Acolyte Show Writers Never Saw Star Wars; Focusing on Queer Representation


After the streaming service’s initial hit series, The Mandalorian, several more Star Wars series were moved into development at Disney+. Star Wars: The Acolyte, is one more of those live-action series, and was created by Russian Doll co-creator Leslye Headland. Details regarding the upcoming series, which will be “female-led,” are being kept under wraps, as with everything Disney (and Star Wars). What we do know about the show is that it will be a mystery-thriller set during the dying days of the High Republic. And while details are scant, and the showrunner infamously deleted hundreds of old tweets when she got the gig, it’s not too difficult to find clues about what the approach and gait of the first “female-led” Star Wars series will be.


While access media outlets like the AV Club regularly avoid this detail, Headland is perhaps best known as being one of Harvey Weinstein‘s assistants. Beyond that, her Hollywood credentials include work on feminist films like Bachelorette and Sleeping With Other People, as well as her series Russian Doll. Nonetheless, Headland is being given free reign to create a new series with new characters that will fit in the world of Disney Star Wars, and will be far more concerned with inclusion and representation than anything that came before it.


In fact, Headland has her own production company, Shoot To Midnight, where the mission is to cultivate “diverse, underrepresented artists, storytellers, producers, filmmakers, and other creators.”



A recent interview at AV Club revealed some fascinating comments from the the first female showrunner for a Star Wars show:


AV Club: “When you have queer people making anything, it creates a certain anticipation for more meaningful representation. How do you balance making your story more inclusive, while also just kind of keeping in mind the considerable history involved?” 


Headland responded “Well, I love that interview that Mark Hamill [did], where he says, “If Luke is gay to you, then of course he’s gay.” That’s such a strong, beautiful thing for him to say. ” She continued, “… That being said, as somebody that is a lesbian, every time I see gay or queer representation in media, I scream with happiness. There is just nothing like seeing that out in the world. I literally was behind two mothers with their children at the airport and I was crying. It is so unusual to see it. And as someone that was raised very religiously and very heteronormatively, I mean, I could almost get emotional talking about it now.”


When discussing other Disney films and the messages they can convey beneath the surface, she refers to Frozen,… even stories that are coded queer, like Frozen, a movie that would have changed my entire life if I’d seen it when I was eight. I think I would have had a completely different experience in the world, if I’d seen that movie when I was younger. When I sat in the theater, it was like, “I’m 32, I’m miserable.” I saw it with my sister and was like, “We’re going to see this movie. I heard it’s good. We’re going.” Then it was just waterworks.”



Further into the interview, Headland reveals that seeing who can be queer in Star Wars was sort of an ice-breaking exercise in their writers’ room. “I look back at the way that I consumed Star Wars and the types of characters that I gravitated toward and wrote fan fiction about or identified with, could they be seen as gay or queer characters? Probably. I mean, one of the things we did in our writers’ room to kind of break the ice was ask who’s your favorite Star Wars character? And you could tell that people, when I said mine, they were like, “Yeah, well, you’re gay. That’s because you’re gay.” But it’s true.”


“It’s a beautiful conversation to be having. Sometimes people think that representation just completely within media—meaning within the story—makes up for representation behind the camera, and that’s, to me, even more important. Like I said, media representation is wildly important, but there’s also this kind of nuanced conversation that I wish more people were having about people behind the camera, and behind the scenes. Because I think that’s really where you see real change occur, and the real seismic shift in culture.”



The showrunner also talked about hiring her writers, even bringing on writer who had never bothered to watch Star Wars. Not a single movie, or cartoon, or TV show.

“What I also learned about hiring my room is that everyone’s fandom was very different. No one had the same experience with Star Wars. There were people like myself that were like later-in-life [Dave] Filoni acolytes. I literally had one writer that was like, “I have never seen any of them. I’ve never seen any Star Wars media.” And she’s texting me before we started the room, she’s like, “Luke and Leia are brother and sister, what the…?” [Laughs.]


And if you’re wondering if the showrunner’s politics will become an integral part of the Star Wars universe, ponder this comment:


I mean, it’s funny, because a lot of the feedback that I’ll get—and I use the term feedback very lightly—but when I do go on social media, the feedback is “Don’t make Star Wars political.” I’m like, “George Lucas made it political. Those are political films.” War is, by nature, political. That’s just what’s up. It’s truly what he was interested in talking about and looking at and digging into. 


You can read the whole thing here. There is no doubt in my mind that Leslye Headland’s Star Wars series will be the most political and miserable Star Wars output ever made (excluding From a Certain Point of View)… Kathleen Kennedy will be very proud.




h/t Dataracer.

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Karina Smitt

I'm not as much of a "CoMiCs NeEd MoAr DiVeRsItY & iNcLuSiOn" advocate as my girlfriend often is, but we both love funny books, crispy bacon, straight bourbon and hip hop. Add yet, we never vote the same, so we cancel each other out... and that works perfectly in my book!