‘The Acolyte’: A Star Wars Saga of Mystery and Magic

Stars Jodie Turner-Smith, Amandla Stenberg, and creator Leslye Headland reveal insights and behind-the-scenes moments in this exclusive interview.

In a galaxy not so far away, the Star Wars universe continues to grow, proving that the Force is indeed strong with its latest addition, 'The Acolyte.' Set at the tail end of the High Republic era, this new series promises to take us on a thrilling ride through the cosmos. The story follows an investigation into a shocking crime spree, drawing together a Jedi Master named Sol (Lee Jung-jae) and a fierce warrior from his past, Mae (Amandla Stenberg). Adding more spice to the mix, Jodie Turner-Smith stars as Mother Aniseya, Mae's mother and the formidable leader of a coven of Witches fiercely protective of their independence and mystical powers. 

In a chat with, the stars and creator Leslye Headlands revealed what fans can expect. They discussed how much Mother Aniseya does "mothering" throughout the season and how these characters will add to the ever-expanding Star Wars mythology. Your collaboration seems to be a central pillar of 'The Acolyte.' Was there any creative partnership that evolved throughout the production, and can you share any moments where your visions for the series particularly aligned or diverged in exciting ways?

Leslye Headland: That’s a great question – before (Amandla Stenberg) and I met, I knew I wanted her to play this role. I always thought that the person playing Mae would have to be a partner in crime, not just a lead actor. It was going to have to be someone that was willing to essentially work as hard on the show as I was working on the show. I was lucky enough to get that with Amandla. She’s incredibly talented and skilled and one of the hardest-working people I've ever had the pleasure of collaborating with. She always made me up my game because she would make me think about things I never thought about. Now I either gotta say I don't know, or I've got to come up with something, and knowing her, I can’t lie so I would have to say I don’t know (laughs). 

Amandla Stenberg: There’s something so special about Lesyle, and I already knew that after seeing her work on ‘Russian Doll.’ She develops such a collaborative, beautiful partnership with her lead actresses, which I feel is so wonderful because it makes you feel supported creatively and emotionally. It gives you this sense of freedom and trust, which is honestly really rare and a huge gift to be given when you're working. [Lesyle] and I immediately clicked so deeply and intensely – I could not imagine anyone else in the world that I would feel as grateful and held and nurtured by besides her.

BET Awards 2024:5 Surprising Facts About the 'Black Panther' Movie Franchise You Might Not Know Given the rich history of the Star Wars universe, how did you immerse yourself in lore and mythology to bring authenticity to your role? Were there specific characters or stories that inspired your portrayal?

Stenberg: Oh, this is a great question – I spent much time on Wikipedia (laughs). It’s one of my favorite places on the internet. This role allowed me to do that kind of lore inquiry where I could learn about the franchise and its history. When we were working on it, I really wanted to look at the balance of the force, especially because I was playing two people, which is what is the balance of the force because we have these ideas that are thrown out there. [George Lucas] has expressed that the balance of the force is light, but then, at the same time, that's been challenged repeatedly in different pieces of [Star Wars] media. I made this thing called Force balance, which was just kind of tracking how the Force has moved throughout Star Wars history. The important thing for me was just to figure out how to imbue that into two physical embodiments. Some of the characters that inspired me were characters like Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui Gon Jinn has one of the most refreshing and contrarian opinions about the Force out of all of the Jedi. I found the moment in which Anakin Skywalker dies fascinating – that became a sort of center point for me because in that moment, he almost restores balance to the Force through a self-sacrifice. Can you share some insights into Mother Aniseya’s (Ah-nuh-say-ah) backstory and motivations? How does her leadership and connection to the Jedi Order influence her actions and decisions throughout 'The Acolyte'? 

Turner-Smith: Mother Aniseya has some very specific opinions about the Jedi order, and she doesn't necessarily believe that their opinions of her and her coven are correct. She strives to create a world for herself, her family, her cousin, and her children where she is not under their rule—she’s mothering, and mother is just trying to mother in peace, is all (laughs). What were some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of bringing such unique and powerful characters to life in the Star Wars universe? Were there any moments during filming that were particularly impactful for you both personally and professionally?

Turner-Smith: I had the chance to work with most of the Jedi, and that was just so cool because it was just a collection of incredibly talented actors who were all so different.  I think playing a character like this that doesn't necessarily exist in all of the worlds we've seen on film and television so far presents its own interesting and unique challenge but also opportunity. When you step into something like this, it's already so much bigger than yourself and so cool and interesting. You're like, oh, my God, I'm in [Star Wars] (laughs). To get to play a mother is always an opportunity that I don't take lightly because I think about all the mothers in the world, and I want to bring honor to this sacred job, the sacred role, the sacred being that is a mother.

May the Force be with you as you dive into this new adventure — don't miss "The Acolyte," streaming on Disney+ starting June 4th.

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.