The Acolyte: key information
– Set for release in 2024 on Disney Plus
– Created by Leslye Headland, one of the brains behind Netflix’s acclaimed Russian Doll TV show
– Pitched as “Frozen meets Kill Bill“
– Set during Star Wars’ High Republic era
– No trailer or official story details revealed yet
– Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae, Manny Jacinto, Dafne Keen, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Jodie Turner-Smith among cast
The Acolyte is unlike any of the other new Star Wars TV shows and movies heading to Disney Plus.
Set during The High Republic era – around a century before the events of The Phantom Menace and, later, the Skywalker Saga – it’ll show the Jedi Order at the height of its powers. It’ll also put followers of the Dark Side of the Force front and center of its story, paving the way for Emperor Palpatine’s power grab in the prequel trilogy.
We know the Disney Plus series, which is being helmed by Russian Doll’s Leslye Headland, will have a greater focus on its female characters than any previous trip to George Lucas’s famous galaxy far, far away, too. In short: expect the unexpected when this Star Wars show drops sometime next year.
With The Acolyte one of three Star Wars projects taking flight in 2024, then, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about this hotly anticipated TV show. That includes confirmed cast and plot details, speculation on its release date, and more.
Mild spoilers follow for some aspects of Star Wars: The Acolyte, as well as details on the High Republic era from Star Wars‘ extensive literary works.
The Acolyte release date: what we know so far
Lucasfilm hasn’t set its targeting computer to anything more specific than a vague 2024 release window, which was announced during Star Wars Celebration 2023 in London, for The Acolyte.
Filming – most of which took place in the UK – wrapped on June 6, a whole month before the now-resolved actors strike so, as long as its post-production phase doesn’t overrun, the eight-episode series is still on course to land next year.
Even so, when is the million-dollar question. Skeleton Crew (which wrapped in January 2023) and Andor season 2 are also primed to make the hyperspace jump onto one of the world’s best streaming services in 2024, too. The latter of those is in the final throes of full production, with some scenes yet to be shot. If Andor‘s next outing ends up being Star Wars‘ late 2024 offering because of its production schedule, The Acolyte and Skeleton Crew‘s releases will depend on which one is ready to go first.
Our guess? The Acolyte, based on the fact we know more about it, is likely to be the first of those three series to launch, meaning we could see it sometime in early 2024.
The Acolyte cast: confirmed and rumored
Many of The Acolyte‘s cast have already been confirmed, though most of their characters are shielded behind a forcefield of secrecy:
- Amandla Stenberg as TBC
- Lee Jung-jae as TBC
- Manny Jacinto as TBC
- Dafne Keen as TBC
- Jodie Turner-Smith as TBC
- Carrie-Anne Moss as TBC
- Rebecca Henderson as Vernestra Rwoh
- Charlie Barnett as TBC
- Dean-Charles Chapman as TBC
- Margarita Levieva as TBC
- Joonas Suotamo as Kelnacca
Of the above contingent, Stenberg (Bodies Bodies Bodies) was one of the first to be announced. Indeed, Star Wars: The Acolyte found one of its lead stars in December 2021, before the Disney Plus show got a major cast update in November 2022, with the likes of Moss, Jung-jae, Keen, and Turner-Smith added to its ranks.
The two characters who don’t have ‘TBC’ next to their name are both Jedi. Per Entertainment Weekly (EW), Kelnacca is a Wookiee Force-wielder, and will be portrayed by Joonas Suotamo, best known for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Meanwhile, Vernestra Rwoh is a green-skinned Mirialan Jedi who’s become something of a fan favorite in existing High Republic stories. This older version of the character will be played by Russian Doll’s Rebecca Henderson, as confirmed by Collider.
Other cast members’ characters remain nameless, but we know some details about them. Stenberg plays a former Padawan apprentice, while Jung-jae (Squid Game) is her former Jedi Master. Star Wars Stuff posted a leaked set photo of Lee’s character on X (formerly known as Twitter), which you can view below:
The first pictures of Lee Jung-jae on the set of THE ACOLYTE!(@DailyMail) pic.twitter.com/4ozEKcQoYyDecember 8, 2022
Elsewhere, Empire magazine (thanks to Star Wars Leaks for the assist) confirmed Charlie Barnett (Chicago Fire), Dafne Keen (His Dark Materials), and Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones) will also be playing Jedi. Here’s Chapman on set (again, per Star Wars Stuff):
Dean-Charles Chapman on the set of THE ACOLYTE!(@DailyMail) pic.twitter.com/JGJR4IeVmHDecember 8, 2022
According to the same Empire article linked above, Keen’s Force-sensitive character is human-Theelin hybrid, much like Rystáll Sant, a red-haired backing singer for Jabba’s house band in Return of the Jedi. Keen told Empire her character is “David Bowie meets Star Wars: I have a little mullet, I have horns, it’s cute.”
Turner-Smith’s (Queen & Slim) character does “use the Force, but I’m not a Jedi or Sith”. Moss (The Matrix) will also play a Force wielder of some description, though her allegiance is not yet clear.
