Popular ‘Star Wars’ Actress Recently Escaped From a Cult

For most of her life, Australian-born actress and singer Bonnie Piesse has lived a relatively normal life — except for the small fact that she played Beru Lars in George Lucas’s Star Wars prequel trilogy.

beru and owen lars
Credit: Lucasfilm

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This role as the relative who raised young Tatooine farmboy Luke Skywalker on the iconic desert planet cemented Piesse in the Star Wars story and earned her a legion of loyal fans.

Piesse, however, probably wouldn’t count her Star Wars fandom as the most unique aspect of her life. No, she would probably tell you her time in the NXIVM cult is what really sets her apart from the general public.

Owen and Beru's home destroyed
Credit: Lucasfilm

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For several years, Piesse and her husband, Mark Vicente, were involved in the cult, which masqueraded as a self-help group that would ultimately help those involved achieve a deeper understanding of the purpose of life than those outside the organization.

allison mack as chloe sullivan in smallville
Credit: The WB/The CW

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In reality, the group functioned as a sex ring, with another well-known actress, Allison Mack (Smallville), sentenced in June 2021 to three years of prison time for her involvement in turning women into sex slaves for NXIVM leader Keith Raniere. Raniere was convicted in June 2019 and is currently serving a 120-year prison sentence.

keith raniere in the vow
Credit: HBO

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Per a CNN report regarding Mack’s sentencing:

Sentencing guidelines recommended a range of 14-17.5 years in prison for Mack. Prosecutors had asked US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis to give her below the recommended range because of “substantial assistance” she gave the government in the investigation and prosecution of others, they said in a court filing. Mack’s attorneys had asked for her to receive no prison time.

Garaufis called Mack “an essential accomplice” and a “willing and proactive ally” of Raniere, but also said, “I don’t doubt that you were manipulated and also felt captive.”

mark vicente bonnie piesse
Credit: Warner PressRoom/HBO

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In the new HBO documentary series, The Vow, Piesse and Vicente play a major role in explaining how things went so awry for NXIVM members. Piesse, in particular, shared information about the horrors of life in the cultlike group:

…[Piesse detailed] a night when Keith [Raniere] pulled her out of bed in the middle of the night (sleep deprivation was one of his tactics) after sensing that she might be trying to leave NXIVM with her husband, former NXIVM recruiter, Mark Vicente. During the walk they then went on, Raniere tries to convince Piesse that she is weak if she can’t withstand the NXIVM protocols and convinces her to lick a dirty puddle in the road.

bonnie piesse
Credit: Warner PressRoom/HBO

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In the series, Piesse also noted that she once confronted Mack about her severe weight loss, only to learn that Raniere was “controlling” the other young woman’s calories. Piesse also saw her fellow actress sending texts to Raniere in which she referred to him as “Master”.

Ultimately, of course, Bonnie Piesse and Mark Vicente left NXIVM. After their 2017 escape from the group, the couple became — and remain — two of the most outspoken NXIVM detractors.

What’s next for Bonnie Piesse in the Star Wars universe?

Piesse’s acting life has been relatively quiet in the four short years since she left Raniere’s cult. Now, however, she is returning to the Star Wars franchise in Obi-Wan Kenobi to reprise her role as Beru Lars alongside prequel trilogy costar Joel Edgerton, who plays her on-screen husband, Luke’s Uncle Owen Lars.

owen and beru lars with baby luke skywalker
Credit: Lucasfilm

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The Kenobi series, directed by Deborah Chow (The Mandalorian), is set to be a special event series that will also see the returns of Scottish actor Ewan McGregor as legendary Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker.

obi-wan kenobi with lightsaber
Credit: Lucasfilm

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Obi-Wan Kenobi will be set during ‘Old Ben’ Kenobi’s exile on Tatooine approximately 10 years after the events of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) — including the execution of Emperor Palpatine’s Order 66 — and about nine years prior to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and the original trilogy debut, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977).

obi wan kenobi (right) and anakin skywalker (left) lightsaber duel on mustafar
Credit: Lucasfilm

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Furthermore, thanks to Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy’s 2020 Disney Investor Day presentation, we have confirmation that the “rematch of the century” is on the way, so fans can expect to see Kenobi and the Dark Lord of the Sith have their third lightsaber showdown.

beru lars (left) and owen lars (right) in star wars
Credit: Lucasfilm

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It is not yet known how major Piesse’s and Edgerton’s roles will be, but their story arc is likely to give us insight into future Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker’s childhood.

More on The Vow

bonnie piesse using laptop
Credit: Warner PressRoom/HBO

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If you’re interested in watching The Vow, you can catch all nine episodes currently streaming on HBO Max. The official description of the series reads, in part:

From Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning directors Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer (The Great Hack, The Square, Control Room) comes The Vow, a NXIVM documentary series following a number of people deeply involved in the self-improvement group NXIVM over the course of several years. The Vow is a story of indoctrination and the step-by-step journey of NXIVM members defecting and outing Keith Reniere.

Did you know Star Wars actress Bonnie Piesse was in NXIVM?

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