As the countdown to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens nears, the cast have been talking about the importance of good female characters.

Director JJ Abrams says this latest instalment differs from previous films with its higher female count.

"There have been sometimes very few female characters in these films. We were very lucky to not only have at the centre of the movie Daisy Ridley, who is extraordinary as Rey, but we have Gwendolyn Christie, we have Carrie Fisher, we have Lupita Nyongo, we have female stormtroopers and female resistance pilots. There are female voices and energy throughout this, and it was very important to me and to Kathy Kennedy when we first started talking about this movie that that be something that we bring to this film," said Abrams.

It's a sentiment echoed by actress Daisy Riley, who plays Rey in the film. She says it's important for female fans to be able to relate to characters they see on screen.

"For young women in particular to physically relate to someone that's a really important thing. Because people can relate to Luke's story, they can relate to Han's story but I think Rey, more than just because she's a woman, it transcends gender. The story she goes on is universal. She's a young girl trying to find her way, trying to do the right thing and hoping that there's a better future and so I think both genders will be able to relate to that. But obviously she's a woman and that's really really cool," said Ridley.