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How The Phantom Menace inspired new Star Wars TV show 'The Acolyte': ‘What happened to lead up to this?’

By Josh Weiss
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Screen Cap

Russian Doll co-creator Leslye Headland is all set to turn back the Star Wars clock several hundred years in her upcoming Disney+ series: The Acolyte. Taking place in the twilight days of the High Republic, the female-led project is all about setting the eventual stage for Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

"I actually was very intrigued by why George Lucas had started us at that particular point," Headland said during a recent conversation with The Wrap. "I kind of wondered ... 'What happened to lead up to this?' ... ‘How did we get here? And why are the Jedi like this? When they are in power, why are they acting this way and how is it that they’re not having the reaction that you would think they would to Anakin’s presence and what Qui-Gon Jinn is saying about how passionately he feels about training him and bringing him into the fold?'"

As Luke Skywalker says in Episode VIII, "the legacy of the Jedi is failure, hypocrisy, hubris." Despite being the most powerful peacekeepers in the galaxy, they somehow allowed a Sith Lord, Palpatine, to gain power and form a shadow government that eventually led to their near-extinction. According to Headland, The Acolyte will provide a clear explanation for that dangerous sense of complacency.

"It’s like, even the discovery of Darth Maul is kind of met with this like, ‘Hm, interesting’ kind of feeling," she explained. "So I just think for me, my brain has always buzzed around that area and wondered what’s going on here — or what has been going on here.”

For her writers' room, Headland conscripted a wide range of Star Wars fans — from die-hards to more casual galaxy-goers.

Personally, the showrunner is a fan of all the ancillary media beyond the feature films (think The Clone Wars, Knights of the Old Republic, Fallen Order, etc.), which meant she "didn’t necessarily look for people who were as into Star Wars as I was, as much as I was interested in why people were interested in Star Wars. So it wasn’t I sought out people specifically who had not, it was more that I was looking for people who I responded to their work anyway, and then I was like, ‘What’s your way into Star Wars? What are the parts of it it that you find the most interesting?’"

No word on when The Acolyte will kick off production, let alone premiere on Disney+. Hopefully we'll hear more on the show's progress in the back half of the year.