“The Acolyte”'s Amandla Stenberg Shares the 1 Thing That Surprised Her While Working on the “Star Wars” Series (Exclusive)

Stenberg stars as former Padawan Mae in the new Disney+ series, which premieres June 4

<p>Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty</p> Amandla Stenberg attends the special launch event for

Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty

Amandla Stenberg attends the special launch event for 'The Acolyte' on May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles

Amandla Stenberg wasn’t shocked by much on the set of The Acolyte — but she was admittedly not expecting the amount of creative freedom.

Speaking to PEOPLE at the Los Angeles premiere of the latest Disney+ series on May 23, Stenberg says that the Lucasfilm production company didn’t tell her much about what to prepare for when joining the Star Wars universe. However, she was pleasantly surprised by “the amount of flexibility, and fluidity, and acceptance” that Lucasfilm possessed.

“How open-minded they are to me and my ideas — it really was just a collaborative process,” Stenberg, 25, says, describing creating the sci-fi show. “I would expect it to be almost more militant or feel less free, but I actually feel really free and supported.”

<p>Lucasfilm Ltd.</p> Amandla Stenberg as Mae in 'The Acolyte'

Lucasfilm Ltd.

Amandla Stenberg as Mae in 'The Acolyte'

Of training to become fluent in Jedi combat, the Bodies Bodies Bodies actress compares the process to “death by 1,000 cuts.”

“Repeating the same movements over and over again until you have the foundation really strong,” she explains. “We started with just me tracing the lines on a cardboard box that were in an X and a square, so I could get the angle of my knife cuts correct. And just doing really basic drills, so that I could get the balance right in my body and really just know how to use it correctly.”

Once The Hunger Games star had a solid foundation, the drilling began to incorporate stunt choreography, which she says felt like “practicing a dance movement over and over again.”

An exclusive featurette shared with PEOPLE ahead of The Acolyte’s premiere saw Stenberg — an accomplished violinist — perform solo arrangements created for her by legendary composer John Williams.

“It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it's something I'll hold forever,” she said of the opportunity to play Williams’ work.

Lucasfilm/Disney+ (L-R) Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae and director Leslye Headland on the set of 'The Acolyte'
Lucasfilm/Disney+ (L-R) Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae and director Leslye Headland on the set of 'The Acolyte'

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In The Acolyte, Stenberg plays former Padawan Mae, who comes into conflict with Jedi Master Sol (played by Lee Jung-jae) during a crime spree investigation. “As more clues emerge, they travel down a dark path where sinister forces reveal all is not what it seems,” reads the show’s synopsis.

The series, which also features Manny Jacinto, Dafne Keen, Charlie Barnett, Jodie Turner-Smith, Rebecca Henderson, Dean Charles-Chapman and Carrie-Anne Moss, takes place approximately a century after the events of 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.

Related: How to Watch Every Star Wars Movie and Series in Chronological Order

The Acolyte is the fourth spinoff series to expand the lore of the iconic space opera franchise. New additions to the Star Wars world outside of the film began with the critically acclaimed series The Mandalorian in 2019, followed by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Andor in 2022.

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The Acolyte premieres with two episodes on June 4 on Disney+. New episodes will then be released every Tuesday.

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