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Star Wars: The Acolyte: Premiere Date, Trailer, Cast & More

We dig into the setting of the new Star Wars series, the history, the characters, and what it could mean for the franchise going forward.

by | March 19, 2024 | Comments


For the first time since 2020, the forward momentum of Star Wars storytelling on Disney+ is taking a pause. Sure, that sounds scary, but it was something both Disney and Lucasfilm were planning for as pandemics and strikes — and the downturn in streaming as a business — changed the ambitions to create a nearly unending stream of shows taking their cues from the galactic status quo outlined in The Mandalorian.

But for all the headline-grabbing action in the post-Return of the Jedi era, with its Imperial Remnants, Mandos reclaiming their world, and Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelssen) returning from exile, Star Wars on Disney+ has also looked back with superlative shows like Andor, animated programs like Star Wars: The Bad Batch, and miniseries like Obi-Wan Kenobi, expanding the texture of Star Wars‘ past. The latest in this tract of Star Wars “historticals” (to borrow and modify a term from Doctor Who) will be this summer’s Star Wars: The Acolyte.

Announced in 2020 and further clarified at the infamous 2020 Disney Investors Day — where discarded programs like Rangers of the New Republic and long-delayed projects like the Lando Calrissian series were also revealed — it will soon see the light of day.

But what makes The Acolyte so different? And could it lead to a third sustained avenue for Star Wars storytelling? Let’s review everything we know about the series and, perhaps, glean some answers.

In An Age Of Light, A Darkness Rises

Scene from Lucasfilm's The Acolyte (2024)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm)

Set roughly 100 years prior to the Skywalker Saga (and The Mandalorian era for that matter), The Acolyte concerns itself with the end of what is now called The High Republic era. Debuting first in a series of novels and comic books, The High Republic is a time when the galaxy was at its zenith. The ongoing tensions between the Jedi and Sith, as chronicled in other spinoff media, are seemingly finished with the Sith defeated. The Republic is not yet brimming with the corruption that would make it vulnerable to Sheev Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) a century later. While trouble still exists in fits and starts — assassin droids, inequity, and organized crime never truly go away — it is very much a golden age.

But such times are tough places for drama — even if examining a “Star Peace” is part of the show’s remit — so The Acolyte outlines how it all went wrong. Per Lucasfilm’s own description, “an investigation into a shocking crime spree pits a respected Jedi Master (Lee Jung-jae) against a dangerous warrior from his past (Amandla Stenberg). As more clues emerge, they travel down a dark path where sinister forces reveal all is not what it seems….”

Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's The Acolyte (2024)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm)

Of course, that’s just the teaser text. In earlier press releases, Lucasfilm referred to the program as a “mystery-thriller” revealing “shadowy secrets” and “emerging dark-side powers” in the waning days of The High Republic. But from the footage we saw at last year’s Star Wars Celebration — some of which appears in the newly released trailer (see above) — we can also say it will look markedly different from just about any Star Wars tale committed to the screen, with the Jedi Order, for once, in a position of strength and many Jedi willing to secure peace and justice within the Republic. Also, many in the order wear more striking robes than the brown or beige fits we see of the Jedi a century later. Although, we wouldn’t be surprised if the widespread adoption of simpler threads becomes a story point in The Acolyte. Some characters, as seen in the trailer, are already in the more traditional vestments.

Additionally, as seen in the trailer, Force talents and combat are clearly inspired by wuxia martial arts films, giving the samurai-inspired Jedi a new texture via a different Asian influence.

One other thing to consider: At Star Wars Celebration in 2023, show creator Leslye Headland mentioned she envisioned the program as a show about the villains. “I don’t know what that says about me,” she said at the time. “I pitched Frozen meets Kill Bill. What became apparent was that we’d need to set it between the High Republic and the prequels. This is when the bad guys are outnumbered. They are the underdogs.”

Although, considering the way the unseen assailant with a red lightsaber deals with a squad of Jedi in the trailer, the bad guys may not be so obviously outmatched.

Anywhere Injustice Spreads

Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in Lucasfilm's The Acolyte (2024)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm)

As per the mission of the Jedi and the nature of a mystery, expect varied locations as The Acolyte unfolds. The Jedi Temple on the capital world of Coruscant, for example, can already be glimpsed in the trailer while wilder, less urbanized planets can also be seen. Expect dwellings cut out of caves, worlds where it always rains, and maybe even a certain desert planet.

But unlike most Star Wars stories thus far, don’t expect as much of the galaxy’s grungier elements at the start. As the series will also feature the decline of the High Republic, prepare for that glossier aesthetic to give way to something a little more worn — not unlike the change in aesthetics between Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, which charted the final fall of the Republic into Empire. In Headland’s thinking, the design of the galaxy gets sleeker the further back you go from the Skywalker Era. Granted, fans of the Knights of the Old Republic games might disagree with that assessment.

Also, as seen in the trailer, the more rough-and-tumble parts of the galaxy still exist, perhaps revealing a rotten core in the glamour of the High Republic.

