abrams’ influences, Mark Hamill’s hints about Luke’s absence and the importance of Andy Serkis’ mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke.

The featurette above is another of Disney’s special On the Set spots, this one focusing on Rey and her life as a scavenger on Jakku. The Force Awakens also continues the tradition of having people understand droid-speak, as you can see in a pretty cute moment between Rey and BB-8 — “Classified? Really?” And around the one-minute mark you’ll spot a peculiar background character, which looks to be the alien played by a heavily-disguised Simon Pegg.

Over at Empire (via Star Wars News Net), their latest cover story centers on The Force Awakens and offers a few new pieces of info, chief among them: Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke is the real big bad of the new Star Wars trilogy, the scary shadow behind Kylo Ren. Says the actor:

I will say this one spoiler-y thing: he was critical in the seduction of Ren to the dark side. he is a hugely important part of the story and will continue to be.

Serkis previously told EW that Snoke is very large, very tall, somewhat disfigured and with an “idiosyncratic bone structure.” In the latest interview he confirms that Snoke is a new Emperor Palpatine of sorts:

Exactly that. And he’s severely damaged. Although he is a powerful leader, he comes across as vulnerable. Very scarred and disfigured.

As for the classic lightsaber duels, J.J. Abrams says he took inspiration from the classic films, which presented a more “rough” and “primitive” style (subtle dig at the prequels). He also discussed his non-Star Wars influences:

He looked at “the confidence” of John Ford Westerns. He took in the “unbelievable scene choreography and composition” of Kurosawa’s High and Low. And he studied “the powerful stillness” of Terrence Malick. “It’s not something I would normally have thought of coming to Star Wars,” he says. The spare visual style of Ford, Kurosawa and Malick points to a key mandate for Abrams’ approach to Episode VII: the distinctive less-is-more quality of the originals.

And finally, Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill has been notably absent from the marketing materials, though some believe that’s his robotic hand we see with R2-D2 in what looks like a volcanic cave of sorts. Many have speculated that Luke spends the majority of the film alone, with much of the plot revolving around the search for the famed Jedi, and Hamill’s description of working on the film supports that:

It reminded me of when I was in Tunisia on the salt flats. If you could get into your own mind and shut out the crew and look at the horizon , you really felt like you were in a galaxy far, far away. I had that same wave of emotion happen to me when I was on Skellig Michael in Ireland. I wasn’t anticipating it.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18.

A Complete History of Official Star Wars Posters