Star Wars: The Force Awakens may not be in cinemas until December, but with Star Wars: Episode VIII currently set for release May 2017, they don’t have time to see whether JJ Abrams’ movie is a success before moving forward with its sequel.
Indeed they’re already casting for new roles, with TheWrap reporting that Disney/Lucasfilm has offered a villainous role to Benicio Del Toro. Although nothing has been officially announced, it seems he’s likely to sign on for the movie.
As you’d expect, there’s little info on the plot (we still know fairly little about The Force Awakens), although as he’s being cast now and Episode VIII isn’t due to shoot until either the end of this year of early 2016, there’s speculation that he may be introduced in Force Awakens before becoming more important in the follow-up.
Of course between these two films we also have the standalone movie Rogue One, which is due out December 2016 and follows the mission to steal the Death Star plans, which led to the events of the first Star Wars movie. That film is currently shooting.