A disturbance in the Force: 12 things you need to know about The Acolyte

Lucasfilm’s galaxy far, far away has been relatively quiet for a minute; perhaps some all-time great action choreography, an exciting new ensemble cast, and Carrie-Anne Moss with a lightsaber is all it takes to cut through our Star Wars over-saturation. The Acolyte drops on Disney+ with a double-episode premiere, promising us a look at the Jedi order’s prosperous High Republic era.

Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming series, without delving too deep into spoiler territory; witches, lightsaber-wielding Wookiees, and some interesting legal snafus abound.

1. It’s set in the High Republic era: a century before The Phantom Menace

Finally, a Star Wars series “with no ‘war’ in it”; creator Leslye Headland has outlined the chronology of The Acolyte as taking place long before the sinister Sith uprising of George Lucas’s prequel films, back when Jedis reigned supreme and practically unchallenged. After, frankly, way too many Star Wars films that are somehow linked back to Anakin, Luke, and the whole overfamiliar Skywalker Saga, it’s a welcome step backwards in time.

“I would say, as you move further back, I think you get the Jedi at the height of their power”, the writer and director has said, characterising this Jedi order as a powerful monolith long before the time of Stormtroopers and various Darths. It’s still hundreds of years after the fall of the Old Republic, and is a time period superfans have experienced before in Star Wars: Young Jedi Adventures, plus countless novels and comics.

2. Creator Leslye Headland made your fave female-driven comedy titles

The creative force behind acerbic anti-rom-coms such as Bachelorette and Sleeping With Other People, Headland might be best known for her mind-bending work on Netflix series Russian Doll. So she’s got some sci-fi cred, as well as a darkly comedic streak that could serve The Acolyte‘s gifted ensemble cast well. (The cast even includes Headland’s wife Rebecca Henderson, as green-skinned former Jedi prodigy Vernestra Rwoh.)

The American screenwriter and director has said that the tone of her Star Wars adventure lies somewhere “in-between” Andor and The Mandalorian, calling it a serialised “mystery thriller” with an “overarching story…told over the course of eight episodes”.

3. Amandla Stenberg is corrupted Padawan anti-hero Mae

The Bodies Bodies Bodies star plays a shadowy leading role in The Acolyte, with the show’s trailers and promo materials making it not entirely clear whether she’s the titular convert to the dark side. Headland had Stenberg in mind while creating the role, and the talented actor’s involvement was confirmed in July 2022. A Padawan student who has metamorphosed into a dangerous warrior, Stenberg’s Mae spends much of the above trailer battling her Jedi elders; could she also be the figure in the Darth-esque mask at the end of the teaser, wielding a red lightsaber against a battalion of good guys?

4. Squid Game star Lee Jung-jae learned English for his Jedi Master role

Squid Game‘s main character earned an Emmy for his breakout role back in 2022, and here he swaps Netflix for Disney+…and his native Korean for English. Playing the highly-respected Jedi Master Sol, Jung-jae is seen teaching younglings about the power of the Force in The Acolyte‘s trailers—but a new emotional conflict might drive him to duel one of his greatest students.

5. The ensemble cast includes Manny Jacinto, Dafne Keen, and Charlie Barnett

You might not recognise young Logan star Keen as Theelin/human hybrid Jecki Lon, under all that wacky white-and-orange makeup. She’s joined by Charlie Barnett as Jedi Knight Yord, a reunion for Barnett and creator Headland after his work on Russian Doll. Chiselled The Good Place star Manny Jacinto also makes a striking impression in The Acolyte‘s trailer, looking pretty rumpled as smuggler Qimir (definitely styled like a baby Han Solo-type). It’s a solid line-up of some of the hottest young film and TV talent going at the moment: love you guys, hope none of you die at the hands of Sith darkness!!