In the finest tradition of Han Solo, not every member of The Acolyte cast will be showing off their skills with the Force or a lightsaber. Manny Jacinto (Nine Perfect Strangers) told Empire magazine his character is “just a regular guy, trying to have a good time, who gets swept up into the High Republic world and the Jedi, whether he likes it or not.”
Beyond the main cast, UK newspaper The Metro claimed Moss’ Matrix co-star Keanu Reeves might cameo. And don’t be surprised if Yoda – who’s 900 years old by the time of his death in Return of the Jedi, and therefore alive and kicking in the High Republic era – makes an appearance. Palpatine’s Muun Sith Master, Darth Plagueis, may also be at large.
There’s plenty to suggest the show is in excellent hands behind the camera, too. As well as having co-created one of the best Netflix shows ever in Russian Doll, Headland is a lifelong Star Wars aficionado.
“She is a gigantic Star Wars fan,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told Vanity Fair. “What’s wonderful about Leslye is she knows it all. I mean, she’s read a gazillion books inside the EU [Expanded Universe]. There are little bits and pieces that she’s drawing from that no one has explored yet in the onscreen storytelling.”
Joining Headland in the stacked and talented writers room are (per Knight Edge Media) are Jason Micallef (Heathers), Charmaine DeGrate and Eileen Shim (House of the Dragon), Jasmyne Flournoy (Falcon and the Winter Solider), Claire Kiechel (Watchmen), Kor Adana (Mr. Robot), Cameron Squires (WandaVision), Jocelyn Bioh (Tiny Beautiful Things), and Jen Richards (Her Story).
The Acolyte plot speculation
Tired of the Skywalker family’s disproportionate influence on that galaxy far, far away? The Acolyte could be the show for you. Kicking off nearly 100 years before Anakin was even born, the new show is set in the High Republic era, a time period the veteran franchise has – unless you count non-canon kids’ show Young Jedi Adventures – never previously explored on screen.
Per StarWars.com, The Acolyte is a “mystery-thriller” set in “a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark side powers in the final days of the High Republic era. A former Padawan reunites with her Jedi Master to investigate a series of crimes, but the forces they confront are more sinister than they ever anticipated.”
“It’s set 100 years before the prequel movies, and it’s kind of an explanation of how the Sith infiltrated the Jedi,” Keen exclusively told TechRadar, too. “It’s a Sith-led story, which has never been done before.”
While The Acolyte marks its live-action debut, the High Republic is already a big deal in wider Star Wars canon. Since Charles Soule’s novel The Light of the Jedi was published in January 2021, this Lucasfilm multimedia initiative has told numerous tales – across books, comics, short stories, and an audio drama – set during a period stretching from around 500 years to 100 years before the events of the original Star Wars trilogy.
“The Acolyte stands out because it is the earliest in the Star Wars timeline that we have ever been in live-action,” showrunner Leslye Headland told EW’s Dagobah Dispatch podcast. “We are toward the end of the High Republic, leading into George [Lucas]’s prequels, so we are looking at a time period where the Jedi are at the height of their power.
“We’re looking at a time period where there is peace throughout the galaxy. It was very challenging and interesting to make a Star Wars with no war in it. So the question became ‘Well, what should the show be about if it’s not going to be about galactic conflict?'”
Three live-action Star Wars series reportedly releasing in 2024; ‘Skeleton Crew’, ‘The Acolyte’ and ‘Andor’ season 2!https://t.co/a0rytrgm7J #starwars pic.twitter.com/FaHdAcLpyGNovember 24, 2023
The former Padawan and Jedi Master mentioned in StarWars.com’s summary are almost definitely the as-yet unnamed characters played by Stenberg and Jung-jae. But it’s those references to “shadowy secrets”, “emerging dark side powers”, and sinister forces that are likely to be more important to the overall Star Wars timeline. (If you want to see how everything fits together, check out our handy how to watch Star Wars in order guide).
It turns out that, in the glory days of the High Republic, the Jedi’s eternal rivals – the Sith – have effectively passed into myth, much like the Jedi did in the original film trilogy. However, if Star Wars has taught us anything, it’s that the Dark Side never truly goes away. The Acolyte, then, will effectively sow the seeds for fall of the Republic in the prequel movies, when Jedi complacency allows Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine to rise to power right under Yoda and Mace Windu’s noses.
“The High Republic is so golden in so many ways,” Headland pointed out to Vanity Fair. “The Jedi uniforms are gold and white and it’s almost like they would never get dirty. The idea is that they could have these types of uniforms because that’s how little they’re getting into skirmishes. So, of course, my question is like, ‘Well, what else is going on?’ You can’t just end up with George [Lucas]’ Phantom Menace situation if everything is going well.
“It has to be going well at the expense of what? What is not being attended to? What are we turning a blind eye to that could lead to the rise of somebody like Palpatine about a century later? Yes, it’s one bad guy, but it’s one bad guy that completely undermines the entire system of government. A lot of other things must have been going on beneath the surface.”
