Star Wars: The Acolyte: everything we know about the Disney Plus show

The logo for new Disney Plus Star Wars show The Acolyte.
The Acolyte promises to be a Star Wars TV show unlike anything we've seen before. (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney)
The Acolyte: key information

- Releasing this year on Disney Plus
- Created by Russian Doll showrunner Leslye Headland
- Pitched as "Frozen meets Kill Bill"
- Set during the High Republic era
- No trailer released yet
- Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae, Manny Jacinto, Dafne Keen, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Jodie Turner-Smith among cast
- Official plot details on the scarce side

The Acolyte is one of many Star Wars shows due out on Disney Plus in the next few years – but it'll be a live-action series unlike anything you've seen before.

How so? For starters, it's set during The High Republic era, which takes place around 100 years before Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, meaning this is the furthest back in time we'll have traveled on the Star Wars timeline. It'll also shine a light on the Sith's emergence and, in some ways, position them as the protagonists of the Leslye Headland-created project, too – another first for that galaxy far, far away. Oh, and it's one of a number of confirmed Marvel and Star Wars shows set to arrive in 2024, so we'll get to see it later this year.

What else do we know about the Disney Plus show? You'll have to read on to learn more about it, including its possible release date, confirmed cast list, early plot specifics, and more. Mild spoilers follow for Star Wars: The Acolyte.

The Acolyte release date: what we know so far

Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae and Leslye Headland on the set of The Acolyte

Amandla Stenberg (left) and Lee Jung-jae (center) are among The Acolyte's starry cast. (Image credit: Christian Black/Lucasfilm/Disney)

Lucasfilm hasn’t set its targeting computer to anything more specific than a vague 2024 release window for The Acolyte

Principal photography wrapped in June 2023, but the Bespin Bulletin has since claimed reshoots took place in December. That's not unusual for productions of this scale, but could mean it won't arrive on one of the world's best streaming services until mid-2024, depending on how much more post-production work is left to complete. Hopefully, it won't be long before Lucasfilm confirms when The Acolyte will *ahem* Force its way onto Disney Plus.

The Acolyte cast: confirmed and rumored

The cast and showrunner of The Acolyte pose for a photograph at Star Wars Celebration 2023

The Acolyte cast is full of big name stars and some talented up-and-comers. (Image credit: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney)

Many of The Acolyte's cast have already been confirmed, though most of their characters are shielded behind a forcefield of secrecy:

  • Amandla Stenberg as TBC
  • Lee Jung-jae as TBC
  • Manny Jacinto as TBC
  • Dafne Keen as TBC
  • Jodie Turner-Smith as TBC
  • Carrie-Anne Moss as TBC
  • Rebecca Henderson as Vernestra Rwoh
  • Charlie Barnett as TBC
  • Dean-Charles Chapman as TBC
  • Margarita Levieva as TBC
  • Joonas Suotamo as Kelnacca

Of the above contingent, Stenberg (Bodies Bodies Bodies) was one of the first to be announced. Indeed, Star Wars: The Acolyte found one of its lead stars in December 2021 – she'll play a former Padawan apprentice, too. The Disney Plus show got a major cast update in November 2022, with the likes of Moss, Jung-jae, Keen, and Turner-Smith added to its ranks.

The two characters who don’t have 'TBC' next to their name are both Jedi. Entertainment Weekly (EW) reports Kelnacca is a Wookiee Force-wielder who'll be portrayed by Joonas Suotamo, best known for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Meanwhile, Vernestra Rwoh is a green-skinned Mirialan Jedi who’s a fan favorite in existing High Republic stories. This older version of the character will be played by Rebecca Henderson (Russian Doll), as confirmed by Collider.

Other details are thin on the ground, but Jung-jae (Squid Game) will portray the former Jedi Master of Stenberg's character. Star Wars Stuff posted a leaked set photo of Lee’s character on X (formerly Twitter), which you can view below:

See more

Elsewhere, Empire magazine (thanks to Star Wars Leaks for the assist) confirmed Charlie Barnett (Chicago Fire), Dafne Keen (His Dark Materials), and Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones) will also be playing Jedi. Keen’s Force-sensitive character is a human-Theelin hybrid, much like Rystáll Sant, a red-haired backing singer for Jabba’s house band in Return of the Jedi. Keen told Empire her character is "David Bowie meets Star Wars: I have a little mullet, I have horns, it’s cute."

Speaking to Empire, Turner-Smith (Queen & Slim) said her character "use[s] the Force, but I’m not a Jedi or Sith". Moss (The Matrix) will also play a Force wielder of some description, though her allegiance is not yet clear.

In the finest tradition of Han Solo, not every member of The Acolyte cast will be showing off their skills with the Force or a lightsaber. Manny Jacinto (Nine Perfect Strangers) told Empire his character is "just a regular guy, trying to have a good time, who gets swept up into the High Republic world and the Jedi, whether he likes it or not."

