‘The Acolyte’ Costume Designer on That New Sith Master Mask, the Witches’ Coven Robes and More

SPOILER WARNINGThis story mentions major plot developments in episode 4 of “The Acolyte,” now streaming on Disney+.

Who is that mysterious masked Sith master in “The Acolyte?”

More from Variety

Costume designer Jennifer Bryan knows, and her lips are sealed. She’s not spilling any secrets as to whether any guess is right or wrong.

Episode 4, titled “Day,” picks up in the present. Thanks to episode 3’s flashback, it’s revealed what happened to Mae and Osha in their childhood. Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith) and her Zabrak partner created and carried the twins. When Mae and Osha come of age, the ascension ceremony is set, and the coven readies to indoctrinate them as fully-fledged witches. A tragedy results and the entire coven is killed off, except for the twins who bear witness to the scene, and it sets their separation in motion.

In the present, Mae and Qimir (Manny Jacinto), have landed on Khofar seeking her next target, Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo). When they find him, he is dead, and an unknown master has killed him. It sets up Sol (Lee Jung-jae), Yord (Charlie Barnett), Jecki (Dafne Keen) and several others in their quest to stop Mae, but it also sets up the Sith Master’s entrance. Lightsabers drawn, the Jedi are no match for the new Sith Master, who uses the force and sends them flying.

Sitting down with Variety to talk over Zoom, Bryan happily discusses how the Sith Master mask evolved.

Showrunner Leslye Headland suggested Bryan collaborate with the creatures department to design and build the mask. Not only did the helmet have to be new and threatening, but it also needed to connect back to “Star Wars” canon. “It couldn’t look like Darth Vader or Darth Maul,” she says.

Bryan says the mask’s design went through at least 10 different iterations until it came together. “The creatures department had as many, and in the end, it was the eyes from one helmet, and the flare from another,” she says.

As for the teeth, Bryan won’t confirm what exactly they are. “Are they teeth? Are they flanges? Do they move? We’ll find out,” she says cryptically.

While designing the costumes for the show, Bryan reverse-engineered her ideas.

With the show set 100 years before “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,” Bryan suggested to Headland to move away from the Anglo-Saxon base of the universe “to something more encompassing of cultures.” She researched ancient civilizations. “I looked at Mongolia, Africa, and of course, Japanese culture because we know George Lucas based his Jedi and some of the iconic looks on that,” says Bryan. And Headland was game. “As you see more of the episodes, those designs and influences start to come to light.”

She also dove into matriarchal societies, particularly since she would have to design outfits for a coven of witches.

“I must have looked at just about every culture on the planet, and looking for things that were inspirational. I found an old photo of Portuguese women on the island of Azores. I think it was a late 18th-century or early 19th-century photo, and they were wearing these voluminous cloakcoat dresses. I found more images of it, and I could see something similar to this,” says Bryan.

She took that inspiration and redesigned the witch outfits to become more cloak-like. Instead of having a hood stitched on, like how the Jedi’s would be, it started from the waist. “If you watch episode 3, you’ll see when the kids come back into the village, there’s one shot from the back and you can see how the whole top half is hanging out. It didn’t really have sleeves,” she says.

Bryan went fabric shopping in England for Turner-Smith’s ascension robes. “They have woolen mills that they don’t really have in the United States anymore. So, I was in this fabric store, and I saw a bolt of something on a top shelf, and I asked them to take it down. It was the purple mesh fabric with cowrie shells. I asked if there was any more, and they said, ‘No. It’s been sitting up there for 25 years and the owner couldn’t get it anymore.’ I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but I wasn’t leaving the store without it,” says Bryan.

That fabric becomes the center panel with the shells, sequins and beads. “And it ties into her dreadlocks which is adorned with metal, bronze and shells,” Bryan points out.

The purple that Mae dons in episode 1 is tied to the coven. Bryan notes Mae is an assassin on the run with a hit list in her pocket. “She’s assembled this collage of bits and pieces. The purple robe connects back to her childhood. It connects back to the real reason why she feels hellbound to kill these Jedi because it was on the eve of the ascension. She remembers that purple. She remembers the robes, so she patches together a version with materials that she could  find that links her to that community.”

Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Mae (Amandla Stenberg)’s outfit ties her to the Witches coven.

In developing the Jedi look, Bryan did draw some inspiration from the Lucasfilm graphic novels such as “Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures, Vol. 1.” She said, “I noticed in the High Republic, they had some gold braid, and I pulled that out. I didn’t make it quite as much of a statement, because it’s a little different in illustration, they can get away with some things that you that might be a bridge too far in clothing, so I scaled it down. You’ll see gold trim on Sol and almost all of them. It’s there, it’s under the tunics. I didn’t copy it line for line, and just pulled some ideas and some things that they did to make it sort of cross-relatable since it’s the same period.”

As for the S”tar Wars” blue, it’s also in there. “You see it on the captain in episode one, and it’s on Tthe Neimoidians. I use it from time to time,” says Bryan.

(Clockwise from center): Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss), Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae), Jedi Master Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo) and (second from right) Master Torbin (Dean Charles Chapman) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
(Clockwise from center): Jedi Master Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss), Master Sol (Lee Jung-jae), Jedi Master Kelnacca (Joonas Suotamo) and (second from right) Master Torbin (Dean Charles Chapman) in Lucasfilm's THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.