The Acolyte Will Feature a Long Overdue Star Wars Character

Meet Kelnacca, the galaxy’s fuzziest Jedi.


The Wookiees are one of the most iconic Star Wars species, but also one of the most misunderstood — and not just because they speak Shyriiwook. The tall, hirsute creatures are more than just beastly comic relief: Star Wars lore tells us they’re actually thoughtful, intelligent creatures, even if that’s not how they come across.

That’s set to change in The Acolyte, which will feature Kelnacca, the first Wookiee Jedi to be seen in live-action... which goes against a decree made by George Lucas himself.

Kelnacca actor Joonas Suotamo, best known for playing Chewbacca in the sequel trilogy, told Empire magazine that this Wookiee is very different from his previous role. “Kelnacca being a Jedi, that sets certain expectations to how you carry yourself in the line of duty,” he said. “There are certain assumptions that can be made as to whether he lets his emotions take control of him to the extent that Chewbacca would, for example. It was very interesting to bake that into the character and try to personify that on screen.”

Suotamo appeared in character with Acolyte showrunner Leslye Headland at Star Wars Celebration Europe.

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The Acolyte is set in the last days of the High Republic, meaning the Jedi are at their peak. We therefore see all kinds of species using the Force, including Kelnacca, who’s the latest in a surprisingly long line of Wookiee Jedi. In the High Republic novels and comics, set a few decades before The Acolyte, Wookiee Padawan Burryaga is a fan-favorite character. Even The Clone Wars introduced a youngling named Gungi, who later returned in The Bad Batch.

There are even more examples in the now non-canon Legends timeline, most notably a Jedi named Lowbacca, who appeared in multiple novels from the mid-’90s through the early 2000s. However, according to both a forum post by Dark Horse Comics editor Randy Stradley and a now-lost Star Wars Insider web supplement, George Lucas apparently decreed there be no more new Wookiee Jedi after the release of the Dark Nest novel trilogy in 2005.

We’ve seen Force-using Wookies like Gungi in the animated canon, but not live-action.


The reasoning for this decree is unclear. Stradley claims it was because Wookiees weren’t intelligent enough to train as Jedi, but that doesn’t match Lucas’ past sentiments on the species. According to the Return of the Jedi DVD commentary, the battle on Endor was supposed to feature Wookiees, but Lucas couldn’t reconcile making such an intelligent species primitive, so in later drafts, the species was swapped out for the more puppy-like Ewoks.

Maybe it was personal preference, maybe Lucas thought it would be strange to put unintelligible characters in positions of power, or maybe Lucas just had a bad run-in with a Chewbacca cosplayer. Regardless of intent, Lowbacca was sent packing to Dagobah and only had a scant few appearances afterward.

Now, almost two decades later, The Acolyte is finally going to disobey this decree. It will be the final nail in the coffin of the common misconception that Chewbacca’s just a furry bozo who can only contribute raw power and angry roars. As the Star Wars Holiday Special taught us, the Wookiees are a wise species with deep inner lives. Now, in The Acolyte, we’ll see this truth revealed through a Jedi.

The Acolyte premieres June 4, 2024 on Disney+.

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