The Acolyte: Lee Jung-Jae Talks Master Sol, Jedi Detectives And His Lightsaber

The Acolyte

by Ben Travis |
Published on

For years, Lee Jung-Jae had been a star in Korea, shooting hard-hitting action films. Then, in Squid Game, he became an international breakout actor, ready to take it to the next level. And in The Acolyte, that means taking on the role of a respected Jedi Master, lightsaber and all. As Master Sol, he’s about to embark on a dark investigation into a series of shocking crimes in the Star Wars galaxy – one requiring his brain, and considerable fight skills to boot.

Empire sat down with Lee to find out what makes Master Sol tick, hear all about his extensive lightsaber training, and learn how Star Wars compares to Squid Game.

EMPIRE: When did you first see Star Wars?

LEE JUNG-JAE: When I was 12. I remember seeing the Empire Strikes Back, and then I went back and saw the first one. I remember just being in utter shock really – it was a huge culture-shock. I remember looking at the screen and thinking, ‘Wait, is this for real?’ I was shocked by all the spacecraft, as well as those lightsabers. I was completely mesmerised.

What can you tell me about Jedi Master Sol in The Acolyte?

He's a Jedi who has a lot of combat experience. He's a teacher to the Jedi Younglings as well. And he comes across a series of mysterious events, and follows what unfolds.

The Acolyte

How did Leslye Headland pitch the character to you?

When I was offered the role, I was just so surprised. I thought to myself, ‘Is this really- Are you really offering this role to me?’ I was even more surprised when I found out that he was a Jedi Master. And even more surprised again to see what an important character he was – what [he] was going to go through [in the series].

Every Jedi has a different approach to the Force and being a Jedi. What kind of Jedi Master is Sol?

What I can tell you is, there were a lot of action sequences – to the point where one of the first things I had to do was train for those heavy action scenes. It's something that we put a lot of effort into.

"It's going to get even more intriguing and gripping because of that detective genre"

Did you look at any other Jedi as an influence?

Of course – I went ahead and rewatched all of the Star Wars films, and took a very close look at all of the Jedi characters. I really looked into, what kind of traditions do the Jedi have? What kind of traditions do I want to carry on in portraying my own version of the Jedi, as well as bringing something unique to my character? [Master Sol] is someone who has great heart – especially someone who thinks of his other fellow Jedi. That really stuck with me. Because of that characteristic, there’s a unique warmth and courage to my character.

There's a mystery element to the show as well, Jedi are being killed. Did you look at any classic screen detectives?

You're right. That's going to be one of many reasons why, after each episode, it's going to get even more intriguing and gripping – because of that detective genre. It's going to keep you at the edge of your toes, wanting to guess. And that's going to bring a whole other level of entertainment factor to the Star Wars story. This one will bring you a mysterious energy – wanting to constantly think about who did it is going to be even more fun for the fans.

There's a lot of martial arts flavour to the action in The Acolyte. How was that for you?

Well, I did several action-packed films in Korea, so that experience definitely helped. Our stunt coordinator really trained us well so that we did choreography that’s truly in Star Wars fashion. I really had to pull out everything that I had – every technique was put into good use in this series. It's definitely action-packed – and you're going to get a lot of different types of action as well. It’s a mysterious story that you're going to follow – a very adequate mix of that detective genre, with action.

The Acolyte – Behind the Scenes

Master Sol had Amandla Stenberg’s Mae as his Padawan at some point – what can you tell me about their master and apprentice dynamic?

The way the two characters are set up in the story, it’s a tool to maximise the drama between the characters. That kind of character dynamic allows for even greater conflict, and even more intriguing stories. It was a very well written script, and a very well thought-out character setup.

Tell me about your lightsaber – what was it like picking it up for the first time?

Sol’s lightsaber is deep blue. When I first held it, it was quite impressive – it was so much heavier than I’d thought [it would be]. Before I went into it, I had thought it was all going to be CGI – but [I was] very surprised to find that it actually does light up! We had to do all of the action scenes with the actual lightsaber. The action scenes were so much more convincing because of that. That's something, as actors, that you always appreciate.

How did the scale of The Acolyte production compare to making Squid Game?

Obviously Star Wars is much, much greater. But because the two stories are so vastly different, scale is about the only thing that can be comparable – the rest is not really something that you can compare. What I can say is that [Leslye’s] story is something that really connects everything that the Star Wars universe has created up until this moment. She did an amazing job, painting the picture of the very earliest time period of any story that's been told within the universe.

The Acolyte streams on Disney+ from 5 June

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