The Acolyte: Charlie Barnett Talks Yord, Yellow Lightsabers, And The Jedi Ego

The Acolyte

by Ben Travis |
Published on

If you want to watch Charlie Barnett star in a Leslye Headland show about complex people navigating sci-fi constructs, you now have multiple choices – the Russian Doll star has followed that series’ creator into The Acolyte. This time, he’s not stuck in a time loop, but instead plays highly-strung Jedi Knight Yord Fandar, unravelling the Force-centric murder-mystery at the core of Headland’s Star Wars show.

Empire sat down with Barnett to talk his entry into the Star Wars universe, his fandom of the animated series, why he initially wanted a purple lightsaber, and Jedi rivalries.

EMPIRE: Were you a Star Wars fan going into The Acolyte?

CHARLIE BARNETT: I am, and was, a Star Wars fan. But I say that with acknowledgment to the levels of Star Wars fandoms. I am not a Bible. I am a fan from the joy I have gotten since I was seven years old and started seeing them. I became a huge fan prior to me being cast on the show when I started watching a lot of the animated series.

Oh, are you deep into Clone Wars and Rebels?

Dude, Clone Wars got me deep! But now The Bad Batch is literally one of my favourite shows on television. One of my first jobs was for [TV drama] Chicago Fire, and I made best friends with one of the PAs that was working on the show. I come to figure out his name was Jett. We became close pals. And about three or four months into our conversations, I learned that he is Jett Lucas – George Lucas's son!

Oh wow.

‘Wait! What the heck, my man?!’ I have been, I guess, closely connected to the Lucas world and fandom for a long time.

The Acolyte

You worked with Leslye Headland on Russian Doll. Did she tell you that she was working on Star Wars?

We wrapped Season 1 of Russian Doll, which was years ago_._ She was going on to work on this huge project for months – she couldn't tell me what it was. And the day that we wrapped she was like, ‘Okay, I'm going to work on Star Wars.’ And I was like, 'What?!' And I literally joked, ‘Look, Leslye, if you need anybody, you can call my ass up.’ I didn't expect – four, five years later – to actually get a call, but I was very thankful. I still had to audition – let it be known, this was not just given to me.

"He's kind of a jerk! He's a little bit of a goody two-shoes."

Tell me about Yord – he’s a Jedi Knight.

I'm hoping that the world loves to hate him. There's so many redeeming and beautiful qualities about him, but he's kind of a jerk! He's a little bit of a goody two-shoes. He's trying to find success. Anyone who’s trying too hard? We as a society call them the heck out. I respect and appreciate Yord for trying, I really do. But he is an interesting character in that he provides a lens that the Jedi are not a monolith. As much as this is a galaxy, and we are talking about species beyond humanity, no-one is one note, no matter what kind of organisation you've committed to yourself. It's one of the reasons I love Leslye, why I'm so excited for her take on Star Wars – because she cannot avoid that part of humanity in all of her projects. Everyone is dynamic, layered, human.

Yord and Dafne Keen’s Jedi Padawan Jecki look like a real double act. What’s their dynamic together?

Dafne and I are like two peas in a pod. We love each other to death. She's like a little sister to me. As for Jecki and Yord, there's a lot of butting heads. Being Jedi, they both have the same goals – they're speaking from the same place, and their love and ambition. But they access it from different places. Yord is way more cerebral, and Jecki's more physical. She's a Padawan – one of those who knows that this has always been her calling. It was destined. [She has] a little bit of that ego – as we know, Jedi and ego is not a great mix. She is wrestling with her ego, and Yord recognises the fuck out of that. Yord, on the other hand... The Force was a big access point for me. Because I don't think that Yord is actually that good at accessing the Force. I think he gets blocked by his own thoughts, and his own desires. His own ego gets in the way. So it's really cool, we're very different, and it makes us butt heads.

The Acolyte

Yord has a yellow lightsaber – is there a particular design element of it that you really like?

I went in deeply wishing and praying that I could have a purple lightsaber. I wanted to, in some way, be historically connected to Samuel [L. Jackson’s Mace Windu]. Also, being of the Black community and the African-American race, I was like, I really want to see that connection. Deep down in my heart I was like, 'Maybe I can be his great, great, great grandfather?’, you know. Not like lightsabers are passed down in that regard, but it was a dream in my mind. That did not happen!

Yellow, though, also is its own individualist colour, which hasn't been established a lot in the history. So that was really exciting for me, but also a little bit terrifying, because I didn't know as clearly what it represented. Being a fan [of The Clone Wars], I knew how they make the lightsabers – the [kyber crystal], and creating it, and why the stone calls to you, and all the connection. Your colour kind of reveals itself. So that was really fun for me when we started doing the show, to figure out why yellow was the connection for [Yord]. I think yellow is the most important one – it represents duality, balance, living in this middle. It is one of the most powerful places to be, because what can you think of that isn't dual? That's how we all exist. And that yellow saber represents that in such a brilliant way. So now I'm like, ‘Screw purple!’

What was your favourite set on The Acolyte?

I really was like, ‘Man, I hope we get to be in a real [set] build.’ And Leslye, being the fan and the creator that she is, it was a big important aspect to her. It is honestly the coolest shit. The design aspects of this show – costumes, set, sound, SFX, everything, it's fucking epic. To the point that I almost was like, ‘I could literally go in here and bullshit, and it wouldn't matter.’ Because people are going to be watching everything that has made me 10 billion times better. [Jedi Wookiee] Kelnacca’s planet is my favourite set that we were at.

The Wookiee planet, Kashyyyk?

It's a Wookiee planet. It's not Kashyyyk, it's another one. I would give too much away, going in-depth.

The Acolyte is streaming on Disney+ now

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