I asked Marie-Claire Gould a few questions about her Star Wars podcast What the Force? for the second installment of Podcast Spotlight.
What was your introduction to Star Wars?
I would say I had a very lucky childhood for a girl – I was always told Star Wars was for me.
Some of my first memories as a child are laying in front of the TV with the Beta-max of Return of the Jedi playing on it. My Dad was always into science fiction and grew up loving serial pulps so when Star Wars came out in 1977 he was one of the first in the theatre. Being into Star Wars was never really a question. I remember spending time with him listening to the original soundtracks on record while talking about the themes of star wars. We would inevitably talk about history, philosophy, or mythology. My Dad was a highly educated man and it was like have an expert in university-level studies always around.
When I was around 10 or 11 my dad ran a game of West Games Star Wars Role Playing Game for me and a few of my friends and their father. I remember my character – I played the kid template which was a force sensitive who could break into things and had a slingshot, candy, and a pet animal either alive or dead. Seriously this really resembles Ezra.
What was amazing about Role Games is that just because there were no women in the main movies (except our Princess and Mon Mothma) you could still participate in the word. You could still have a story. That’s why I was lucky. I always felt like Star Wars spoke to me.
Who are some of your favorite characters and have those favorites changed over time?
R2-D2 probably is my favorite (I carry him on my keys everywhere – he is the heart of Star Wars) but I went through a period of adoring Rex from Clone Wars (I also have a key chain of his – Dee Barker Bradley is wonderful, especially as Rex). Now I love Rey and Kylo in this moment for how identifiable and interesting their characters are because of the potential they represent.
When did you make the decision to start your own Star Wars podcast? Had you been a part of other podcasts (either as a host or guest) before?
This Star Wars podcast is a product of the brilliant work done on The Last Jedi. I remember watching The Last Jedi coming home and still processing what had happened. All the symbolism. All the film language it used. Essentially I couldn’t stop talking about it. My husband had recently started a D&D actual play podcast for which I was a player and out of some sort of desperation to get me to talk to someone else other than him he threw his hands up in the air after I was talking ONCE again about TLJ and said “Why don’t you just START a podcast already???” I’m like but would anyone want to listen?
We already had all the equipment and set up. He game me a few editing tips but from getting the initial push to starting ended up being three weeks.
I actually have a secret skill for interviewing – though I had no podcast specific interviewing experience previously.
How would you describe your podcast to someone who hasn’t heard of it yet? How is it different from other Star Wars podcasts?
What the Force is a very meta-analytical podcast where we deep dive into what Star Wars is about, the fans, the Force and everything in between.
Tell me about your first episode (or first few episodes) and how your podcast has changed since those first few episodes.
Oh, in the beginning, I had two friends who said they would most definitely be on the podcast with me! Liam Rathgeber and James Dalton are great and they still come on the show occasionally but as this is a weekly podcast it was hard for them to commit regularly. We did start out okay, doing Rebels recaps as they came out for the final season.
Then the podcast took a turn when I found Ty Black. Ty tweeted about wanting to do a Star Wars video on YouTube, I saw that and replied and said something like “Well that’s awesome we need more female creators!” And she was encouraged and got the first one out the door. I saw it and shared it, and realized I wanted the podcast to be more like that video. Analytical, meta. But discussion. So I invited Ty to do a deep dive into The Last Jedi novelization which was just coming out. We read that book, messaging each other. Taking detailed notes. Then we recorded for the first time. And it like Clicked. This is what I should do! This style.
During that episode we teased Jason Fry slightly. I think I said “I loved your book Jason but you missed the Thigh Grab” from the fight scene in the Throne room. He tweeted us “Sorry about the Thigh Grab” and that episode became semi (for a small podcast) viral.
I think it got posted a bunch of other places because it had a lot of downloads suddenly!
After that and how it clicked, I invited Ty to regularly contribute to the podcast especially the Power of Myth and Symbolism segment (a play on the Joseph Campbell interviews). Ty also makes the amazing Thumbnails for YouTube and what I tweet out about. She is also always there for me to bounce planning ideas off of.
