Amandla Stenberg and Manny Jacinto on the new Star Wars series, The Acolyte | Interview

by W. Andrew Powell

Amandla Stenberg and Manny Jacinto had a lot of “pinch me” moments when they filmed the new Star Wars series, The Acolyte.

“All the time,” Stenberg said.

“Seeing the Jedi Temple for the first time was pretty nuts, and seeing those steps. I was thinking about where Mace Windu sat, where Qui-Gon Jinn stood. Where Obi-Wan Kenobi stood… where all of these iconic scenes take place in that temple, and all these sets were huge. I think that that’s an important element to keep in mind. They were all inspiring to look at.”

“I think having one of my first few scenes with our fellow costars,” Jacinto said, “who play the Jedi, with Dafne Keen, and with Charlie [Barnett] as well. Them coming into the scene, dressed in the High Republic Jedi wardrobe, there was this visceral feeling.”

Amandla Stenberg as Mae in The Acolyte
Amandla Stenberg as Mae in The Acolyte

“And also, I was playing, Qimir, it was an intimidating feeling. And that was the first time where I was like, ‘Oh, wow. We’re doing this. This is Star Wars. This is it.'”

The Acolyte revolves around a killer that’s attacking Jedi Masters, and all the clues point to former Jedi, Osha, played by Stenberg. Her former Master, played by Lee Jung-jae, seems doubtful though, and the series follows their hunt for the real killer, who appears to be Osha’s twin, Mae.

For Stenberg, stepping into the dual roles of the former Jedi, Osha, and the mysterious Mae, she wanted to make them stand apart, but also reflect each other.

“It was really important to me that the characters balanced each other, that they felt like two very different people and that they were, as characters, representative of the light and dark side of the Force,” Stenberg said.

Manny Jacinto as Qimir
Manny Jacinto as Qimir

“When it came to Mae, the dark side of the Force is very seductive. That’s its role in the Star Wars universe, it seduces. So I wanted to create a sort of more feminine, assassin archetype, and I wanted that to be contrast by the other character who represents light and and also is having a lot of internal conflict about her own relationship to the force. So that was important to me that you felt that conflict in her.”

Jacinto had fun playing Qimir, and his unique path through the story.

“He’s not really about the Jedi philosophy, but he’s also, at the end of the day, trying to survive,” Jacinto said. “He ends up finding himself in this adventure with Mae, trying to appease her master and trying to survive, to survive it in his own way.”

“The great thing about Qimir is that he kind of gets to create his own path. He’s not following either side. He doesn’t have any ties to either the Dark or the Light side, and with that you get to bring a lot of fun, quirkiness. It’s a fun role to play, to just be kind of a rogue or somewhat of a renegade.”

And will there be surprises? Some jaws are going to drop, the two stars agreed.

The first four episodes, Jacinto said, are “literally just the beginning, right? It’s like the first act.” And Stenberg said that the finale is “So much happens…. very traumatic… it all goes down,” and she praised showrunner Leslye Headland for the format and structure of the series.

Watch the full interview above to hear what they shared about their costumes, and more. The Acolyte premieres on Disney+ June 4 at 6 PM (PT) and 9 PM (ET).

Amandla Stenberg and Carrie-Anne Moss
Amandla Stenberg and Carrie-Anne Moss

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm.

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