The next batch of live-action Star Wars projects won’t premiere in theaters. They’ll debut on Disney+. The streaming site is adding to its catalog of original shows from the galaxy far, far away. And soon two previously unannounced series will join them. That includes The Acolyte, which will mark a major departure for the franchise. It won’t take place within the Skywalker Saga timeline. The show will explore the era of the High Republic, 100 years before The Phantom Menace. But The Acolyte will do more than show fans a time period they’ve only read about. Series creator Leslye Headland says her time playing old Star Wars RPGs served as an inspiration for the show.
A new interview with Headland in Vanity Fair offers more insights into the surprise show. We already knew it will be the first-ever live-action Star Wars project to take place outside of the Skywalker Saga time period. That means Headland won’t have to deal with legacy characters (which she says she’d never do). She’ll also get to explore how the golden age of the galaxy was anything but. The show, which will blur the lines between good and bad and likely focus on the Sith, will investigate how the Jedi let unknown foes put the pieces in place for Palpatine’s rise a century later.
But the freedom of working in another era will also let Headland pull on her extensive knowledge of the Star Wars Expanded Universe’s Legends. Those consist of stories that are no longer considered canon after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. And Headland’s E.U. knowledge is extensive, covering countless comics, books, and games she grew up with. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said Headland has “read a gazillion books inside the E.U.” As a result, The Acolyte draws on “little bits and pieces” of the Expanded Universe that “no one has explored yet in the onscreen storytelling.”
The origins for the show go beyond just what Headland read about, though. She also grew up playing Star Wars role-playing games. And creating her own original stories within that world led to the show. Headland said she came at the series as someone who grew up in the ’90s playing those RPGs. Here’s what she said about how those old sessions, which often resulted in her writing the equivalent of fan fiction, influence the show she’s developing:
For someone like myself who was introduced to Star Wars not just through the films, but also through role playing games, I’m also like, ‘You don’t understand what type of escapism this afforded me as a young kid – a kid that did not fit in, that had many, many behavioral problems.’ I was able to escape into that world with my friends, to pretend that I was part of that world. It was not like, ‘And now you have to do a scene from the original movie.’
The Acolyte will still draw on classic martial arts films, same as George Lucas’s films. It will still feature Jedi and the Dark Side. But getting to play around in the galaxy far, far away how you want, when you want, with whomever you want, is a dream many fans have had for a long time. Now they’ll finally get to see that dream come to life. Lucasfilm is letting someone turn their role-playing adventures into something we can all watch.