6. Carrie-Anne Moss basically plays “Trinity with a lightsaber”

Headland needed an actor to play Master Indara who could immediately indicate to audiences that she was “the most powerful Jedi in the room”—she got it in the form of The Matrix legend Carrie-Anne Moss, who shows off some “Force-fu” in the series’ first trailer. We’re worried, though: Moss isn’t featured very prominently in other group shots, nor is she listed up top in the show’s credits. Could Indara be here for a good time rather than a long time?

Moss sounds like she had a blast either way, telling Empire that she’d almost forgotten how much she loved performing in action scenes: “I love it. It’s hard. But I was just really thrilled that I could do it, and I wanted to do it well. ‘Gimme another take! Gimme another take!'”

7. We’re getting a Wookiee Jedi main character! Finally!

Poor Wookiees; always the big, fan-fave shag carpets, never the lightsaber-wielding heroes. Until now! Loner character Kelnacca is played by returning Wookiee performer Joonas Suotamo, who we’ve seen (kind of?) as Chewbacca in Solo and J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars sequel trilogy. Described as a solitary loner-type, he’ll be the first live-action Wookiee lead we see to finally raise a lightsaber between those big fluffy paws. It’s about time.

8. The show introduces a coven of “Forcewitches”

Distinctly separate from the “Nightsister” witches seen in other Star Wars literature and lore, The Acolyte‘s mysterious coven are lead by Mother Aniseya (a regal Jodie Turner-Smith), hinting at the broader universe of Force-sensitive groups that held power in the High Republic era. Considering Headland’s focus on female storytelling and often dark sensibility, a new set of independent, witchy characters fleshes out the show’s cast perfectly.

9. A would-be producer sued the show for making her miss out on other work

There must’ve been some disturbance in the Force back in March 2023: Deadline reported that two big Star Wars projects went from ‘active’ to ‘dormant’ production, and then followed it up with legal scandal surrounding spurned producer Karyn McCarthy. McCarthy was courted to work as a producer on both Apple TV+ series Sugar and The Acolyte, choosing the latter before being unceremoniously dropped from the deal without payment.

By that time, it was too late to take up Apple TV+’s offer, and McCarthy hit Lucasfilm with a breach of contract lawsuit. “As a result of its bad faith and wrongful termination”, bottom-line terms claimed, “Defendants deprived Ms. McCarthy significant employment, from which she would have earned millions of dollars over the life of the series.”

10. Genre-defying composer Michael Abels made the show’s original score

Abels has daringly combined world music, hip-hop, choral touches and horror stings in his scores for Jordan Peele’s films, with his compositions for Us in particular getting praised as The Wrap‘s No. 1 Score of the Decade. The American composer has stunned in fields as diverse as opera, TV, and guitar concertos, and we’re sure he’ll cook up some interesting new textures for the galaxy far, far away as the sound behind The Acolyte.

11. The costumes show that Jedis used to have a passion for fashion

The glamour, gold embellishments, and cosmopolitan ways of the Jedi order didn’t make it into George Lucas’s original three Star Wars films, with Obi-Wan Kenobi appearing in a raggedy-ol’ dishcloth of a robe after his kind were hunted to near-extinction by the Empire. Still: it would’ve been nice to see some editorial lewks from Mace Windu and a younger Yoda and basically everybody in the maligned prequel films.

Headland borrowed from the franchise’s High Republic books to nail the aristocratic white-and-gold aesthetic Jedis once enjoyed, symbolising their former, uplifted state compared to the simple brown robes of later Force-users. A real glow-down, it seems.

12. Audiences who re-watched The Phantom Menace in cinemas got an early look at The Acolyte

It’s the 25th anniversary of hated Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace, and Lucasfilm showed select audiences a special cinematic preview of The Acolyte to sweeten the deal. Perhaps seeing a glimpse of the High Republic era, a century before baby Anakin and arguments about trade tariffs and all that podracing nonsense, helped put the poorly-reviewed 1999 film in a more flattering context?

We’ll be here, waiting patiently for a Star Wars TV series to reclaim the Jar-Jar Binks narrative and forgive all of the franchise’s past, goofy transgressions. The Gungan, coming to Disney+ sometime in 2025?