‘Star Wars: The Acolyte’ Stars Talk OCD Jedi, X-23 with a Lightsaber and Charting Their Own Course (2024)

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Star Wars tends to enjoy the comfort of the known. As the galaxy has expanded on the big and small screens, new stories have been told in and around the original, prequel and sequel trilogies, featuring familiar faces and settings that the audience has had a connection to since childhood in most cases. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this level of familiarity. It’s something we all crave from time to time —and not just in Star Wars —be it a family recipe that’s been passed down through multiple generations, or an old, perfect-fitting sweatshirt that’s survived countless washes.

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But there comes a time when viewers want to step into the unknown, and the latest Star Wars series, The Acolyte, offers exactly that. Set a century before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in the era of the High Republic, the Leslye Headland-created Disney+ series explores a time of peace for the Jedi until a dark force emerges, beginning with the murders of two Jedi by Amandla Stenberg’s Mae.

While 500 years of the High Republic have been set up with precision across various books and other forms of multimedia, The Acolyte mostly got to chart its own course, and for co-stars Dafne Keen, Charlie Barnett and Manny Jacinto, such freedom in live-action was one of the most attractive prospects about joining this newest installment in the Star Wars franchise.

“It’s really interesting to get to play with the confidence and the naivety that comes with such a peaceful time for the Jedi, and how people can’t see that danger is right there,” Keen tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Barnett adds: ”I feel like there’s more humanity in all of us, as well. Not having to be interconnected or bound by where we have to go or where we have to start gives us the ability to be more fun and creative.”

Keen —who broke out at age 11 with a tour-de-force performance as Laura/X-23 in James Mangold’s Logan —plays Jecki Lon, a Jedi Padawan who joins Lee Jung-jae’s Master Sol and Barnett’s Jedi Knight, Yord Fandar, as they investigate the true nature of Mae’s murders. Jecki isn’t the biggest fan of Yord’s by-the-book nature, but it didn’t dawn on Barnett until the interview for this story that Yord has OCD. Instead, he chalked his personality up to something of a teacher’s pet, even if he was never the top student in his Jedi class.

“Oh my gosh! I didn’t even think about his OCD levels,” Barnett admits. “Yord always wanted to be at the top of his class, and I don’t think he always succeeded in meeting that place. So, in any aspect of his life that he can find perfection … he’ll take it.”

Jacinto’s shifty character, Qimir, is a true wildcard within the overall narrative, as he’s currently an ally to Mae and owes his own debt to their shadowy, string-pulling boss. He’s reminiscent of Benicio Del Toro’s DJ from Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in that he’ll do whatever it takes to keep his head above water.

“The Jedi have their weapons and that power, but for Qimir, weaseling is his weapon of choice,” Jacinto shares.

Below, during a recent conversation with THR, Keen, Barnett and Jacinto expand on their characters, as well as The Acolyte’s uncharted live-action time period.

Dafne, Leslye said that she wanted to see Laura/X-23 with a lightsaber. Are you pretty amazed that your 11-year-old self continues to pay dividends for you?

Dafne Keen: (Laughs.) Yeah, she keeps getting me roles.

Charlie Barnett: Straight up. She’s so dang good.

Keen: But I was really surprised. When I did the audition, I didn’t think I’d book it at all. And then I hopped on a call with Leslye, and she was like, “Oh, yeah, I always wanted you to play [Jecki].” And I was like, “I can’t believe it.” First of all, I couldn’t believe it just from the standpoint of even being considered for the Star Wars universe. Leslye also writes such wonderful, layered, profound, interesting, fun characters for actors, and the fact that she thought of me to bring [Jecki] to life was just such an honor.

‘Star Wars: The Acolyte’ Stars Talk OCD Jedi, X-23 with a Lightsaber and Charting Their Own Course (3)

Jecki (Keen) is not too fond of Jedi Knight Yord Fandar (Barnett). He’s so fastidious that he steams his Jedi robes.

Keen: (Laughs.) He is fastidious!

Barnett: That’s a beautiful word to use for Yord.

Charlie, did you treat him as the first obsessive-compulsive Jedi?

Keen, Barnett and Jacinto: (Laugh.)

Barnett: Oh my gosh! I didn’t even think about his OCD levels.

Keen: (Laughs.) He is so OCD!

Barnett: He definitely is.

Manny Jacinto: That’s the first thing I thought of! (Laughs.)

‘Star Wars: The Acolyte’ Stars Talk OCD Jedi, X-23 with a Lightsaber and Charting Their Own Course (4)

Barnett: A person who’s OCD is not concerned with their OCD levels; they are just living their life. Yord always wanted to be at the top of his class, and I don’t think he always succeeded in meeting that place. So, in any aspect of his life that he can find perfection and crispness, not to play on the pun [involving his Jedi robe steamer], he’ll take it. And screw Jack! (Barnett quickly corrects himself.) Jecki!

Keen, Barnett and Jacinto: (Laugh.)

Keen: You can’t be perfect if you can’t say the name right.

Barnett: But that was Charlie. Yord is a different human being.

Keen, Barnett and Jacinto: (Laugh.)

Qimir is a very slippery character, and he somewhat reminds me of Benicio Del Toro’s character in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Keen: You’re coming up with all these good adjectives. (Laughs.)

Is he someone who will survive by any means necessary?

Jacinto: Yeah, the anchor for Qimir is how does one survive amongst people that have way too much power, whether they be on the light side or the dark side? For him, it is all about survival. How do you toe the line between that whole spectrum? The Jedi have their weapons and that power, but for Qimir, weaseling is his weapon of choice.

‘Star Wars: The Acolyte’ Stars Talk OCD Jedi, X-23 with a Lightsaber and Charting Their Own Course (5)

Most Star Wars stories take place in and around the familiar time periods of the prequels, originals and sequels, but The Acolyte gets to define its own live-action era a century before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Was being that far removed and not being confined within other live-action stories a big part of the appeal for the three of you?

Barnett: 1000 percent.

Jacinto: Hell yeah.

Keen: Definitely.

Barnett: It’s a freedom, and it just allows you to play a little bit more. What’s really cool —and maybe it’s just a credit to Leslye and the direction that they wanted to take —is that I feel like there’s more humanity in all of us, as well. You get to see different layers of the Jedi and the people living at this time period. Not having to be interconnected or bound by where we have to go or where we have to start gives us the ability to be more fun and creative, and it’s laid out a little easier.

Jacinto: Totally. There’s just so much more to explore, and even though Star Wars has been around for a long, long time and is this huge franchise, it feels like we’re creating something completely new, something completely from the ground. It truly does feel like we’re telling a completely different story.

Keen: Yeah, it’s really interesting to get to play with the confidence and the naivety that comes with such a peaceful time for the Jedi, and how people can’t see that danger is right there.

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The Acolyte’s two-episode premiere is now streaming on Disney+.

‘Star Wars: The Acolyte’ Stars Talk OCD Jedi, X-23 with a Lightsaber and Charting Their Own Course (2024)
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