Jennifer Landa: Star Wars Reporter, Podcaster, and Mom

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ForceCenter's Jennifer Landa

ForceCenter’s Jennifer Landa

MakingStarWars.com — For many fans, fatherhood is the major underlying theme of the Star Wars saga. After all, the greatest movie reveal of all time is Luke Skywalker’s paternity; a moment so seminal (pun intended, sorry) Pitch Perfect–a movie (ostensibly) about a capella music–mentions it.

 

Pardon me Anna Kendrick, but here’s my alternative take: the Original Trilogy is about dads, but the Prequel Trilogy is about moms.

Mommy Dearest?

Retconned in by George Lucas, motherhood–the loss of it, the surrogacy of it–is the primary mover in Episode I and that is what makes the films so difficult to handle for so many.

Hey, just scan the headlines and you can see a reactionary bent to our already mysoginstically-inclined society.

“This is an interesting point,” said Jennifer Landa of the “ForceCenter” podcast. “Maybe there is a correlation.”

“For me, I initially didn’t like the prequels because they weren’t the rollicking space adventures as the OT films were.”

No Ordinary Mom

Jar Jar and Jenn

Any time your subject knocks down your premise and gently patronizes you as you posit a geeky theory about maternity–well, it’s not encouraging. Thankfully, Landa is no ordinary interviewee.

“Thanks to my ‘prequelist’ friends Joseph Scrimshaw and Ken Napzok, however; I now appreciate the politics of the prequels and the risks George Lucas took both visually and story-wise,” admitted Landa, saving the day. “It’s clear that Lucas made the prequels with kids in mind and now that I’m a parent myself, I am thankful that he did.

“Now, whenever I watch Jar Jar I smile because I know that one day my daughter will think he’s hilarious.”

Jar Jar? Hilarious? Hmm. But regardless of Landa’s love for J.J. Binks, we find her career captivating.

  • First, she portrayed Princess Jasmine at Disneyland.
  • Second, Landa, also an actress, appeared on ABC’s Better Off Ted and MTV’s Awkward (as well as numerous commercials).
  • Third, she was a contributor to StarWars.com and was an on-camera host during Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.

And those are just the highlights. However, and beyond her numerous professional stops and achievements, it’s the way Landa weaves Star Wars into her very full life that leaves fellow fans so interested.

Growing Up Star Wars

Baby-8

Baby-8

“My dad is a big movie buff, so growing up his enthusiasm for Star Wars made me want to dive deeper into the stories and mythology, and also learn more about how the films were made,” she explained. “One of the main reasons I want to share Star Wars with my daughter is because of its morality and positive messages.

I asked Landa how, as a Star Wars mom, she imparts the saga to her child.

“My daughter is almost two, but my husband and I have been sharing the stories of Star Wars with her since she was born,” she said. “She loves the Star Wars Golden Books, read-along storybooks, and of course, Jeffrey Brown’s series of books.

“Our house and daughter’s room are filled with Star Wars artwork, décor, and collectibles so she’s always immersed in that galaxy far, far, away.

“I think she’s going to love shows like The Freemaker Adventures and Star Wars Rebels. And when she gets a little older, we’ll introduce her to the films.

“It’s wonderful that there are so many ways you can introduce your child to the world of Star Wars!”

Positive Lessons

Landa flys the Falcon

Landa flies the Falcon

However, even if the toddler doesn’t grow up exactly like Jennifer, Landa thinks that the lessons of the saga will leave a positive impression.

“Values like friendship and loyalty are a core part of the Star Wars stories,” she said. “Even if my daughter isn’t a huge Star Wars fan when she’s older, I hope my passion for the saga will help her appreciate the brilliance and great storytelling of Star Wars.”

And that storytelling tradition continues.

“I am particularly excited about the new Forces of Destiny show,” said Landa. “As a kid, I always dreamed of watching a show like this! I think it’s great for all fans that they’re shining the spotlight on these strong heroines.

“I can’t wait to enjoy these new stories with my daughter and buy the adventure figures for her and for me.”

That said, Landa has plenty of Star Wars gear of her own. After years of covering George Lucas’ space opera, and thanks to the kindred spirits on the “ForceCenter” podcast, Jennifer continues to take on Star Wars in a significant, and satisfying way.

