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The Acolyte’ Stars Talk Adapting High Republic

The Acolyte’ Stars Talk Adapting High Republic

[This story contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Acolyte‘s third episode, “Destiny.”]

As soon as Star Wars: The Acolyte stars Jodie Turner-Smith and Rebecca Henderson stepped foot onto their South East England-based set, they immediately fell under the spell of a galaxy far, far away. Turner-Smith first visited the stage on a day where she wasn’t working, simply because she couldn’t pass up the chance to witness a particularly fateful duel. 

“I actually went to visit set during the scene where Amandla Stenberg’s character fights Carrie-Anne Moss’ character, and I really was just like, ‘Oh my God, this is Star Wars,’” Turner-Smith tells The Hollywood Reporter. “That was definitely my first ‘whoa,’ and I wasn’t even in costume yet.”

Despite being new to Star Wars, Turner-Smith found herself in familiar territory, as her frequent collaborator, Kogonada, directed her in the third and seventh episodes of the Leslye Headland-created mystery-thriller series. Together, Turner-Smith and Kogonada went from the arthouse future of 2021’s After Yang to The Acolyte, and she just wrapped their third collaboration by way of the Margot Robbie and Colin Farrell-led A Big Bold Beautiful Journey. (Robbie had her pick of any package in town, post-Barbie, and she chose Kogonada’s take on Seth Reiss’ script.)

“It was so amazing to see Kogonada in this context and watch how he would manipulate a project like [The Acolyte] with his extremely talented hands and incredible vision,” Turner-Smith shares. “I feel so lucky that he picks up the phone and calls me when he wants me to be involved in his different projects. I wrapped yesterday on A Big Bold Beautiful Journey, and it was just so powerful.”

The British actor and mononymous director quickly adapted to their new environment, and as the third episode, “Destiny,” showed, Kogonada had an ambitious flashback story in front of him. He first introduced Osha and Mae at eight years old (Lauren and Leah Brady), before showcasing Turner-Smith’s Mother Aniseya, who may have used her own brand of Force powers (“the Thread”) to conceive the identical twins through her partner, Mother Koril (Margarita Levieva). For now, the latter revelation is implied, not confirmed, but this all happened while they led their exiled coven of witches on the planet of Brendok.

Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Mae (Lauren Brady) in The Acolyte

Lucasfilm

Penned by Jasmyne Flournoy and Eileen Shim, the episode’s central conflict centers around the prying eyes of the Jedi (Sol, Indara, Torbin, Kelnaccaa), who are investigating the true nature of Osha and Mae and whether they’d be suitable as Jedi Padawans. Osha, whose lack of interest in witchcraft is evident from the start, is immediately taken with the idea of joining the Jedi, and in a roundabout way, she passes their test before deciding to leave her family behind. Enraged by Osha’s decision, Mae sets fire to their fortress, presumably killing the entire coven, including her two mothers.

According to Turner-Smith, Kogonada’s sensibility was well suited for the climactic moment.

“Every time I work with Kogonada, there’s something that is so nurturing and so encouraging. Literally, the man makes me feel like I can do anything, and I feel so safe, as well,” Turner-Smith says. 

But upon closer inspection, something doesn’t quite add up about the way the witches met their end, and in a previous conversation with THR, Headland revealed that the series would utilize a Rashomon-type approach at times. Well, the creator has since confirmed to yours truly that the device will be deployed to get different accounts and angles of the Brendok tragedy and central mystery.

Vernestra Rwoh (Rebecca Henderson) and Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae) in The Acolyte

Lucasfilm

Henderson had her own unique assignment, in that she took on the responsibility of adapting Jedi Master Vernestra Rwoh into live-action. The character originated in the multimedia project, Star Wars: The High Republic, and she’s the first to make this particular jump. As expected, Henderson did exhaustive prep and consumed all of the backstory that has been wonderfully laid out already.

“I did read all the books to just have that background … It’s a hundred years later, so she’s clearly been through a lot since you’ve last seen her,” Henderson says. “I thought about what happens to a child prodigy as she goes through those 100 years. The scripts were also really well written, and the character was extremely well drawn.”

As previously teased in a promotional spot, Henderson even got to introduce an old weapon in live-action, one that originated in the ninety-fifth issue of the Legends comic book series, Star Wars (1985).

“Of course, shooting the lightwhip was a really exciting, pinch-me moment,” Henderson concludes.

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The Acolyte is currently streaming on Disney+.

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