Navigating The Acolyte With Manny Jacinto

To a galaxy far, far away

Filipino-Canadian actor Manny Jacinto lets us in on what it’s like being a part of a Star Wars project, taking risks with The Acolyte, and more.

Related: The Acolyte Is Murder Mystery But Make It Star Wars—And It’s Fun

Jason Mendoza is far from The Good Place, and he wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Premiering last June 4, The Acolyte is the latest series to enter the Star Wars canon. But more than just being yet another show centered during the time of the Empire, The Acolyte takes big swings with how it’s set a hundred years before the Prequel trilogy and its story being told through the lens of a murder mystery. Part of all that is Manny Jacinto, the Filipino-Canadian actor who’s taking every moment at a galaxy far, far away in stride.  


“Pretty unreal” are the words Jacinto would use to describe his inclusion in a Star Wars show, and we don’t blame him. To be part of a storied franchise is no easy feat, much more so if you get a substantial role like he has that you didn’t have to audition for. “It feels like a dream come true,” he gushes to NYLON Manila. “To be able to say that ‘Oh, I have a part in the Star Wars legacy or Star Wars galaxy’, I feel very grateful. But also at the same time feel incredibly proud that I got to be this.”

The Acolyte, which Jacinto describes as “a murder mystery in a galaxy far, far away with some badass fight choreography,” centers on a Jedi Master named Sol (Lee Jung-jae) and his former apprentice, Osha (Amandla Stenberg) as they track down an assassin leaving behind dead Jedi in their wake. In the show, Jacinto plays Qimir, an accomplice of Mae (Amandla Stenberg) who work together to appease their Master. Unlike in shows past, The Acolyte isn’t heavily tethered to the names, faces, and timelines most audiences are familiar with. But the show’s distance from the Skywalker Saga and different story structure meant that the series, and its actors by extension, had more room to play with. 


“The great thing about that is that you don’t have to be a Star Wars fan,” the actor explains. “Our showrunner, Leslye Headland, has said over and over again that you can take this exact story and put it in a completely different world, and it’ll still be a well-told story that can resonate with people. I think it’s beautiful because you don’t have to be a Star Wars fan to enjoy the twists and turns that we have in store.” 

While certain staples of the Star Wars franchise remain in The Acolyte, the show also lowers the barrier of entry for newcomers, something Jacinto hopes turns them into eventual Star Wars fans. “We’re gonna bring in a group of people that maybe aren’t familiar with the lore, but hopefully down the line become Star Wars fans.”


From the 1970s to the 2020s, Star Wars has rarely failed to deliver viewers to parts unknown in the most jaw-dropping ways possible. Whole worlds, settings, and societies have been brought to life through the mix of practical and CGI. The Acolyte looks to continue that trend as it takes viewers to both familiar locales, such as Coruscant, and new locations that haven’t been featured on screen before. 

For Manny Jacinto, to be in all that was like being a kid in the candy store. “I remember just walking around everywhere, all the nooks and crannies, exploring the different costumes and creatures and vehicles, and it was all tangible and practical. It was incredible,” he recalls on the wonder he felt being on the set for the first time. 


It can be overwhelming to experience all the practical sets and costumes and the magic that happens behind the scenes. But a job is a job and even fanboying can’t get in the way of delivering a good performance. “I had to constantly remind myself to play cool because I was just in awe. I definitely had to calm myself down a lot of the time and be a professional.”

When asked what his favorite moments on set were, Jacinto was mum to not spoil the series. But he did heap praise on his co-star, Amandla Stenberg, and recalled the first time he met her on set. “It’s just like we were just two kids excited to take on something new and fresh in the Star Wars universe. We had no idea what we were in for. I think that moment when we just kind of connected, that was a special moment.” That bond shows in the series as Qimir and Mae develop a sibling relationship of sorts, with Mae being the more serious of the two, and Qimir being the somewhat laidback comic relief. 


Set at the height of the Jedi’s power and with heroes set to face off against a villain unlike any we’ve seen in the official Star Wars canon, The Acolyte is not shy about taking risks, and, more importantly, puts new characters and faces at the center of the conversation. Sadly, like with any pop culture entity with a large fanbase, a portion of the fandom would rather hate. But Jacinto isn’t here for any of it and doesn’t see these changes as ruining the franchise but opening new doors. 


As he puts it, “[N]ot only is it something new and fresh and different, but from the beginning, I felt like ‘Oh, we’re taking a good amount of risk involved.’ And I think those are the best projects to hop on to when you feel like there is something at stake because we’re doing a version of Star Wars that’s pretty different from what we’ve seen before.”

At the end of the day, Jacinto couldn’t be any happier to be a part of this new side of Star Wars. “I’m so, so proud and grateful that I get to do it with people that look like me, you know, the people that are allies of people of color, that we get to bring in new faces within the Star Wars world, faces of color that can hopefully expand the universe. It just makes me so proud to be able to be a part of a series that looks like this.” 

Photos courtesy of Disney

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