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Star Wars: The Acolyte


The Star Wars TV universe plunges into the Dark Side with this murder mystery about an intergalactic conspiracy that’s picking off Jedi Knights en masse

Russian Doll star Charlie Barnett may not have known exactly what kind of role he was auditioning for when he pursued a part in the latest Star Wars series The Acolyte, but with Russian Doll co-creator Leslye Headland writing this latest chapter of the iconic sci-fi franchise, he knew he wanted in. “Just trusting her work, trusting her writing, it makes it so much easier to walk into any kind of universe,” he says. “Having her at the helm of this is the perfect blend of the Disney powerhouse structure and the creative and adventurous spirit of Leslye — she even has a tattoo of Princess Leia on her body. The woman is fully committed to the best Star Wars story that she can bring.” Indeed, the Force is strong with this one.

Star Wars: The Acolyte on Disney+. Pictured:  (left to right) Yord Fandar (Charlie Barnett), Jedi Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) and Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae).

Premiering with two episodes this Tuesday, The Acolyte is set at the end of the High Republic era, leading into the events of the main Star Wars films. It focuses on a group of Jedi Knights who are tasked with investigating a slew of crimes targeting their own. “The Jedi are at the height of their power, they’re guiding the universe around them, but Jedi start being murdered,” says Bartlett. “It is unheard of. As we try to solve it, well, let’s just say your history always catches up to you.”

Bartlett teases a human story encased in a thriller that happens to take place in space. “I just love a playwright stepping into a cinematic world. Leslye develops a layered world, and there’s a lot going on in this story,” he says. “If you want to break it down to the most exciting principle, it’s a discussion about power and checking the balances of power — having conversations about policing and relinquishing your own rights in service of longevity of life. I was really fascinated by this project and its discussions on power, especially in reflecting on our world today.”

Star Wars: The Acolyte on Disney+. Pictured: Padawan Jecki Lon (Dafne Keen) is an apprentice Jedi in training.

Bartlett plays Yord Fandar, a by-the-book Jedi Knight and temple guardian. “He’s pretty much a badass, but I will admit in reading him, I was like, ‘Oh, you’re kind of cocky. A little bit of a d**k, too. That’s fine. You have confidence in your positioning and the people that you represent and you’re going full force with that,’” Bartlett reveals, adding, “He is the rookie cop who just got a raise and is ready to make his name. As a Jedi, it’s important not to put those desires out, but I think one of the coolest things is the Jedi struggle. The Jedi are not perfect beings. Like anybody in any position, you’re going to be challenged.”

Star Wars: The Acolyte on Disney+. Pictured: Carrie-Anne Moss stars as Master Indara, described as being a Jedi of “great mental and physical skill.”

To Bartlett, it was not just Headland’s exploration of flaws and growth in a kind of personality that is perceived as unflappable that was fascinating, but his character’s conviction — even when challenged. “He is committed and connected to doing the right thing. He’s not afraid to step out of bounds, even if he’s been challenged, if he knows that is what’s right,” says Bartlett. “That being said, I think he takes a lot of convincing, and you’d have to find a lot of facts to pull him in any direction.”

Star Wars: The Acolyte on Disney+. Pictured: Amandla Stenberg plays Mae, who becomes swept up in a sinister mystery that places her at the centre of a deadly conflict.

As seen in the trailer, Yord Fandar carries a yellow lightsaber, which delights Bartlett to no end. “I was really excited by that because it represents the duality of Jedi,” he explains. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s a part of me.’ I’m really excited going deeper into it, exploring how this lightsaber reflects more of Yord.’” Even if the actor can’t reveal much about the plot or his character, the yellow lightsaber seems perfect for someone who embraces complexity. “I’m a person who believes in duality of life. I’m a mixed-race person. I was adopted into a family. I’m queer. Nothing is ever black or white, you know?” he says. In terms of this project, Bartlett says his feelings of both fear and excitement emerged from the time he started the auditioning process. “It was incredibly terrifying and daunting entering this world because it is so important to so many people, and I know how much the advancement of the stories mean to them. Fulfilling that, unfortunately, can be impossible. But it’s something that, I want to rise to.”

Star Wars: The Acolyte on Disney+. Pictured: Jedi Master Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo) is Star Wars’ first Wookie Jedi.

It may be hard to please the legions of Star Wars fans out there, but Bartlett and his castmates — who also include The Hate U Give’s Amandla Stenberg as a former Jedi Padawan gone rogue and Burnaby-born Matrix alum Carrie-Anne Moss as a powerful Jedi Master — were endlessly impressed by the world they entered. “[Being on set] is like putting on shoes for an actor, everything comes together when I am in that space,” says Bartlett. “These sets . . . the people that built them, they’re just freaking unbelievable. They created a whole rainforest for us, and we were trampling through that baby, destroying ferns left and right. The greenery department was just running, replanting plants everywhere to make it look fresh and lush. I bow down to them. But it’s Star Wars. You jump into planets that none of us know, and we’re all trying to envision. They made it a reality.”

Star Wars: The Acolyte, premieres Tuesday, June 4 on Disney+

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