See more

Beyond the main cast, UK newspaper The Metro claimed Moss’ The Matrix co-star Keanu Reeves might cameo. And don’t be surprised if Yoda – who’s unsurprisingly alive during the High Republic era – makes an appearance. Palpatine’s Muun Sith Master, Darth Plagueis, may also be at large.

There’s plenty to suggest the show is in excellent hands behind the camera, too. As well as having co-created one of the best Netflix shows ever in Russian Doll, Headland is a lifelong Star Wars aficionado.

"She is a gigantic Star Wars fan," Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told Vanity Fair. "What’s wonderful about Leslye is she knows it all. I mean, she’s read a gazillion books inside the EU [Expanded Universe]. There are little bits and pieces that she’s drawing from that no one has explored yet in the onscreen storytelling."

Joining Headland in the stacked and talented writers room are (per Knight Edge Media) are Jason Micallef (Heathers), Charmaine DeGrate and Eileen Shim (House of the Dragon), Jasmyne Flournoy (Falcon and the Winter Solider), Claire Kiechel (Watchmen), Kor Adana (Mr. Robot), Cameron Squires (WandaVision), Jocelyn Bioh (Tiny Beautiful Things), and Jen Richards (Her Story).

The Acolyte plot speculation

Amandla Stenberg and Lee Jung-jae on stage at Star Wars Celebration 2023

The Acolyte promises to dig into Star Wars' previously unseen (in a live-action capacity, anyway) history. (Image credit: Kate Green/Getty Images for Disney)

Tired of the Skywalker family’s disproportionate influence on that galaxy far, far away? The Acolyte could be the show for you. Set nearly a century before Anakin was even born, it focuses on a time period that the veteran franchise has – unless you count non-canon kids’ show Young Jedi Adventures – never previously explored on the screen.

Per StarWars.com, The Acolyte is a "mystery-thriller" set in "a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark side powers in the final days of the High Republic era. A former Padawan reunites with her Jedi Master to investigate a series of crimes, but the forces they confront are more sinister than they ever anticipated."

"It’s set 100 years before the prequel movies, and it's kind of an explanation of how the Sith infiltrated the Jedi," Keen exclusively told TechRadar, too. "It’s a Sith-led story, which has never been done before."

While The Acolyte marks its live-action debut, the High Republic is already a big deal in wider Star Wars canon. Since Charles Soule’s novel The Light of the Jedi was published in January 2021, this Lucasfilm multimedia initiative has told numerous tales – across books, comics, short stories, and an audio drama – during a period between 100 and 500 years before the original Star Wars trilogy.

"The Acolyte stands out because it is the earliest in the Star Wars timeline that we have ever been in live-action," Leslye Headland told EW’s Dagobah Dispatch podcast. "We are toward the end of the High Republic, leading into George [Lucas]’s prequels, so we are looking at a time period where the Jedi are at the height of their power... [and] there is peace throughout the galaxy. It was very challenging and interesting to make a Star Wars with no war in it. So the question became 'Well, what should the show be about if it's not going to be about galactic conflict?'"

See more

The former Padawan and Jedi Master mentioned in StarWars.com's summary are almost definitely the as-yet unnamed characters played by Stenberg and Jung-jae. But it’s those references to "shadowy secrets", "emerging dark side powers", and sinister forces that are likely to be more important to the overall timeline. (If you want to see how everything fits together, check out our handy how to watch Star Wars in order guide).

It turns out that, in the glory days of the High Republic, the Jedi’s eternal rivals – the Sith – have effectively passed into myth, much like the Jedi did in the original film trilogy. However, if we've learned anything, it’s that the Dark Side never truly goes away. The Acolyte, then, will effectively sow the seeds for fall of the Republic in the prequel movies, when Jedi complacency allows Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine to rise to power right under Yoda and Mace Windu’s noses.

"The High Republic is so golden in so many ways," Headland told Vanity Fair. "The Jedi uniforms are gold and white and it's almost like they would never get dirty. The idea is that they could have these types of uniforms because that’s how little they're getting into skirmishes. So, of course, my question is like, 'Well, what else is going on?' You can’t just end up with George [Lucas]' Phantom Menace situation if everything is going well.

"It has to be going well at the expense of what? What is not being attended to? What are we turning a blind eye to that could lead to the rise of somebody like Palpatine about a century later? Yes, it’s one bad guy, but it’s one bad guy that completely undermines the entire system of government. A lot of other things must have been going on beneath the surface."

Amandla Stenberg and Leslye Headland pose for a press picture at Star Wars Celebration 2023

Nobody can say Stenberg (left) didn't get into the Star Wars spirit in London. (Image credit: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney)

In arguably the show’s most radical departure from traditional Star Wars, the so-called good guys won’t necessarily be the protagonists – indeed, in franchise lore, the term 'acolyte' has traditionally referred to followers of the Sith religion.

"I think that what makes this show different and interesting is that it’s from the perspective of the villains of Star Wars," Headland revealed on the Dagobah Dispatch podcast. "These are people who are using the Force in their own way, dipping into the darker sides of the Force and are doing it without being sanctioned by the larger institution, which, in this case, is the Jedi."

