Upcoming Star Wars TV show The Acolyte is packed with LGBTQ+ talent – and we’re already obsessed

The fact that C-3P0 is a camp icon aside, the Star Wars universe started out as a startlingly heteronormative place. However, in recent years, TV series like upcoming Disney+ show The Acolyte have tried to remedy that.

Following in the footsteps of The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka and Andor, Star Wars: The Acolyte is set to hit our screens in June, and is already a smash hit – when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation, at least.

Transgender icons Abigail Thorn and Jen Richards are both involved with the series – Thorn plays a character called Ensign Eurus, and Richards is one of the writers. Plus, showrunner Leslye Headland is a lesbian, and her wife Rebecca Henderson will also act in The Acolyte alongside Thorn and other LGBTQ+ icons.

Amandla Stenberg, who is gay, non-binary and uses she/her and they/them pronouns also stars in the show, as does Charlie Barnett – who appears as as Yord Fandar, a Jedi. Barnett is gay and says that he realised the truth about his sexuality when he was just 13.

Like Richards, Thorn also announced her involvement by sharing the official The Acolyte trailer on X, which dropped on 19 March 2024.

Who is Abigail Thorn?

Abigail Thorn in The Prince. (Supplied)
Abigail Thorn in The Prince. (Supplied)

Abigail Thorn goes by @PhilosophyTube on X as she’s a well-known YouTuber as well as a talented actress and playwright.

She launched her popular channel, Philosophy Tube, in 2013 as a way to provide people with free philosophy education, and the videos gradually became more lavish and theatrical: Abigail Thorn the actress was born!

Thorn came out as transgender in 2021, then doubled down on her theatrical skills in 2022, when a play that she wrote and starred in (The Prince) ran in London. The transgender-themed work is based on Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 and she won an Off West End Theatre Award (“Offie”) for the performances.

Who is Leslye Headland?

Director Leslye Headland (Larry Busacca/Getty)

Leslye Headland is an acclaimed TV and movie director, who co-created the hit Netflix series Russian Doll alongside Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler.

She’s publicly spoken about the fact she’s a huge fan of the Star Wars franchise, and contacted Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy to pitch the idea for The Acolyte after wrapping up Russian Doll.

She’s one of only two women to have been appointed to helm a live-action Star Wars project in the franchise’s 43-year history, along with Deborah Chow, who took the reins on the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi spin-off. 

Headland is a lesbian and married actress Rebecca Henderson in 2016. Her wife is set to play a ‘Jedi Knight prodigy’ called Vernestra Rwoh in The Acolyte, further bolstering the show’s queer credentials.

What is Star Wars: The Acolyte about?

The ‘prequel to a prequel’ show is set set 100 years before the events of The Phantom Menace.

The synopsis says The Acolyte: “sees a former Padawan reunite with her former Jedi Master as they investigate several crimes – all leading to darkness erupting from beneath the surface and preparing to bring about the end of the High Republic.”

Amandla Stenberg plays Mae, a former Padawan (an apprentice paired with a Jedi Knight or Jedi Master for teaching and training) who seems to have turned to the dark side, and in the trailer appears to be hunting Jedi during a time of peace near the end of the High Republic era.

Lee Jung-jae plays a Jedi master in the series, and the trailer starts with Jung-jae’s character Sol urging a group of Padawans to not trust “their own deceitful eyes.”

Headland told The Hollywood Reporter that the series will explore multiple perspectives on the same events, saying: “We were obviously influenced by samurai films and wuxia films, but also films like Rashomon, where you see one story and then you see it done a different way.”

She added: “You definitely get the point of view of the Jedi, especially in terms of Amandla’s character and trying to stop her and hunt her down. But you also get enough of Amandla’s character’s perspective that you can also see how both of them exist simultaneously.”

The Matrix alum Carrie-Anne Moss also stars in the show as a Jedi master called Indara.

Two jedi battle each other in a dark and hazy room
Jedi master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in The Acolyte (Lucasfilm)

Plot details are a bit thin on the ground at present, but according to Screenrant, the show will reveal the end of the Jedi’s golden age and the reasons behind their downfall, as well as showcasing the Sith and their plans to undermine the Jedi, highlighting the Sith’s perspective for the first time.

What is a Sith acolyte?

Essentially – the Sith (dark side) version of a Padawan. The term is used to refer to force-sensitive people. They draw their power from the dark side of the Force and are vying to become Sith apprentices and receive training under the guidance of a Sith Lord.

According to Star Wars lore, acolytes were tested by Sith Overseers before earning their place as full apprentices under a superior Sith Lord.

Who is the Sith in The Acolyte?

Image shows a Sith wielding a red lightsaber, all you can really see is the lightsaber though
Everyone is asking the same question: who is the Sith Lord wielding this red lightsaber? (Lucasfilm/Disney Plus)

Some people have suggested Emperor Palpatine might make an appearance in The Acolyte. However, it seems very unlikely that the iconic Star Wars baddie will appear in The Acolyte as it was set 100 years before The Phantom Menace: i.e. he was born decades after it supposedly takes place.

However, there is a red-lightsaber-wielding, shadowy Sith Lord who features in the trailer, which fans think may be Darth Plagueis or Darth Tenebrous.

Darth Plagueis was so powerful that he could even cheat death and create life. Darth Tenebrous was Darth Plagueis’s master. Darth Revan has also been mentioned as the possible red saber owner: a Jedi Knight who broke away from the Jedi Order, became a Dark Lord of the Sith, and formed a Sith Empire.

At the end of the day, the only real way to find out for sure is to actually watch the action-packed series.

Star Wars: The Acolyte: Season 1 will premiere on Disney+ on June 4, 2024 with two episodes.

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