Do you have favorite parts or least favorite parts about producing a podcast?
Favorite things: Conducting interviews with interesting and thoughtful people. Doing research for an analytical episode where I’m reading about other cultures or history or myth to better speak to the comparison. It gives me a reason to dig into these primary texts.
Least favorite things: Editing – the housekeeping chore I try to avoid, tweeting (some people say I’m okay at it but I still have a lot of anxiety about twitter).
For new listeners can you recommend 2 or 3 episodes that would give people an idea of what the podcast is like?
Legends of Luke Skywalker With Ken Liu – My first Big interview and it ended up being one of the most fun opportunities to just connect with another Star Wars fan. Ken’s perspective and thoughtfulness about the Story and how it relates to our culture is mind-blowing.
Power of Myth & Symbolism: The Female Gaze & the Heroine’s Journey – With Ty Black, my co-host for this segment. We cover Myth and Symbolism in this segment and this episode deep dives into what the Heroine’s Journey / Female Gaze is and why it’s important to understand the Sequel Trilogy and in some ways ourselves (The missing feminine in ourselves and our stories). One of the reasons this is one of my favorite episodes is that normally I have about 30% male listeners, this episode resonated with both men and women and brought the stat to 50-50 and many men commented on how it helped them understand themselves more. What bigger compliment can one have?
Meta Music: Kylo’s theme with Christy Carew – Christy and I have been recording these episodes for about a year and she gives me so much to think about. I have loved music analysis of Star Wars since David W. Collins used to do his show but with this we get to geek out from a female perspective (sometimes intense way). This episode really dug into how complex the storytelling of the music can get. How much it adds. I think this might be my favorite Meta Music because it’s the most recent! I love them all.
How do you decide what the subjects of your podcasts are going to be and how do you contact people to interview?
Perhaps my brain is weird but I like to process ideas all the time, I keep them on a google spreadsheet including a wishlist of guests I’m interested in. My topics fall into Myth and Symbolism, Discussions, What the Fandom?, and Meta Music (With Christy Carew). For the main segments, like PMS or MM I work with Ty or Christy to figure out a main topic, we usually toss a few ideas back and forth, then we build a rough outline and schedule time to record.
For guests for discussion or What the Fandom? I usually spot someone on Twitter or a Facebook group with an interesting story or something interesting to say and reach out and say hi. The worst they can say is no if they aren’t interested. I have had a few people approach me, but that’s more rare.
Interviews are actually the thing I haven’t figured out. Authors are usually interested and available, though depending on their project they may need to request permission from LFL or from their Publicist. I now have that down and understand the process. (That’s a bit of a learning curve).
For non-authors, like television creators or actors etc. I’m actually lost on how to proceed I will probably need to start requesting bigger names from Lucasfilm but it’s a little intimidating. I guess the worst thing they can say is no.
Who has surprised you the most during an interview on What the Force?
Ken Liu – I literally talk all the time how amazing, intelligent and genial he is. But Legends of Luke Skywalker changed me as a Star Wars fan. I read it on a whim early on in the podcast, wanting to get more canon read. It was eye-opening, the book much like TLJ functions on multiple meta levels. I agonized about reaching out to him to interview him… just ask him questions. But he said yes.
When we started to talk I really felt like my reading of LoLS was at least in the right direction, especially my obsession over the iDroid story (which as we explored in the podcast interview is a metaphor for the fall of a Dark Side user). At some point I just said, this is a metaphor for a Dark Side user like Anakin, and Ken replied yes or like Kylo. I think I died. I was kinda good at this?
Who are a few people you’d love to have on your show as a guest in the future?
Aim for the Stars:
George Lucas – What Star Wars fan wouldn’t want to speak with the Creator?
Kathleen Kennedy – I love this women for what she has done for Star Wars, bringing us into this new age.
