‘The Acolyte’ Showrunner Says She Was Inspired By Star Wars EU


The showrunner for Star Wars: The AcolyteLeslye Headland says she was heavily inspired by RPGs such as KOTOR.

The showrunner for Star Wars: The AcolyteLeslye Headland, recently spoke with vanity lounge in an interview for his upcoming series set in the High Republic era. There she spoke of her inspiration for The Acolyte and how it drew inspiration from the Expanded Universe, or Legends, of 90s hardware.

“She’s a massive Star Wars fan,” says Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “What’s wonderful about Leslye is that she knows everything. I mean, she’s read a gazillion books inside the EU. There are little bits that she pulls that no one has yet explored in the on-screen storytelling.

“In the prequels, Mace Windu says, ‘There’s no way the Sith could have reappeared without us knowing about it.’ And Yoda says, “Hard to see the dark side,” Headland points out. “He recognizes that it’s a part of the Force that’s been dormant, or at least hidden from them, for so long. What I immediately wondered about this particular period was: who is practice it?”

vanity lounge: How do you explain the High Republic to a Star Wars fan who may not yet know the stories the books tell?

The way I would explain the High Republic, and specifically where my show is set, is that I’m about 100 years before The Phantom Menace. So a lot of these characters haven’t even been born yet. My question looking The Phantom Menace was always like, “Well, how did things get to this point?” You know what I mean? How did we get to where a Sith Lord can infiltrate the Senate and no Jedi find out? What went wrong? What are the scenarios that have led us to this moment? So that’s what I would say. That’s how I would describe it to my friends, especially my non-Star Wars friends.

The way you describe it reminds me of Roman times, a time when that empire was very powerful and quite technologically advanced. Then this region of the world falls into a period of barbarism, and the dark ages follow. Is it similar to what you’re talking about here? Is the High Republic an era of education, advancement, and glory, when the Star Wars movies and shows we know best date from a time of collapse and decadence?

Yes. We actually use the term Renaissance or Enlightenment. There need not be an uprising among the people in the extended regions or in the inner worlds, because everyone is doing so well. For what I’m exploring, another good analogy might be post-World War I in the United States, where we really got into this isolationist concept of: we don’t help anybody. We want to protect this particular atmosphere that we have. [Laughs.] “Vibe” is definitely not the word they use.

So, do the rulers of this galactic age prefer to ignore conflict or suffering rather than resolve it?

The High Republic is so golden in so many ways. Jedi uniforms are gold and white and it’s almost as if they’ll never get dirty. They would never come out. The idea is that they might have these types of uniforms because they don’t get much involved in skirmishes. So, of course, my question is like, “Well, what else is going on?” » You can’t finish with George’s phantom menace situation if all goes well.

It has to go well to the detriment of what? What is not supported? What are we turning a blind eye to that could lead to the rise of someone like Palpatine roughly a century later? Yes it is a villain, but he is a villain who completely undermines the whole system of government. Many other things must have happened below the surface.

What are some of your cinematic influences for the show?

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Jon Favreau said that when you work in this world, you want to go back to what George was inspired by. There were westerns and then of course Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films, and the fact that he initially offered Obi-Wan Kenobi to Toshiro Mifune…
So I went more to martial arts films, and more personal and less global and galactic stories. These warriors were on deeply personal missions, with people feeling wronged and having to fix things. Wuxia Films and martial arts films of King Hu and the Shaw Brothers, such as come drink with me and Zen touch. They are monks who are also martial arts heroes.

Since this is the first screen story told during the High Republic era, what was their ambition for it? Were they looking to break free from the well-explored Star Wars universe?

The truth is, as a major mega fan, I’ve come to them with this idea. And I said, ‘I think the best place to put this is in a time that you haven’t quite explored yet.’ They were very enthusiastic. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to explore this [existing] world, but I think they already were because The Mandalorian and many other TV projects really relied on legacy characters.

I was coming there as a fan who was much more into the RPG [role-playing games] on which the extended universe feeds. I came hard at this in the 90s, then I was introduced to [the animated series] The Clone Wars. I knew the timeline very well. And I thought to myself, “I think if you want to explore Star Wars from the perspective of the villains, the best time to do that is when the villains are outnumbered.” While they are essentially the underdogs, for lack of a better term. So that would be that time.

There’s always a lot of pressure around Star Wars. What are the stakes of this show from the point of view of the franchise?

I feel a lot of pressure, but I also – weirdly – feel a huge amount of freedom because I don’t feel like I’m dealing with legacy characters, which is a lot scarier… I mean, you couldn’t Pay me enough money to try to be in the Luke Skywalker timeline. I’m like, “No, thanks!” [Laughs.] It’s just too intense. There is too much iconography and intensity with these particular characters.

Whereas I think I’m telling a story that’s more about a timeline that we don’t know much about. Let’s stay here a bit and see what Star Wars looks like when the good guys are Actually in charge. What happens? We know what this ultimately leads to, so let’s explore. What are the holes we can poke in what happened?

Can you tell me about the need to grow beyond the Skywalker era?

I mean, that’s such a good question. And I think there are probably people who would disagree with you. There would be people who would say, ‘This is Star Wars. star wars is the Skywalker saga. For someone like me who was introduced to Star Wars not only through the movies, but also through the role-playing games, I’m also like, “You don’t understand what kind of escape this gave me in as a young child – a child who didn’t fit in, who had many, many behavioral issues. I was able to escape into this world with my friends, pretend to be part of it. It wasn’t not like, ‘And now you have to do a scene from the original movie.’

You can imagine your own scenarios.

My first attempts at writing were basically writing what you might call Star Wars fanfiction, which means I would be inspired by [Timothy Zahn’s 1991 Star Wars novel] heir to the empire. I would be inspired by a particular [gaming] session with my friends, then I would go there and write. ‘What if my character was also in a different storyline, and what would she be doing there?’

That to me is the magic of Star Wars. It’s not just the characters. It’s not just this particular monomyth. That’s part of it. It’s part of longevity. But it looks like a world much more than a story. But me too don’t I mean that and make it sound like it’s not one of better stories that our culture has ever produced.
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