Amy Richau interviewed 42 women with significant ties to Star Wars for her 356 Star Wars Women project. Now, it’s my turn to interview her!
A freelance writer, researcher, and former film preservationist, Amy challenged herself in 2018 to highlight one woman involved in the Star Wars universe — whether a fictional character, actor, crew member, artist, etc. — every day for a full year.
She rose to her own challenge spectacularly, creating a balanced, informative, entertaining history that embraces all corners of content in George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away, including the films, animated series, books, comics, and video games.
Amy was introduced to the original trilogy in the theater as a child, and it was Return of the Jedi that really grabbed her attention, leading to a life-long passion that manifests itself frequently in her writing and other professional endeavors.
She’s penned pieces for StarWars.com, among many other publications, and once worked briefly at the Lucasfilm Film Archive at Skywalker Ranch. She was also hired as a researcher for the upcoming docuseries Looking for Leia, another exciting woman-focused Star Wars project.
Amy recently rolled 365 Days of Star Wars Women over to a new website, 365StarWars.com, where she’ll continue to explore the franchise on a broader level. She’ll also be attending Star Wars Celebration in April, so if you plan to be there, maybe you can catch up with her and tell her who’s your favorite of the 365 amazing Star Wars ladies she chronicled.
In 2018, you launched the project 365 Star Wars Women, which featured daily a different female character, actor, crew member, etc., from all aspects of Star Wars, including films, animated series, comic books, books, video games, and more. Tell me about how you came up with the idea for the project.
I was looking for a project where I could highlight women in Star Wars I knew about and give myself an excuse to learn about parts of Star Wars I wasn’t as familiar with (mostly comics). I need a deadline to get anything done and I am drawn to projects that have a defined start and end date so doing a short post every day seemed like a fun type of project for me to take on.
You’re a freelance writer and researcher. A lot of your writing career has focused on Star Wars. What’s your Star Wars origin story?
I saw A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back in theaters, but Return of the Jedi was when I really fell in love with Star Wars. That film’s release coincided with a not-great year for me friendship wise at school and I think I kind of latched onto the characters and the adventures in that film and just wanted to jump into that galaxy and have fun.
What were your first impressions of the original trilogy?
It’s hard for me to answer that since I was so young. I do remember pestering my Dad about being concerned Yoda was going to hurt Luke in The Empire Strikes Back though, which cracks me up. I apparently thought Yoda was up to something.
You’ve said, “40 something me is just as inspired by Star Wars as younger versions of me had been.” What is it that continues to fascinate you?
I think Star Wars appeals to people of all ages because it’s a timeless story about hope, and family, and redemption. I feel like I’ve had a lot of success in a lot of areas in my life but there’s always new challenges and new things to learn about and explore.
When I’m tackling something new that scares me or frustrates me it’s sometimes helpful to turn back to something that inspires me — Star Wars is one of those things for me. Putting on a Star Wars film is like visiting an old friend. And sometimes it’s helpful to feel that comfort and hope when you’re feeling stuck in life.
365 Star Wars Women features an eclectic and balanced mix of Star Wars properties, from the prequels, to more obscure stories, to cut scenes, to animated series, to comics. It really celebrates the entire canon. Why did you decide to take this approach?
Star Wars has produced an enormous amount of content in the last 40+ years and I wanted the 365 project to touch on as much of it as possible. I looked at this as a history project where every piece of content was equally important.
How did you go about compiling the list of women you would include in the project?
I tried to mix it up between characters from films, TV shows, comics, and books, as well as artists, producers, writers, etc. I also had a few theme weeks (women who worked for ILM in the 1980s, Rogue One, characters from deleted scenes).
What kind of research went into the project?
I used a ton of resources. Wookieepedia and Star Wars reference books I own (which are a lot!). I watched a lot of Star Wars Explained videos about characters and time periods and read a lot of comics. A subscription to Marvel Unlimited was extremely helpful for all the comics characters I profiled. I also dug through IMDb credits for a lot of the Star Wars TV shows. I should also add that people on Twitter were very helpful giving me suggestions, especially when I asked for specific things — like female characters in Legends video games.
Tell me about some of the characters or real-life women you weren’t familiar with that surprised you?
Three women who immediately come to mind when I think about women I was unfamiliar with before I did this project would be Allison Shearmur who produced Rogue One and Solo, Liz Moore who did the original sculpt on C-3PO for A New Hope, and Marie Severin who worked on several Star Wars Legends comics. All three of these women contributed to Star Wars in completely different ways — which was the best part of this project for me — every day I learned something new about Star Wars.
