'The Acolyte' Showrunner Explains the Strength of Having Non-'Star Wars' Fans on Staff

One of the most exciting prospects of upcoming Star Wars universe is The Acolyte, a new series by showrunner Leslye Headland (Russian Doll). That’s because it’s being billed as a mystery thriller (a genre that has not often been explored in a galaxy far, far away) and seems to be largely unconnected to the events of the previous films and TV shows so far.

Headland, who is a Star Wars mega-fan, knows the value of having non-Star Wars junkies on her writing staff, and in a new interview, she talks about that, as well as modeling her showrunner style on the captain of a certain fictional space vessel – but it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of.

Headland’s upcoming show, The Acolyte, is described as “a mystery-thriller that will take viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic era.” And while some readers may think it would make the most sense to surround yourself with people who are the most knowledgable about the ins and outs of Star Wars lore to help craft a new Star Wars show, Headland understands the crucial need to have outsider perspectives to keep the die-hard fans on staff in check.

“First of all, I really wanted people that were different than me,” she told AV Club (via The Playlist). “I certainly didn’t want a room full people that were just agreeing with me vehemently. Not ideologically, but artistically—people that kind of had different writing styles or were interested in different things, all that kind of stuff…Mostly what I looked for were people that I felt could execute a great script, number one. And then in the job interview, just really talking to people who had different life experiences than I did, and had different connections to Star Wars than I did.”

Damon Lindelof recently took the same approach to staffing the writers’ room for his Watchmen series and that turned out brilliantly, so Headland is onto something here.

“What I also learned about hiring my room is that everyone’s fandom was very different,” she continued:

“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 it was so great, because I would really love to know from someone who is not fully immersed in this fandom, what do you think about the pitch we just made? So while she did her due diligence and did a lot of background work and research, at the same time, she was somebody that we would kind of talk to and say, ‘Okay, so if we take all the kind of signifiers out of it, and this is Star Wars version of X, what does it mean to you?’”

Running a Star Wars Writers’ Room Like a Star Trek Character

Headland, who talks about citing specific BBY dates on the Star Wars timeline and receiving blank looks from her staff, took inspiration from a different fictional sci-fi universe when running her writers’ room. “I think a lot about [Jean-Luc] Picard, and the way that he would utilize his crew and say, ‘What do you guys think? Any suggestions? What should we do next?’ And kind of hearing the debates and the sort of Socratic conversation that would result. I wanted to put the room together in that way. That also means hiring people that are not necessarily the die-hard, cutthroat fan that I am when it comes to Star Wars stuff.”

I highly encourage you to head to AV Club and read the entire piece, because Headland offers some great insights about her own fandom and what she thinks is the key to a successful Star Wars project. I’ll leave you with one final quote from her:

“My goal [with The Acolyte] would be to create something that people can interpret in a couple of different ways, as opposed to there being one right way to love or consume a Star Wars product. I think you should, hopefully, be able to utilize it depending on where you are in your life and where you are in your fandom.”

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