Star Wars is officially starting to branch out from the Skywalker Saga when it comes to Disney+ shows such as The Acolyte. It is set 100 years prior to the events of The Phantom Menace at the end of the High Republic era and is currently being written by Leslye Headland, who is known for her work on Netflix's Russian Doll.
The series is expected to be centered around the emergence of the Dark Side of the Force and give readers a glimpse into how the Sith formally returned as a major power in the galaxy.
Production on the upcoming series suffered a recent delay until October, and the new expected filming window is said to last eight months and wrap up by May 2023. Headland previously stated that The Acolyte would be "following in George's footsteps," and that the finished product would be something that viewers could look at and see how the creator's work inspired it.
More recently, Headland, who claims to be a massive fan of the franchise, has teased that the project will also be influenced by some of the lesser-known Star Wars stories, particularly from the Expanded Universe.
The Acolyte to Draw From Star Wars Legends
In an interview with Vanity Fair, The Acolyte writer and showrunner Leslye Headland talked about the influences for the upcoming series. She noted that there will be some elements present from projects that die-hard fans of the galaxy far, far away may recognize.
A large portion of Star Wars novels and video games take place outside of canon. These projects, such as the Knights of the Old Republic video game and the Darth Bane trilogy of novels, are formally known as the Expanded Universe, or E.U. for short. Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm, praised Headland as a "gigantic Star Wars fan" and confirmed that there will be "little bits and pieces" from the E.U. in The Acolyte that haven't been present so far "in the onscreen storytelling:"
"She is a gigantic Star Wars fan. She is a gigantic Star Wars fan,” says Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “What’s wonderful about Leslye is she knows it all. I mean, she’s read a gazillion books inside the E.U. There are little bits and pieces that she’s drawing from that no one has explored yet in the onscreen storytelling."
Headland went on to talk about how it was her idea to have The Acolyte set in a time period outside of the Skywalker Saga. She stated that there are currently a lot of other projects that are "really relying on legacy characters," and suggested that "the best place" to explore the Sith would be in a time period that hadn't been put on screen yet:
"The truth is that I, as a major mega fan, came to them with this idea. And I said, ‘I think the best place to put this is in an era you guys have not quite explored yet.’ They were very enthusiastic. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to explore that [existing] world, but I think that they already were because The Mandalorian and a lot of the other television projects were really relying on legacy characters."
The writer also mentioned how she "knew the timeline really well" from older video games, and that she felt that this story needed to happen "when the bad guys are wildly outnumbered:"
"I was coming at it as a fan who was much more into the RPG [role-playing games] that the Extended Universe feeds on. I came hard at that in the ’90s, and then got introduced to [the animated series] The Clone Wars. I knew the timeline really well. And I was like, 'I think if you want to explore Star Wars from the perspective of the bad guys, the best time to do it is when the bad guys are wildly outnumbered. When they actually are essentially the underdogs, for lack of a better term.' So this would be that era.
Headland was asked about the pressure that comes with a Star Wars project, and while the writer feels that she has "a lot of pressure," she is thankful that she isn't "dealing with legacy characters," which bring "too much iconography and intensity:"
"I feel a lot of pressure, but I also feel—weirdly—enormous amounts of freedom because I don’t feel like I’m dealing with legacy characters, which is a lot scarier... I mean, you could not pay me enough money to try to be in the Luke Skywalker timeline. I’m like, 'No, thank you!' [Laughs.] It’s just too intense. There’s too much iconography and intensity with those particular characters."
According to Headland, The Acolyte will be more interesting because it happens in "a timeline we don't know much about." She also added that it allows her to "explore" an era where "the good guys are actually in charge:"
"Whereas, I think I’m telling a story that’s more about a timeline we don’t know much about. Let’s hang out here for a little bit and check out what Star Wars looks like when the good guys are actually in charge. What happens? We know what it eventually leads to, so let’s explore. What are the holes that we can poke into what happened?"
Star Wars' Uncharted Waters
The major gripes that many Star Wars fans have with the new projects are that they seem to take place around the same time throughout the galaxy's rich history and that they surround the same planets and characters that have been explored for over 40 years.
Headland continues to reassure fans that The Acolyte will finally break free from that mold and will finally center around something that viewers won't be familiar with. Even though there will be "little bits and pieces" taken from the E.U., that won't be the sole focus of the story, and it will, at the very least, provide some minor Easter eggs for die-hard fans to look for.
At the end of the day, it seems as though Headland's Star Wars knowledge spans well over 30 years, and isn't limited to just the canon events that have been put on screen. If she is half as much of a "major mega fan" as she prides herself to be, The Acolyte will be done respectively and will offer a fresh taste to all Star Wars fans.