Of the characters you included, do you have any special favorites?
Rae Sloane, Ventress, and Satine are all favorites of mine. And they were also definitely favorites of a lot of 365 readers. A lot of people out there want more Rae Sloane stories! Some days I was excited to see the reaction of a particular Star Wars fan who loves a smaller or more obscure character.
Maintaining a 365-day project like this seems daunting. Was it challenging to produce an entry for each day?
It was! Since it was a very last minute idea, I was going day to day for the first few months because I always wanted the schedule to be a mix of characters and women from different areas of Star Wars — the scheduling could be very time-consuming.
Most of the posts didn’t take a large amount of time to write. In many cases finding two decent images of a character was the biggest challenge. Interviews, of course, were a whole other ball game because I asked each woman a different set of questions — but those were also the most satisfying posts to do.
Some people might be surprised to discover there are enough women involved in Star Wars to fill 365 days. What would you say to that?
If people are just thinking this would be a list of female characters from the films they would be right. There aren’t enough — or you would really be spending almost all of your time talking about background characters.
You’ve said you learned a lot about the power and importance of representation and diversity through the project. Could you elaborate on that?
I’m a straight, white brunette. So I have no idea what it’s like to not see someone like myself in a Star Wars film — in a prominent hero role at that. Everything I’ve learned about the importance of representation in Star Wars through my 365 project has been from listening to other women. Hearing their stories. I tried really hard to interview a diverse set of women and I hope to expand on that goal in 2019 so everyone can see themselves in 365 Star Wars Women.
You’ve recently indexed your previous 365 Star Wars Women pieces on a new site: 365 Star Wars. Tell me about your plans for 2019.
I moved the 365 project over to 365StarWars.com because I’d like to write about all aspects of Star Wars — not just the women. I will continue to add women to the 365 list — including more interviews! — and have a long to-do list of other articles. Right now, I’m enjoying not having a set schedule for a bit!
You’re also a principal researcher on the upcoming docuseries Looking for Leia. That’s very exciting! Tell me more about your role working on this important series.
This has been such an amazing project to be a part of. I helped the director, Annalise Ophelian, with some projects, like creating a timeline of where fans were talking online about their Star Wars fandom over the years. I also helped with some fact checking and finding some b-roll footage. Along the way, I’ve had the chance to chat with a bunch of Star Wars fans from around the country, which has been great.
What are some of your other personal fandoms, aside from Star Wars?
So many really. But they are all much less a focus for me than Star Wars. But I love classic Disney, the Narnia books, Twin Peaks, X-Files. I’m very excited about the ending of Game of Thrones and watching more of The Expanse.
You’re a classic film buff and I was fascinated to learn you have a background in film studies and film preservation. How did you come to love classic film?
Both of my parents loved movies and showed me a variety of movies from different time periods as I was growing up. I especially loved Alfred Hitchcock movies and MGM musicals when I was a kid.
Tell me about the film preservation work you did and, of course, I must know more about your time working at the Lucasfilm Film Archive at Skywalker Ranch.
I have a Film Studies BA from UC Santa Barbara and a certificate in film preservation from the George Eastman House. I worked at the UCLA Film & Television Archive and YCM Laboratories (which is a boutique lab that preserves and restores films) before I took a short-term job at Skywalker Ranch. I only lived in the Bay Area for a short time so it was great to able to spend time there — even though my commute to work was almost two hours each way!
Star Wars Celebration is coming up. What are your plans for that?
This will be my first Celebration. I’m very excited. I hope to meet a lot of the people I have chatted with on Twitter, including a lot of people I interviewed for 365. It looks like I’m going to be on a panel but I can’t say more about that yet. I’ll have some 365 merch there (buttons and trading cards are the plan) so if you see me there, please say “hi” and take a button!
Do you have any specific expectations for Episode IX?
Not really. I rarely go into a movie with expectations. I suppose with IX I expect to love it! I like going in with an open mind as to how the story will unfold. I love all the speculating though!
If our readers wanted to support your 365 Star Wars efforts, how would they go about that?
You can follow my Star Wars work on 365starwars.com and on the official Star Wars site. On Twitter, I run @365_StarWars and my personal account @amyrichau. And I also have the @365StarWars Instagram account I’m hoping to post to more. I always love hearing from readers and getting recommendations for new women and characters to profile!