The Acolyte Showrunner Leslye Headland Objects Creating 'Queer' With 'Capital Q Content' On Star Wars

Leslye Headland's Star Wars: The Acolyte makes a groundbreaking debut on Disney+, exploring the rise of the Dark Side during the High Republic era.

Published on Jun 22, 2024  |  09:02 AM IST |  50.3K
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In 2019, Leslye Headland, known for co-creating Russian Doll, was asked at the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker premiere if she had any Star Wars ideas.

She revealed that she had been dreaming up Star Wars stories since childhood and urged Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy to consider her. In truth, Headland was already working on what would become Star Wars: The Acolyte, making her the first openly queer person to create a live-action Star Wars project.

Leslye Headland previously ensured LGBTQ+ representation on The Acolyte


Headland, who wrote her first TV script for the acclaimed 2010 series Terriers, ensured strong LGBTQ+ representation in The Acolyte. She envisioned Amandla Stenberg, known for The Hate U Give, in the lead role of identical twins Osha and Mae Aniseya, creating concept art with Stenberg in mind before approaching her.

Stenberg, who identifies as nonbinary and gay, stars alongside Russian Doll’s Charlie Barnett as Jedi Knight Yord Fandar. Headland’s wife, Rebecca Henderson, plays Jedi Master Vernestra Rwoh.

Leslye Headland on creating the 'Gayest' show on Star Wars

Leslye Headland was surprised by a recent viral moment when a journalist suggested that The Acolyte is “arguably the gayest Star Wars by a considerable margin.” Headland and Stenberg laughed it off, but the question of what makes a show "gay" puzzled Headland, who insists she didn't set out to create queer content.


Headland told The Hollywood Reporter, “I was surprised by the question. Amandla and I just burst out laughing because that’s our knee-jerk reaction to being asked that, but to be honest, I don’t know what the term ‘gay’ means in that sense, I don’t believe that I’ve created queer, with a capital Q, content.”

One storyline in The Acolyte involves the 24-year-old Aniseya twins, born to two moms, Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Mother Koril (Margarita Levieva). 

Headland explains to the outlet, “They’re in a matriarchal society. As a gay woman, I knew it would read that their sexuality is queer, but there also aren’t any men in their community, so a closeness between the two of them would be natural. It seemed plot-driven. I would say it’s really reductive to call them lesbians. I think it means you’re not really paying attention to this story.”


Headland is proud of her achievement as a gay woman but doesn’t label her content as queer. She acknowledges the challenges of creating progressive content in the Star Wars universe but feels the opportunity to work on Star Wars is worth it: "It’s been beyond my wildest dreams."

The Acolyte is set 100 years before The Phantom Menace, exploring the rise of the Dark Side during the High Republic era. The series has received positive reviews, with its June 4 premiere becoming Disney+’s strongest debut in 2024, attracting 11.1 million viewers over five days.

Star Wars: The Acolyte is currently streaming on Disney+. 

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