There are also parallels with The Mandalorian, where traditional bad guys in the Empire are – like the Dark Siders in The Acolyte – the plucky outsiders battling against the establishment.

"Star Wars is always about some version of the underdog versus the institution," said Headland via EW. "And I just thought it was very interesting to do a show about the bad guys and to set that during that time period made the most sense. So it’s kind of almost flipped. We have more Jedi than you’ve seen in any of the of the Star Wars content, but at the same time, you see more morally ambiguous characters than you’ve seen in other Star Wars content."

Despite all that darkness, the world of The Acolyte – a lot of which, it seems, will take place on city planet Coruscant – will look prettier and shinier than Star Wars ever has before.

"I love the fact that George Lucas, when he originally made Episodes IV through VI [A New Hope to Return of the Jedi], you can see that he wants everything to feel like it has this particular type of decay," Headland told Vanity Fair. "This is a lived-in sci-fi/fantasy world, not a sleek, well-put-together aesthetic.

"[But] when he tasked himself with making the prequels, the way that he decided to address technology and all of those types of things was to make it a much sleeker, better-looking, almost more advanced time. That’s what's kind of weird about Star Wars. The further you go back, the better things are. ‘A long time ago’ actually becomes more futuristic. So while we are creating this type of world, we’re trying to carry George’s concept that the further you go back, the more exciting and new and sleek and interesting things look."

But one big question remains: how do these dark Jedi and the future fall of the Republic fit in with Headland’s unlikely – if headline-friendly – original “Frozen meets Kill Bill” elevator pitch for The Acolyte story? The Tarantino reference refers to the martial arts influences on the film, everything from Akira Kurosawa samurai movies to Shaw Brothers’ Hong Kong actioners to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

As for the popular cartoon musical Frozen, aka one of our best Disney Plus movies, that’s a nod to a story that – like Star Wars: Ahsoka – is dominated by its female characters.

"So much of Frozen was about the sister relationship," Headland told IGN. "So much of it was about the villain actually being a powerful, misunderstood woman. I couldn’t believe that it was a cartoon with music. It was hitting me on such a deep level and yet servicing the genre so well."

In so many ways, The Acolyte promises to be Star Wars as we’ve never seen it before.

The Acolyte trailer: is there one?

The cast of The Acolyte on stage at Star Wars Celebration 2023

See if you can spot the actor who plays a Wookiee. (Image credit: Kate Green/Getty Images for Disney)

No, The Acolyte doesn't have a trailer. Only the lucky few who attended Star Wars Celebration 2023 have seen some footage, but – assuming Lucasfilm follow usual protocols – we’d expect one to arrive a few months ahead of the show's debut.

Per Variety, the Celebration footage featured a gold lightsaber, many Jedi igniting their Kyber crystal-based blades in unison, and a fight between Moss and Stenberg's masked character "that recalled the former’s The Matrix performance."

GamesRadar added the teaser opened with Jung-jae’s character telling Padawan learners “the Force is powerful, it is power, we must respect [it]". They also reported a seemingly pivotal line spoken by Turner-Smith’s character saying "this isn’t about good or bad. This is about power and who is allowed to use it."

The Acolyte: what to watch before its arrival

Grogu looks up at Din Djarin in The Mandalorian season 2

The Mandalorian is one of many great shows to stream on Disney Plus. (Image credit: Disney)

Given it's set during the High Republic era, there are no Star Wars movies or TV shows you need to watch before The Acolyte launches, which will come as a relief to viewers who don't want lots of homework to do.

Still, if you want some Lucasfilm-developed TV series to stream – some of them are among the best Disney Plus shows – in the interim, check out one or more of the below:

  • The Mandalorian – set between Star Wars Episode VI and Episode VII, this space western sees Pedro Pascal's lone gunslinger becomes a surrogate father to 'baby Yoda', a child of the legendary Jedi's alien race, who is apparently vital importance to a Machiavellian scheme concocted by the Galactic Empire's remnants. All three seasons are available on Disney's primary streamer now.
  • Star Wars: Ahsoka – running alongside The Mandalorian, this live-action sequel to Star Wars: Rebels sees the fan-favorite Togruta Force wielder reunite with her Rebels allies to try and thwart a menacing Empire general's return. Stream season 1 and then read our Star Wars: Ahsoka ending explainer to see how it impacts the future of Star Wars.
  • The Book of Boba Fett – the weakest of Lucasfilms' live-action shows, Boba Fett's standalone show sees the iconic bounty hunter navigate the galaxy's seedy underworld as he attempts to replace Jabba the Hutt as Tattooine's number one crime lord. All seven episodes are available on Disney Plus.

For more Star Wars-based content, read our guide on all of the new Star Wars TV shows and movies. Alternatively, read up on everything we know about Star Wars: Skeleton Crew and Andor season 2, which are also in development.

Richard Edwards

Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.

With contributions from