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In the Star Wars prequel The Acolyte, the bad guys are the underdogs and the Jedi are the antagonists

Prepare to uncover the Rise of the Sith in Star Wars' The Acolyte

Star Wars: The Acolyte
Image credit: Lucasfilm

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Star Wars is, at heart, the story about the underdog versus a giant, tyrannical force. In the upcoming prequel series The Acolyte on Disney+, that remains the case, but for the first time the shoe is on the other foot - the Jedi and the Republic are the tyrannical force, and the Force users acclimated to the Dark Side find themselves the plucky underdogs.

"We're looking at a time period where there is peace throughout the galaxy. It was very challenging and interesting to make a Star Wars with no war in it," showrunner Leslye Headland tells Variety. "So the question became, Well, what should the show be about if it's not going to be about galactic conflict?"

Headland says The Acolyte will focus on the villains of the franchise more than any Star Wars project to date - by making them the protagonists.

Related: Was Disney's 2012 purchase of Lucasfilm a good deal?

The Acolyte
Image credit: Lucasfilm

"I think that what makes this show different and interesting is that it's from the perspective of the villains of Star Wars," Headland explains. "These are people who are using the Force in their own way, dipping into the darker sides of the Force and are doing it without being sanctioned by the larger institution, which, in this case, is the Jedi."

Star Wars and its everpresent Campbellian storytelling structure relies on an underdog, be it Luke Skywalker, Rey, or other figures fighting against an omnipresent pressure. And for the Acolyte, the underdogs are the Sith.

"Star Wars is always about some version of the underdog versus the institution," says Headland. "And I just thought it was very interesting to do a show about the bad guys and to set that during that time period made the most sense. So it's kind of almost flipped. We have more Jedi than you've seen in any of the of the Star Wars content, but at the same time, you see more morally ambiguous characters than you've seen in other Star Wars content."

Amandla Stenberg, who plays the former Jedi Padawan Mae in the show, underscores that.

"It's a really interesting time in the galaxy," says Stenberg. "Because there are no wars, we get to lean into the underdogs and the moral ambiguity of these characters. And so I have the opportunity of playing something that holds a lot of moral and ethical conflict, which I think is my favorite part of Star Wars."

Star Wars: The Acolyte debuts June 4 on Disney+.

Turn back the clock 100 years before the earliest Star Wars movie and enter the era of the Disney+ series The Acolyte. We have everything you need from guides on the cast, the episodes (and their release dates), it's not-for-kids rating, where it fits in the Star Wars timeline, how the show asks who 'deserves' to use the Force, as well as bigger picture things such as a complete Star Wars watch order, and a comprehensive guide to the Star Wars timeline, and all the upcoming Star Wars movies & TV shows on the horizon.

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