Lucasfilm is aiming to begin production on The Acolyte this upcoming February in London.
The series will likely use ‘The Volume’ that has been set up in Pinewood Studios in London following the successful use of the technology in Los Angeles for the first 2 seasons of The Mandalorian, as well as The Book of Boba Fett. Peyton Reed, who directed multiple episodes of The Mandalorian this last season, is currently using The Volume at Pinewood to develop Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, starring returning cast members Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Michael Douglas. The Marvel sequel is also welcoming the new additions of Kathryn Newton as Cassie Lang and Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror. Quantumania is currently slated to release exclusively in theaters on February 17, 2023.
Casting has already begun for The Acolyte, with Lucasfillm looking to cast a young woman of color in the lead role. Both this show and Ahsoka will be the first live-action projects within the Star Wars universe to feature women of color in the main roles. The Acolyte has been described as a female-driven, action mystery thriller, with martial art elements that will take us into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging Dark Side powers in the final days of the High Republic Era. The series is slated for Disney+ along with Ahsoka and other new projects like Lando and Rangers of the New Republic.
Leslye Headland is serving as the showrunner for The Acolyte, having previously written and created Russian Doll for Netflix. The popular series follows a cynical young woman (played by Natasha Lyonne) in New York City who keeps dying and returning to the party that’s being thrown in her honor on that same evening. The show was such a success for Netflix that a second season is currently in the works, although a release window is currently unknown. Headland is also no stranger to the directing world, having previously directed episodes of SMILF, Heathers, Black Monday and Almost Family, so it would not be surprising if she also directs episodes of The Acolyte herself.
Earlier this week, Leslye Headland was interviewed by The AV Club, where she gave some insightful tidbits on the current development of The Acolyte, including her own relationship with Star Wars. “When I was younger, I devoured the films on home video and absolutely loved them – just a deep connection to the original trilogy. When I was in middle school, I read some novels, like Timothy Zahn’s Heir To The Empire, and also got into it that way.”
She continues in the interview to say how “I also played some Star Wars RPGs. And that’s my favorite version of Star Wars, the Star Wars where you get to make up your own Star Wars. So when people are like, what’s your favorite film? And what’s your favorite piece of media? I’m like, ‘I just really love the RPGs.’ To me, that’s what Star Wars is, is being able to walk into a universe and start playing. If you can’t do that with the movie, television show, novel comic book, video game, then I’m not sure you’ve done what you need to do as a creator of Star Wars material.”
Headland confirms that she has already developed the writer’s room for The Acolyte, adding that “I really wanted people that were different than me. I certainly didn’t want a room full people that were just agreeing with me vehemently. Not ideologically, but artistically – people that kind of had different writing styles or were interested in different things, all that kind of stuff.”
Further commenting on her writer’s room, Headland mentions how, “I literally had one writer that was like, ‘I have never seen any of them. I’ve never seen any Star Wars media.’ And she’s texting me before we started the room, she’s like, ‘Luke and Leia are brother and sister, what the…?’ [Laughs.]” Although fans could have mixed feeling about bringing in a writer unaware of Star Wars, Headland states in the interview how it was valuable to have someone unaware of the universe. “While she did her due diligence and did a lot of background work and research, at the same time, she was somebody that we would kind of talk to and say, ‘Okay, so if we take all the kind of signifiers out of it, and this is Star Wars version of X, what does it mean to you?’ She would be able to give some feedback: ‘Well, I’m kind of wondering what’s going on with this character. And in this scene, I’m wondering why so-and-so isn’t saying this.’”
Headland says that her approach to The Acolyte is to continue “following in George’s footsteps. He is such a deep worshiper of film, and not just the medium of film, but the history of film and the way film has been used, and all the different genres that he infused the original trilogy with is something that only he can do.” She continues about how the series will include a form of politics, saying how “the feedback [on social media was] ‘Don’t make Star Wars political.’ I’m like, ‘George Lucas made it political. Those are political films.’ War is, by nature, political. That’s just what’s up. It’s truly what he was interested in talking about and looking at and digging into. So it’s kind of impossible to tell a story within his universe that doesn’t have to do with something that has to be that the characters see externally reflected in whatever’s happening in the galaxy at that particular time period of when it takes place.”
Although it is unknown when The Acolyte will release, given that it is an 8-episode series and if it does begin on its targeted start date in February 2022, then we would predict the series premiering on Disney+ sometime within March – May 2023. But with COVID-19 still causing production delays, even during the post-production process, there’s no certainty on that prediction as of now.