We're always excited to see a new Star Wars project—especially when Amandla Stenberg and Lee Jung-jae are involved. How could you not be amped for The Acolyte?

And when we get to speak with part of the creative team, like costume wizard Jennifer Bryan, we're even more excited! As we learned speaking with her via Zoom, she comes from the world of contemporary TV with credits like Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad under her belt, and this was an exciting opportunity for her to flex different muscles.

We were able to ask about some of the new looks for the Jedi Knights, how she builds world and character through costume, what it's like pitching to Kathleen Kennedy, and more.

Let Bryan take you to hyperspace with her interstellar advice!

The Acolyte | Official Trailer | Disney+www.youtube.com

Editor's note: The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

NFS: I am a big Star Wars fan. I don't know if you were when you got this project.

Bryan: I was just in the general population of having seen some Star Wars movies. I wasn't a super nerd, but of course I am now.

NFS: That's going to be my first question then. This being an established universe, how do you approach the work of designing costumes?

Bryan: It's a first for me in terms of doing a project that is worldbuilding from scratch. I was very, very excited. I come from contemporary television. Somebody asked me that, about making that jump from contemporary to fantasy sci-fi, and I told them—costume designers, her toolbox has to be very wide, because you never know what you're going to be presented with as a work challenge. Especially if you've been trained, formally like I have, you need to be able to catch whatever comes at you.

I'd always wanted to do worldbuilding sci-fi, deep imagination, and things that you really have to come out from the well of your creativity. And this show provided that for me.

NFS: One thing that I noticed immediately was your spin on the Jedi robes. I'd love to hear you talk about how you arrived there and what your process was.

Bryan: I started my prep in the States and then eventually went over in June, and I had my first big presentation to Kathleen Kennedy. And when I was doing my research, I thought, "Wow, the colors of the Jedi!" I'm a colorist, that's one of the tools that I rely on heavily when I'm designing regards to what the period is. If I can bring color into it that's appropriate, I'll do that.

So I started doing my presentations, and I know the Jedi are already in the iconography of Star Wars, but because the timeline was before, a hundred years, I had a hundred-plus years out. Almost prequel-like. I knew I had some leeway. I took a stab. I thought, "I think the Jedi uniforms and color palette could be a little different, not too far off, but a little different from what we've known."

So what I proposed, and Kathleen Kennedy was very open to it, was to change their Coruscant color tones. I kept the brown Obi-wan Kenobi-type robe that we all know. And the ivory off-white of the Coruscant temple robes. But I then inserted the turmeric, honey mustard color range on their tabards and their tunics.

I think it played well in the sense that on Acolyte, we didn't use a volume. Everything was on location. So I had a lot of location, background that helped to intensify my color choices.

Charlie Barnett in The AcolyteCharlie Barnett in The AcolyteDisney

NFS: You mentioned that you were bringing designs to Kathleen Kennedy. Can you talk about what that looked like? Were you bringing boards, or how do you pitch those ideas?

Bryan: That meeting with Kathleen Kennedy was my very first major presentation to her. But from that point on, when we kind of got a general, "Oh, I like what you're doing with this," from that point on, then it was definitely more a close working relationship with Leslye Headland, the director.

After initially meeting with Kathleen—and both of them actually—and doing my first major pitch, from that point on ... it was with Leslye Headland. It was a really wonderful collaboration with her. She gave me a lot of creative space, and whenever I got feedback from her, her guidance was really inspiring for me to follow. I can't praise her enough for her collaboration.

NFS: The costumes moved so well. I would love to hear about what your design process entailed, thinking about the action sequences and how people move in them.

Bryan: Oh, for sure. One thing when you're working on a show like this, especially a huge show like this, where so many different styles and disciplines come into what the actor has to do—certainly all of the principals and many of the background artists—I had to really communicate closely with the person that's responsible for the choreography, the wirework, the stunts, water work. Are they going to be in the water? Things like that.

And before I even started looking at fabric selection, I had to know that information first. So especially some of the upcoming characters that you're going to see, I had to really, really consider what they were doing.

The most important one in episodes one and two, and then you'll see her also a little further on, is Mae's assassin robe. That purple cloak. That was one piece I can definitely tell you I had to think about movement, and that she was going to be in it a long time, and that she was going to have this kick-ass fight in the opening scenes in the noodle shop.And how do you do that with that robe on? Right?

We started with that walk, that opening shot of her walking into this planet's town, and I did fabric choices where I started—in that particular purple cloak—started with lighter gauze fabrics on the bottom. It's all constructed with different weights of cottons, handwoven. As I worked up to the upper part of the cloak, then those fabrics became a little bit heavier so that the hood would stay on, but the bottom part would just flow and float away from her. Just give her that kind of windblown vagabond feeling.

The choreography was really important because I would have to give her a basic study cloak, and she would go into rehearsals in that, and then they'd report back to me, "Oh, it's catching up in my feet." And then we'll get back into the sewing room.

I have to give a shout-out to the tailoring team that I had on The Acolyte, my cutters and tailors. They were just masters at interpreting what I needed and making fabric behave the way we wanted it to behave, to suit choreography and wirework and all of that more technical stuff. And on camera, then, to make it just look flawless.

