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The Acolyte: Joonas Suotamo on Kelnacca/Chewbacca Differences & More

The Acolyte star Joonas Suotamo on his new beginning as the Wookie Jedi Kelnacca and how he distinguishes the character from Chewbacca.

One of the advantages of playing an alien in a space fantasy like the Star Wars franchise is that it allows you to play multiple roles when needed. In the case of Joonas Suotamo, he goes from playing the iconic Wookie smuggler, Chewbacca, to a Wookie Jedi in Kelnacca in the upcoming Disney+ series The Acolyte. The prospect of Wookie Jedi is nothing new since they were introduced in the Expanded Universe before Disney purchased Lucasfilm. The animated series The Clone Wars introduced force-wielder Gungi. Two High Republic novels Light of the Jedi and The Fallen Star, led to fan speculation that Suotamo would play the warrior Burryaga before he was announced as Kelnacca.

The Acolyte: Joonas Suotamo on How Kelnacca Differs from Chewbacca
Joonas Suotamo in "Solo: A Star Wars Story" (2018). Image courtesy of Lucasfilm

"Obviously, they do have a Wookiee Jedi in the High Republic," The Acolyte showrunner Leslye Headland told Entertainment Weekly in an interview conducted before the SAG-AFTRA & WGA strikes. "And we thought it would be cool to do our own version of that. He has a very different character design." But the recent High Republic novels were not the only inspiration for Headland. "Honestly, I really loved Solo, and I loved Joonas' performance in it. And as I was watching him, I was like, 'Gosh, it would be really cool to see him be a Jedi — to actually do some action work and some fighting and not just the sidekick role.'"

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Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca, Oscar Isaac is Poe Dameron, Daisy Ridley is Rey and John Boyega is Finn in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Credit Disney
"Kelnacca is a Wookiee Jedi," Suotamo told EW before the SAG-AFTRA strike. "He brings his own energy, and he is taught in the ways of the Force, which has been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid. To get to play a character that can wield the Force is beyond any of my dreams." He distinguished how Chewbacca (originally played by the late Peter Mayhew) is different from Kelnacca. "I'm really happy for everyone to get to know [Kelnacca] because I purposely tried to differentiate him from Chewbacca," he said. "Being a Jedi, there's more to that. And that was the challenge. It entailed all the training and getting ready with my castmates. We had such a fun time preparing for these roles, and there was a lot of time to think [about] how to approach each situation and moment."

For more, including Suotamo and Headland on how Kelnacca and the other characters were developed, you can check out the interview here. The Acolyte, which also stars Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae, Manny Jacinto, Dafne Keen, and Jodie Turner-Smith, comes to Disney+ in 2024.

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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