Dave Fiolini – Can I just talk to Dave Fiolini about the Force for like 3 hours? It doesn’t need to me recorded, I just want to become a padawan.
Rian Johnson – I have so many symbolic questions for Rian and I just want to thank him for inspiring me and many women I know to step into the Fandom and create and join the conversation.
I would love to speak to pretty much any creator in Star Wars but here are the top names on my wishlist:
Carrie Beck, Andi Gutierrez, Tracy Cannobbio, Pablo Hidalgo, Kiri Hart, David W. Collins, Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood, Delilah Dawson, Sam Witwer, & Cavan Scott.
What kind of equipment do you use for recording What the Force?
I have a RODE NT1A mic (I know nothing about mics – my husband bought it for his projects I just borrow) and a zoom recorder. For interviews I use Zoom conferencing software which makes me so happy as I have lost 3 guests recordings with Skype.
What are some of your favorite Star Wars focused podcasts?
Women of the Whills, Blast points, Lords of the Sith, Lipstick and Lightsabers.
Why did you decide to do an audio drama in addition to your podcast? How would you describe Fangirls (and the reactions you have received so far from listeners) to other Star Wars fans? Do you think you will be doing more audio dramas in the future?
One day, on a female only Star Wars group on Facebook (The Galactic Fempire), someone asked what everyone’s experience watching Fanboys was like; hilarious, sad, and happy stories ensued, from women being gatekept from Star Wars fandom to enjoying the movie and the fandom of the time. One such experience was shared by my now online friend Allysha whose experience of Fanboys was as part of a terrible date. It inspired the first scene in Fangirls and for me to ask the question what would I do to see Episode IX right now? If I had the chance? The rest of the story fell out of me from there, inspired by the amazing writers I have spoken to over the past year, my love of Asian Dramas and the Fangirls I know and love so much.
An Audio Drama was easily producible in the timeframe, and I could actually have it come out during this middle period while we were waiting. Very zeitgeist.
So it’s set right now, imagine you had the chance to see The Rise of Skywalker tomorrow – What would you do?
Fangirls focuses on Ally who after a disappointing date with a male Star Wars fan, her and her fellow Fangirls, Kristy, Rish, Dani, and Lexy find out about a secret screening of Episode IX in 3 days time. They decide to embark on a crazy road trip to attempt to see the movie before anyone else… but most importantly together.
Fangirls is an 8 Part Audio drama release monthly about Fangirls in the Star Wars Fandom. It’s about Girls, Relationships and about what they all love… Star Wars.
I would say the reaction from the followers of it has been intense, people have told me certain parts have made them laugh out loud, like Annalise Ophelian said she laughed so hard she scared her dog (probably the biggest compliment right there), some parts have made people cry. I just wanted to tell a good story, and it’s only half way! If you want to check it out – HERE
Tell me about your experience at Star Wars Celebration Chicago. Had you been to a Celebration before? Will you be in Anaheim next year? How about other upcoming conventions?
This was my first Celebration though I have tuned into every available live stream of Celebrations past. SWCC was amazing and crazy and I still have no idea how I survived. I was like a mad woman literally trying to do and see and experience as much as possible. I hope to be at Anaheim!
I will be at Gen Con this summer for board games and RPG nerding but I will be checking out some Star Wars (Fantasy Flight) etc. related things while I’m there. If you are interested in meeting me tweet at me and I’ll find some time!
What are you the most excited to see or read in the Star Wars universe coming up in the next year?
See: The Rise of Skywalker (OF COURSE!), Resistance, Mandalorian.
Read: Crash of FATE, probably the lead up to IX books.
How can people who want to listen to your podcast find it and help support it?
Leave a nice review on iTunes or other Podcast location or you can check out the What the Force? Patreon.
Here’s where you can find Marie-Claire and What the Force? online:
What the Force: https://twitter.com/Wtforceshow
If you enjoyed this article and other content on 365 Star Wars please check out the 365 Star Wars Patreon page.