In arguably the show’s most radical departure from traditional Star Wars, the so-called good guys won’t necessarily be the protagonists of The Acolyte plot – indeed, in franchise lore, the term ‘acolyte’ has traditionally referred to followers of the Sith religion.
“I think that what makes this show different and interesting is that it’s from the perspective of the villains of Star Wars,” Headland told the Dagobah Dispatch podcast. “These are people who are using the Force in their own way, dipping into the darker sides of the Force and are doing it without being sanctioned by the larger institution, which, in this case, is the Jedi.”
There are also parallels with The Mandalorian season 4, where traditional bad guys the Empire are – like the Dark Siders in The Acolyte – the plucky outsiders battling against the establishment.
“Star Wars is always about some version of the underdog versus the institution,” said Headland. “And I just thought it was very interesting to do a show about the bad guys and to set that during that time period made the most sense. So it’s kind of almost flipped. We have more Jedi than you’ve seen in any of the of the Star Wars content, but at the same time, you see more morally ambiguous characters than you’ve seen in other Star Wars content.”
Despite all that darkness, the world of The Acolyte – a lot of which, it seems, will take place on city planet Coruscant – will look prettier and shinier than Star Wars ever has before.
“I love the fact that George Lucas, when he originally made Episodes IV through VI [A New Hope to Return of the Jedi], you can see that he wants everything to feel like it has this particular type of decay,” Headland told Vanity Fair. “This is a lived-in sci-fi/fantasy world, not a sleek, well-put-together aesthetic.
“[But] when he tasked himself with making the prequels, the way that he decided to address technology and all of those types of things was to make it a much sleeker, better-looking, almost more advanced time. That’s what’s kind of weird about Star Wars. The further you go back, the better things are. ‘A long time ago’ actually becomes more futuristic. So while we are creating this type of world, we’re trying to carry George’s concept that the further you go back, the more exciting and new and sleek and interesting things look.”
But one big question remains: how do these dark Jedi and the future fall of the Republic fit in with Headland’s unlikely – if headline-friendly – original “Frozen meets Kill Bill” elevator pitch for The Acolyte story? The Tarantino reference refers to the martial arts influences on the film, everything from Akira Kurosawa samurai movies to Shaw Brothers’ Hong Kong actioners to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
“So much of Frozen was about the sister relationship,” Headland told IGN. “So much of it was about the villain actually being a powerful, misunderstood woman. I couldn’t believe that it was a cartoon with music. It was hitting me on such a deep level and yet servicing the genre so well.”
In so many ways, The Acolyte promises to be Star Wars as we’ve never seen it before.
The Acolyte trailer: is there one?
No, a trailer for The Acolyte hasn’t been released yet. Only the lucky few who attended Star Wars Celebration 2023 have seen some footage, but – assuming Lucasfilm follow usual protocols – we’d expect the first teaser to arrive a few months ahead of the Disney Plus show’s debut.
Per Variety, the Celebration footage featured a gold lightsaber, many Jedi igniting their Kyber crystal-based blades in unison, and a fight between Moss and Stenberg’s masked character “that recalled the former’s The Matrix performance.”
GamesRadar added the teaser opened with Jung-jae’s character telling Padawan learners “the Force is powerful, it is power, we must respect [it]”. They also reported a seemingly pivotal line spoken by Turner-Smith’s character saying “this isn’t about good or bad. This is about power and who is allowed to use it”.
Once an official teaser makes its way onto YouTube and Star Wars‘ social channels, we’ll update this section.
The Acolyte: what to watch before its arrival
Given it’s set during the High Republic era, there are no Star Wars movies or TV shows you need to watch before The Acolyte launches, which will come as a relief to viewers who don’t want lots of homework to do.
Still, if you want some Lucasfilm-developed TV series to stream – some of them are among the best Disney Plus shows – in the interim, check out one or more of the options below:
- The Mandalorian – set between Star Wars Episode VI and Episode VII, this space western sees Pedro Pascal’s lone gunslinger becomes a surrogate father to ‘baby Yoda’, a child of the legendary Jedi’s alien race, who is apparently vital importance to a Machiavellian scheme concocted by the Galactic Empire’s remnants. All three seasons are available on Disney’s primary streamer now.
- Star Wars: Ahsoka – running alongside The Mandalorian, this live-action sequel to Star Wars: Rebels sees the fan-favorite Togruta Force wielder reunite with her Rebels allies to try and thwart a menacing Empire general’s return. Stream season 1 and then read our Star Wars: Ahsoka ending explainer to see how it impacts the future of Star Wars.
- The Book of Boba Fett – the weakest of Lucasfilms’ live-action shows, Boba Fett’s standalone show sees the iconic bounty hunter navigate the galaxy’s seedy underworld as he attempts to replace Jabba the Hutt as Tattooine’s number one crime lord. All seven episodes are available on Disney Plus.