Lourd, 26, recently expressed gratitude to the American Horror Story executive producer for casting her on the seventh season of hit FX series. “I cannot thank Ryan enough. Honestly, it kind of saved my life,” she said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
Get push notifications with news, features and more.
You’ll get the latest updates on this topic in your browser notifications.
“When Ryan offered me Cult, it was just a few months after my mom passed, and it honestly helped me process all of my emotions through these characters,” Lourd explained.
“Being able to cry for [my character] Winter helped me cry for myself. And it’s been really healing and cathartic in an amazing way. … It is heavy. We spend like, 14 hours a day crying, and sometimes I go home and I will cry in my car for no reason, because it’s like peeing. Once you break the seal, you can’t stop,” she said.
Fisher was flying from London to Los Angeles on Dec. 23, 2016, when she went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics removed her from the flight and rushed her to a nearby hospital, where she was treated for a heart attack. She died in the hospital four days later.
The next day, Fisher’s mother (and Lourd’s grandmother) Debbie Reynolds died after suffering a stroke. The Singin’ in the Rain star was 85.
After toxicology reports showed Fisher had drugs in her system at the time of her death, Lourd addressed her mom’s battle with drug addiction and mental illness in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE, saying Fisher would “want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles.”
“Tons of people grow up with mentally ill parents who have drug problems… It’s such a common thing, and people really don’t talk about it, ” she said about why she decided to make the statement. “It ultimately helped so many more people.”
During her difficult time, Lourd also built strong relationships with the members of the AHS cast and crew.
“Getting to be around all the incredible people on set, they’ve become like a family to me,” she said. “Honestly, these women are some of my best friends now. Leslie Grossman, Sarah [Paulson], Emma [Roberts] — it’s incredible to be on set with them. I feel so lucky, I pinch myself every day. It’s so fun.”
Lourd returned to the franchise for season 8 of AHS: Apocalypse. She played Mallory, a witch who banded together with other coven members to help stop Antichrist Michael Langdon from world domination.
“Getting to play Mallory has made me find this sense of, like, kindness and empathy in myself that I know is there, but I don’t really get to access every day,” she told ET. “It’s been really, really rewarding to play this lovely, sweet person who is just so empathetic and connected to the other characters. It’s refreshing for me.”
Telling Apocalypse‘s story amid the #MeToo movement made the season “even more powerful than it would have been,” Lourd said, adding, “It means so much more. Getting to watch all of us be more powerful than even the Antichrist, it was so inspirational, I think, and such a great message for young girls and women out there.”
“It’s completely surreal,” she said. “There’s no way to really explain it — it’s so hard to talk about. If I say I’m doing good, I’m too happy. If I say I’m not doing good, then I’m a mess. So it’s really hard to know what to say about it because it’s so surreal and impossible to deal with.”
RELATED: Billie Lourd Opens Up About Life After Loss of Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds: ‘Now I Get to Be Just Billie’
Besides working on American Horror Story, Lourd turned to her mother’s sense of humor to help get her through both losses.
“If life’s not funny, then it’s just true – and that would be unacceptable,” Lourd said. “Even when she [Fisher] died, that was what got me through that whole thing. When Debbie died the next day, I could just picture her saying, ‘Well, she’s upstaging me once again, of course – she had to.’ ”