Learn more about the witch coven at the center of the latest episode of the new Disney+ series.

Not all witches are sisters of Dathomir.

When The Acolyte creator Leslye Headland first started writing her Star Wars series — the first three episodes are now streaming on Disney+, — she was inspired by Mother Talzin and her coven from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. But it was Dave Filoni, who worked alongside Star Wars creator George Lucas on the animated show, who helped guide Headland in the creation of her own in-world coven led by Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith).

Dave Filoni very quickly became kind of a mentor of mine in terms of navigating what this part of the timeline would be like for both the Jedi and then other Force users,” Headland says. “It was kind of this ‘A-ha!’ moment for me when he told me, ‘You know, not all witches are Nightsisters.’”

Spoiler warning: This article discusses story details and plot points from the third episode of  The Acolyte, “Destiny.”

In the third episode of The Acolyte, we travel back in time from the two-episode premiere of the series to meet young Mae and little Osha, twins being raised by a coven of witches on the world of Brendok. “I had the unique opportunity of getting to create something that no one had necessarily seen yet,” Turner-Smith says of collaborating with Headland, episodic director Kogonada and the rest of the team on the role. “It was just really quite the ride to create [Mother Aniseya]. I didn’t create her from outside of myself. I created her from inside of myself. Mother was mothering,” she says with a laugh.

From Dathomir to Brendok

Headland had been a fan of Talzin’s Dathomiri clan since first watching the animated series. On Brendok, we find another society of witches with an altogether different aesthetic, some abilities in the Force, and perhaps somewhat unorthodox beliefs in the eyes of the Republic.

As the leader of the coven and mother to the young twins, Turner-Smith leans into the duality at the heart of the series, while drawing on her own experiences as a parent. “[The filmmakers] really just allowed me to play all the different complexities of a mother,” she says. “Here we have this woman who is mothering twins, so we have this symbolic representation of two different and sometimes opposing ways of being and thinking. Her job as their mother is to hold space for that constantly, to nurture that. And then there is the fact that she’s also the leader of this coven, so she’s constantly needing to move between the emotional, sensitive, softer ways of being that are required in order to mother, but also that strength, fierceness, and the hardness that’s required in order to lead a group of people. And she’s trying to impart these lessons to her children. It’s not just good or bad, it’s not just the light side and the dark side. It’s not just Jedi and everyone else, you know. The world is multifaceted.”

Another element of the duality can be found in Aniseya’s partner in parenthood, Mother Koril [Margarita Levieva], a fierce Zabrak warrior whose views are often in conflict with those of her leader. “It was very wonderful to get to play with Margarita where not only are we relating to each other, we’re also parenting together,” Turner-Smith says. “There’s nothing that’s going to challenge your relationship like parenting. And, in this particular circumstance, obviously the stakes are very much heightened because Mother Aniseya is also her leader. What happens when you disagree with the way that someone is leading the community? How does that trickle down to then catalyze different moments that become explosive?”

“I felt that when we were shooting it, so many of the topics that we’re exploring are really relatable,” Levieva adds. “I get emotional. [Koril] means a lot to me. I love her so much. I felt her so deeply.” The actor could clearly see the Thread between her own protective nature towards her then 5-month-old infant and Koril’s ferocity in defending her family. “She’s a mother and I was a new mom at the time.”

Aniseya’s crown

Costume designer Jennifer Bryan crafted a unique coordinating color palette that reflected the serenity of Brendok’s natural mossy greens alongside the blues of the witches’ everyday attire and the striking royal purples of the coven’s Ascension gowns. Aniseya’s locs, crafted by hair and makeup designer Jeremy Woodhead’s department, form a sort of natural crown on her head while simultaneously suggesting a braid of kinked and twisted hair that has never been cut — historically a symbol of a woman’s power. “I thought that was so beautiful, this homage to afro textured hair and the beauty of that,” Turner-Smith says. The complete wardrobe helped Turner-Smith embody the role. “There’s something about being in the robes and stepping onto those sets,” she says. “You walk differently. You move through space differently. You know, when something’s trailing behind you, there’s just something that happens in the way that you move through the world.”

“In designing for Mother Aniseya and for the witches, I wanted to set them apart from what we’ve seen in previous Star Wars episodes and movies,” Bryan adds. “I use purple as a color because it [evokes] a kind of royalty. This is a very elevated group of women, and Mother Aniseya is the queen.” The color story also transcends time, echoing the past in Mae’s purple assassin cloak seen in the first two episodes.

As the young versions of Mae (Leah Brady) and Osha (Lauren Brady), the twin actors delighted their on-set collaborators. “It was beautiful to work with them and also to see them grow from the beginning of the process to the end,” Turner-Smith says. “I certainly grew [from] working with them. It was beautiful to behold the energy of two beings that once shared space in the womb. They’re just connected. They really are imprinted with that energy. It’s the way that they move through the world and navigate space. You really feel that. And I just had a lot of fun with them. For me, working with those two beautiful girls and getting to learn from them was my most memorable experience on Star Wars.”


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