The HoloFiles

Leslye Headland and ‘The Acolyte’ Cast Talk Episode 5 Spoilers

By George & Josh Bate

The fifth episode of The Acolyte was a jaw-dropper to say the least. Nail-biting action, heartbreaking losses, identity reveals, and more made “Night” the best episode of the Star Wars series to date.

Now that episode 5 has released, Leslye Headland and company can finally discuss the show’s episode in detail. Here’s some of what they had to say in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Spoilers ahead….

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Acolyte – Episode 5

Leslye Headland discusses episode 5 spoilers

“Night” essentially unfolds as a 30-minute action sequence akin to Mad Max: Fury Road. Regarding the heavy emphasis on action in the episode, series creator Headland noted, “I got some feedback when we were writing and prepping the episode that said, ‘Gosh, it’s just so much fighting. Don’t you think the audience will tune out at some point?’ [laughs]. And I said, ‘No, I feel really confident that they’re going to love this.'”

In addition to some brilliant lightsaber action, “Night” also reveals the identity of Mae’s master. After dueling with Jecki, the Master’s mask is shattered, which reveals…. Qimir! Yes, as many expected, the bumbling trader played by Manny Jacinto was actually a Sith lord all along. “I think a good twist is not about hiding everything from the audience and then throwing it on them like, ‘Hey, this is what you didn’t see! We hid it so well that you didn’t see this!'” said Headland. “I think a good twist is telegraphing what’s going to happen, and then once it does, executing it without an ounce of pity or sentimentality.”

Headland also explained the thought process that went into crafting Qimir’s helmet. “His helmet’s not that different from a [classic] Star Wars villain,” Headland detailed. “But the grin is like this smile that lasts too long, and was meant to be really unsettling to the Jedi. It’s not that they’re afraid of him, it’s that they find him unsettling. Even his intro, when he floats down at the end of episode 4, we shot that in reverse because we just wanted the audience to be like, ‘What is this?'”

Episode 4 introduced many nameless Jedi, who fans speculated would be red shirts (i.e., stock characters who die shortly after being introduced). Headland noted how the inclusion of red shirts made the death of Jecki all the more shocking. “That’s what I loved about starting with the red shirts,” Headland described. “You’re kind of like, ‘Oh, he’a just going to kill a bunch of red shirts, and everybody is going to be fine and… OH MY GOD, JECKI’S DEAD! Okay, I’m listening.'”

Understandably so, the deaths of Jecki and Yord generated quite the reaction from Headland’s cast. In response to star Amandla Stenberg jokingly asking, “What kind of sick, twisted masochist are you?” for killing off beloved characters, Headland said, “I guess I always thought, ‘Well, Anakin killed a bunch of children, so….”

Dafne Keen and Charlie Barnett mourn Jecki and Yord

The most shocking parts of episode 5 came with the deaths of Jecki and Yord. Actors Dafne Keen and Charlie Barnett, who play the two Jedi, reflected on their unexpected deaths in the Entertainment Weekly interview.

“There are so many directors in blockbuster sagas that are so scared to kill off their characters, and are so comfortable with bringing characters back to life, and all of these little writer tricks that I think are quite cheeky,” Keen said. “And I really like that she was actually killing people. Because if you’re not making it dangerous, then why are we even here? Why are we concerned by the story? Why do we care? Leslye has such a backbone as a writer, to make you fall in love with these characters and then slaughter them all like pigs and be like, ‘Yeah, this is our villain. We’re not just saying he’s so big and scary, we’re actually showing you how big and scary he is.'”

Keen said that she and Charlie Barnett “were joking about [their deaths] all the time while making The Acolyte. “Whenever we were on set and anyone would be complaining, me and Charlie would be like, ‘Peace out, we’re dying in two weeks!'”

Keen’s character’s death coincides with the reveal identity of the Master. “I had so much fun doing the death,” said Keen. “It was a huge honor to get to be the person that took the helmet off him,” she beams while heralding her character’s final act. “That was something really exciting to me.”

Yord actor Charlie Barnett was asked if he wanted to watch Dafne Keen film Jecki’s death, something he was certainly not in the mood for. “They asked me if I wanted to go watch Dafne’s death, and I was like, ‘No, are you f—ing kidding me? I love her. I don’t want to see her die four times over. It’s just visceral and f—ed up and sad. No, I don’t need all that.'”

Manny Jacinto the Sith Lord on being the series’ big bad

For the first half of The Acolyte Season 1, Jacinto played the bumbling and slightly mischievous Qimir, a trader who crafts a poison for Mae to use against Torbin. But episode 5 confirms there is far more going on with Qimir than initially meets the eye.

Leslye Headland was inspired by the character of Drunken Cat in the 1966 Hong Kong martial arts film Come Drink With Me in crafting Jacinto’s Sith Lord character. Drunken Cat is portrayed as an intoxicated, singing goofball, but, eventually, he is revealed to be a powerful Shaolin master. This parallels Qimir in The Acolyte, introduced initially as somewhat of a goofball only to then be revealed as someone more powerful.

Headland watched Manny Jacinto in The Good Place and Nine Perfect Strangers and was so impressed by his work that she cast him as the Sith Lord without even auditioning him.

After being cast, Jacinto trained for a whopping four months just for the fight scenes. “This was the first time I really got to dig into something with so much action and really make use of my dance background,” Jacinto remarked. “We worked on everything. We did boxing, we worked on kicks, we worked on all the choreography. It was tough. They conditioned my body so that I could get through this five-person fight scene.”

Jacinto compared his Sith Lord to Darth Vader. “We wanted a character that was not just oppressive and powerful, but when you see him, you feel disturbed by him,” said Jacinto. “We wanted a character that isn’t just a Darth Vader type of guy who overpowers the screen. It’s the concept of the uncanny. It can be a stumble in a person’s walk or a twitch in somebody’s eye. It’s very subtle, and it’s just like this uncomfortableness that people experience — and that’s what we wanted to hone in on for this Sith Lord.”

Episode 5 concludes on an interesting note, with Mae (disguised as Osha) accompanying Sol and the Sith Lord getting his hands on Osha. Jacinto explained how the ending of Episode 5 sets up the rest of the season. “I think it’s essentially our introduction into the third act,” says Jacinto. “It’s basically summing up everything that you thought you knew in these first episodes. Now we’re going into completely different territory. Now it’s a different world that we’re going to introduce you to, and not just a new story, but new motivations for all of the different characters.”

Finally, Jacinto recounted how grateful he is to play such an important character in the series. ‘This is an actor’s dream role to be able to do that switch. I need to do this,'” Jacinto recalled. “And that passion just fueled me all the way through until the end of filming. I don’t really know how I can do anything else after this. I think I should just retire because I think this is it.”

The future of The Acolyte

With Season 1 coming to an end next month, Headland also discussed the future of her Star Wars series. In comparison to other shows, Headland confirmed that Season 1 will have a definitive ending. “Something that I’ve noticed is first seasons will end on what should have been the break into act two,” Headland explained. “It feels like everyone’s really expecting [their shows] to get a second season, and I don’t feel that’s a good idea. I threw everything into season 1, because who knows what’s going to happen?”

If Season 2 does come to fruition, Headland noted that she has “four or five major mysteries” she’d like to explore. Fingers crossed The Acolyte is renewed for a second season so we can see what Headland has in store for these characters.

Check out the full Entertainment Weekly interview about The Acolyte episode 5 spoilers here.

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