Disney’s ‘Acolyte’ Creator Walks Back ‘Gayest Star Wars’ Claim: It’s True if You’re a Fan, Wrong if You’re a Critic

Leslye Headland attends the Disney 2024 Upfront at the North Javits Center on Tuesday, May
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, Disney+

Leslye Headland, former assistant to convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein and showrunner for Disney’s The Acolyte, is walking back the viral interview moment where she agreed the series is “the gayest Star Wars” ever.

In an interview published by The Hollywood Reporter, Headland tries to have it both ways with her new Star Wars series. She revels in the accolades of the LGBTQQIAAP2S+ community who say that her series if “the gayest ever,” yet also waves off critics as being simple-minded, pernicious, and “reductive” for calling her series queer.

Hedland, who is a lesbian and married to Rebecca Henderson — who is featured in the The Acolyte as a high-ranking Jedi — specifically picked gay actors to be her featured players.

Her first casting move was to pick The Hate U Give star Amandla Stenberg for the dual lead role of twins Osha and Mae Aniseya. Hedland admits that she chose Stenberg at the outset, even before the actress was aware of the role. Stenberg very openly identifies as both “non-binary” and queer. Hedland’s next move was to seek out Russian Doll actor Charlie Barnett, who is gay.

Hedland also essentially confirmed that her goal was to push queerness in her series when during a press junket, she accepted a journalist’s suggestion that The Acolyte is “arguably the gayest Star Wars by a considerable margin.” After that assertion was made, Hedland went on to give it credence by replying, “I’m, frankly, into it.”

But now, in her Hollywood Reporter interview, Hedland is desperately trying to dial back the gay. Trying to have it both ways, she now says you aren’t very smart to view the series as queer representation (if you’re a critic), and yet, she’s thrilled that it is viewed as queer representation (if you’re a fan).

Explaining away her “I’m into it” reply to the reporter, Hedland insisted that she was being flippant in her answer, not exactly serious.

“I was surprised by the question. Amandla and I just burst out laughing because that’s our knee-jerk reaction to being asked that, but to be honest, I don’t know what the term ‘gay’ means in that sense,” she said, adding, “I don’t believe that I’ve created queer, with a capital Q, content.”

She also blasted anyone who would think her series is bad merely because it is gay.

“Honestly, I feel sad that people would think that if something were gay, that that would be bad,” Headland told THR. “It makes me feel sad that a bunch of people on the Internet would somehow dismantle what I consider to be the most important piece of art that I’ve ever made.”

Of course, one of the main plot points of The Acolyte is that her Osha and Mae Aniseya characters were given birth by a lesbian society who created life simply by using “The Force” to impregnate one of its members and no men were involved in the making. But, never mind that. Hedland also explains that away, too. The society that birthed Osha and Mae are simply matriarchal, you see?

“They’re in a matriarchal society. As a gay woman, I knew it would read that their sexuality is queer, but there also aren’t any men in their community,” she tried to explain. “So, a closeness between the two of them would be natural. It seemed plot-driven. I would say it’s really reductive to call them lesbians. I think it means you’re not really paying attention to this story.”

Her main characters have two mommies, yes, but they’re not lesbian mommies. It’s all very nuanced, you see.

But even as she scolds viewers of “reductively” assigning queerness to her purposeful choice of gay actors, and the miraculous conception birth of her lead character to lesbians, she is also “proud” that gay people think her series is thoroughly queer.

“I’m proud of being a gay woman who’s accomplished this feat, and certainly, if my content is called queer, I don’t want to disown whatever queerness is in the show. I would be proud to create something that inspired queer people,” Headland exclaimed.

So, on one hand, Hedland is “proud” to accept the hosannas from the Pride community because her “art” is “the gayest Star Wars yet,” and you are a wonderful person if you are gay and want to see The Acolyte as gay. But on the other hand, she is disdainful of those who are not gay but who call it queer because those people are “reductive” and unsophisticated.

Welcome to Disney, folks.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Facebook at: facebook.com/Warner.Todd.Huston, or Truth Social @WarnerToddHuston


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