NFS: The other thing that I noticed in that fight is that the Jedi robes, the sleeves are a little bit more fitted. I remember in earlier movies, they were so billowy.

Bryan: I think it came by default. Sol and Yord, especially. First of all, it's a time of peace. So I'm thinking as I was processing this back then, that we could have them looking a little bit more snatched. So I reduced some volume in some of the things. The cloak sleeves, I did trim them back a little bit. I'm glad you noticed ... I did trim it back, because all of this volume and the swinging, I didn't want the costumes to distract from the action, but still wanted the flow and the action of what cloaks do. You know, try to get that balance. So trimming back was a little bit of what I did.

Amandla Stenberg in The AcolyteAmandla Stenberg in The Acolyte

NFS: Mae's costume is so unique, and it has all these little elements.

Bryan: For what we call Mae's assassin costume or Mae's assassin robe, which is the purple cloak, and then the chain mail and everything. Let's address the color.

The purple of the cloak is what I would call a memory color for her. When you watch further episodes, you will see what the purple meant. It's her homeland that was destroyed. We do know that in episodes one and two, that they've lost their community, and that purple was a color that I used in the costumes of the women in that community, their childhood community. So I call it a memory color. It's a callback to what she was and how she grew up as a child.

Then she decides that she's on this assassin, vengeance [path] to get these Jedi that destroyed her community. She is a renegade. She is not from any particular military order like the Jedi. She is this self-trained mercenary—except that nobody's paying her to do it—she's definitely [out for] revenge, a vagabond, on a journey.

How does she arm herself? So my thought in my research and developing her character in this particular costume was being inspired by old cultures. Global cultures. Mongolia, North Africa, South Africa, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and particularly Samurai warriors. So on her costume in the front part where you see the bamboo connection to the metal plate, the bamboo to me hearkens back to Samurai because they use bamboo, which is very, very strong, by the way, woven strips of bamboo in making samurai warrior clothing. The metal breastplate was inspired by Byzantine and Roman plate armor. So big, ancient warrior cultures. And I pulled some bits and pieces from that and put this armoring of hers together.

I also brought in chain mail, which is not seen very often in Star Wars, but because I felt it's such an ancient fabrication for armoring and protection, I thought it was a good piece. That she found something somewhere and put that together. If you look at it, it has holes, it has rips, it has tatters.

That's the historical and costume references for her outfit. So part of it is within The Acolyte's story of losing her family. That's the reference to the cloak, and then her daggers and her armor. All of that is on her journey to kill these Jedi. This stuff is collected and welded together and patched together.

Her belt hearkens back to a Jedi belt, which is where she kept those little daggers. On closer inspection. It's very, very similar to a Jedi belt. So it's sort of like a flip side of the Jedi, but certainly more independent.

Amandla Stenberg in The AcolyteAmandla Stenberg in The AcolyteDisney

NFS: I love that. I'm going to have to look at the belt again.

Bryan: Take a look at it. In the front, you'll see these little silver eyelets that at first glance, look like decoration, but it's actually the handles of these single-blade daggers. That's her weapon. She has them tucked everywhere. They're in the belt, and it looks like decoration.

NFS: Did you have a favorite costume to design?

Bryan: That's asking me for like my favorite children. It's hard. My favorite, to be very, very honest, my favorite is always the one that I'm currently researching, designing, or it's been approved and I'm getting it constructed.

It's between the costume of the Stranger—this character appears later on—and Mae's assassin outfit. So many people so far who have seen the show are very just visually impressed by it. That makes me feel very good about it. I'll put it between those two. Actually, it's a tie.

NFS: Everyone's path is unique. What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into costume design?

Bryan: Wow, tough question. Because yes, it's unique. It's a career that does not have a predefined route. I would say education-wise, you want to study literally everything that you can. If you can get formal training, it's a plus. It's definitely a plus.

Studying art history, costume history. I had to pull those things into play deeply on researching for this show. I mean, I do it for my other shows, but this one, even more so because of the scope of it and just the sandbox of Star Wars and trying to make your stuff that's going into the sandbox. New tools, new looks, and have it fit what's already there.

I think for costume designers or people wanting to learn this craft, to make this craft a profession, again, if they can get formal training, great. If not, then study as much as you can. Have a base knowledge of art history, costume history. And also look at other things that you may not necessarily personally be interested in.

I will sometimes pick up magazines, specialized, that are not a personal interest of mine, but it's just to pick up those little things and have some kind of base memory. So if you get a show and, "Oh my gosh, it requires a motorcycle gang." I'm just using that as an example. Somewhere along the line you've noticed those guys on the street, seen what they wear, and have an awareness of really trying to develop a creative eye.

Jodie Turner-Smith in The AcolyteJodie Turner-Smith in The Acolyte

NFS: Is there anything that you wanted to discuss I didn't bring up about your work?

Bryan: My background costumes. Each one is unique. I had a lot of fun doing them, and the camera might just pass them like that. But the ones that I did for Khofar and the planet of Ueda, I had a lot of fun.

I did it like it was a silk trade where merchants and vendors and buyers and sellers and sketchy dudes from all different planets come there to buy and sell. I loved doing that. That was pretty awesome.