The Guardians Of Peace And Justice

Amandla Stenberg in The Acolyte (2024)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm)

As mentioned above, Lee Jung-jae and Amandla Stenberg headline the series as Sol, the Jedi Master tasked with resolving the crimes, and Mae, the “dangerous warrior,” respectively. In earlier press materials, Mae was referred to as Sol’s former Padawan learner, suggesting she broke from the Jedi Order to pursue an alternative education. It is still unclear if this means she is the titular acolyte or if someone else waits in the shadows with that red lightsaber and powers the Jedi have not seen in an age.

Presuming, of course, that is a Sith who wants to usher in the fall of the High Republic.

Other cast members include Manny Jacinto, Dafne Keen, Charlie Barnett, Jodie Turner-Smith, Rebecca Henderson, Dean-Charles Chapman, Joonas Suotamo, and Carrie-Anne Moss. Some of the cast — like Moss’s Indara, Chapman’s Torbin, Barnett’s Yord Fandar, Keen’s Jecki Lon, and Suotamo’s new Wookie character, Kelnacca — are already confirmed to be Jedi. Others, like Turner-Smith’s Mother Aniseya, act outside the Order’s guidance. Last April, she called joining the Star Wars galaxy, even as a new character, “exciting” and “nerve-wracking” and said she felt like “I had big shoes to fill.”

Henderson, meanwhile, is said to be playing Vernestra Rwoh, a character with deep ties to the High Republic publishing initiative and notable for becoming a Jedi Knight at a young age when most are still Padawans.

Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss), Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae), Jedi Master Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo) and (second from right) Master Torbin (Dean Charles Chapman) in Lucasfilm's The Acolyte (2024)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm)

Of course, looking at the assembled talent, it is difficult not speculate who might be behind the crimes and who might be a Sith. While turnabout within the Jedi is a popular source of Sith Lords in the expanded media (and the prequels with Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku), we expect the Acolyte’s true master to emerge from an unexpected place. Perhaps Jacinto’s character, unseen in the trailer, is the answer to the mystery; for fans of The Good Place, that would be a really big turn.

If the eventually unmasked suspect proves to be a Sith, will they remain true to the Rule of Two — only a Lord of the Sith and their apprentice are allowed to exist — or spread the philosophy in hopes of recreating a Sith Empire of old?

Also, while we’re asking questions, is it possible The Acolyte will tie back to the moment in The Phantom Menace when Darth Maul (Ray Park, voiced by Peter Serafinowicz) said “At last we will have our revenge”? It would be one of the few call-forwards the show could legitimately pull off.

Well, that and a few appearances by Jedi Master Yoda, but it is unclear if we will see him.

Architects Of The High Republic’s Fall

Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae and Director Leslye Headland on the set of Lucasfilm's The Acolyte (2024)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm)

As mentioned above, Headland, creator of Russian Doll, is behind The Acolyte. First announced in 2020, the program took several years to get off the ground and shot in the UK from October 2022 to June 2023.

“I am in love with Leslye’s work,” Stenberg said at Celebration last year. “She has a really emotional, profound way of approaching the darker parts of ourselves in a style of magical realism. For a show like this, that style is so perfect.”

Headland serves as an executive producer on the series in addition to showrunner duties and directing the first episode. Her writing team includes Jason Micallef, Charmaine DeGrate, Eileen Shim, Cameron Squires, Claire Kiechel, Kor Adana, Jocelyn Bioh, Jen Richards, and Jasmyne Flournoy. Other episode directors include Alex Garcia Lopez and Kogonada.

Kathleen Kennedy, Simon Emanuel, Jeff F. King, and Micallef also serve as executive producers with DeGrate and Adana as co-EPs and Rayne Roberts, Damian Anderson, Rob Bredow, and Shim as producers.

The series will feature a mixture of regular sets in England and location filming in Portugal and Wales. James Friend and Chris Teague shot the program as directors of photography while composer Michael Abels provided the score.

The Fall Begins In June

Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's The Acolyte (2024)

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm)

Per social media posts on March 18, Star Wars: The Acolyte will debut on Disney+ June 4. The trailer, released the next day, clarified that the premiere will feature two episodes. The remaining six episodes will continue to debut weekly thereafter.

Once the season concludes, though, it is unclear if there will be more. Considering the series was announced in the second wave of Star Wars material for Disney+, it exists in the same gray area as many Marvel shows — both a miniseries and a regular on-going show at the same time. Presumably, it will take more than eight episodes to chart the decline of the High Republic and the Jedi Order’s place within it.

Then again, the fall may be that swift, with High Republic spinoff media filling in any possible gaps. Alternatively, The Acolyte may open the way to a new era for Lucasfilm to explore on screen — provided, of course, audience interest and studio will is there to make more. As it happens, the future of Star Wars on Disney+ is clouded beyond the other show ready to go this year, Skeleton Crew, and an eventual second season of Ahsoka. But should The Acolyte exceed expectations, it may be a new driver of story in the Disney+ Star Wars constellation.

Star Wars: The Acolyte: Season 1 (2024) premieres on Disney+ on June 4, 2024 with two episodes, with a new episode to follow every week thereafter.

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