ForceCenter Stage

ForceCenter’s Scrimshaw, Landa, and Napzok (photographed by Indiana Jones a.k.a. listener Bryan Rohrenbacher)

“I’m so grateful Ken and Joseph asked me to be a part of the ‘ForceCenter’ crew,” said Landa of co-hosts Napsok and Scrimshaw. “They are both hilarious and also extremely thoughtful and able to dive deep into the mythos of Star Wars. I always leave our recording sessions feeling like I learned something new.

“That’s the main reason why I love recording our ‘ForceCenter’ podcasts. We have fun celebrating the saga while also exploring the deeper issues and themes of the stories.

Star Wars couture

Star Wars couture

“The ‘ForceCenter’ podcast is continuing to grow but one of my favorite moments was when we had our Star Wars Counseling panel at Los Angeles Comic Con last year. It was awesome to finally meet some of our listeners in person and get to know them a little better. We’re hoping we can do more panels and live shows in the future. So, I’m sure the best is yet to come.”

With movies coming at a steady pace, there’s plenty to talk about, and Landa has her own project, which hopes to shed light on Star Wars in a unique way.

“In addition to doing the ‘ForceCenter’ main show with Ken and Joseph, I also do a monthly podcast on the ‘ForceCenter’ feed called ‘The Jedi Beat.’ We’ve dubbed it the NPR of Star Wars because it’s got more of an investigative journalism style,” she said. “I’ve tackled everything from the making of The Star Wars Holiday Special to exploring the Star Wars Ring Theory.

“My favorite episode so far is my tribute to Carrie Fisher,” added Jennifer. “Both Carrie Fisher and Leia have had profound impacts on so many of our lives. I spent a lot of time researching and learning about her life. In the end, I came to love and admire her even more.”

From Main Street to Millenium Falcon

Landa’s home and family were featured on The Star Wars Show (Sept. 2016)

It’s been quite a journey for Landa. Who began her professional and Star Wars careers by working for Disney and Lucasfilm respectfully. I asked Landa what it was like to cover the saga from both the inside and outside.

“I love Star Wars so no matter what I do, I will always be a fan,” she reiterated. “Many years ago I worked at Disneyland. I can say that it was truly a magical place to work.

“Even on my most difficult days, I would walk down Main Street, stare at Sleeping Beauty Castle, and forget what I was upset about. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of contributing to StarWars.com, as a writer and on-camera host at Star Wars Celebration VI.

“So I’m happy and grateful whenever I get the chance to escape into the world of Star Wars, whether it’s for work or play.”

Landa’s fairytale continued in real life when she was married.

Nerdy Nuptials

Star Wars Wedding

Star Wars Wedding (photo: Cacá Santoro)

“My husband and I wanted to incorporate Star Wars into our wedding because we wanted the day to be a celebration of who we are as a couple and Star Wars is a big part of our lives,” said Landa. “On our first date, we talked about the Battle of Hoth and the anatomy of tauntauns. So, naturally, we had to have wampa and tauntaun cake toppers.

Tauntaun & Wampa Cake Topper

Tauntaun & Wampa Cake Topper

“However, we wanted our wedding to be fun but we also tried to incorporate our Star Wars flair in a more subtle way so no one would feel alienated if they didn’t know what a Mon Calamari was, for example.

“The wedding was held in a loft in downtown Los Angeles so we ended up DIYing a lot of things to make it unique to us–and stay on budget.

“But we had a blast and ending the reception with a lightsaber dance party. That was the perfect way for my husband and me to begin our new life together.”

As for the future, and with her family beside her (and her daughter already in cosplay), Landa is happy to reminisce but ready to see what Lucasfilm (and life) have in store.

Great Star Wars Moms

Jeni as Jyn

Jeni as Jyn (StarWars.com)

“When I first saw Return of the Jedi as a child, it was absolutely mind-blowing to me. Growing up I watched that film over and over again. But it wasn’t until recently that I was able to articulate why I would watch the film every day after school,” she said. “Yes, I loved the characters, the planets, the storyline, but it was the message of the film that gave me hope. Seeing the underdogs–the Rebels and the Ewoks–win against the mighty Empire was powerful to watch.

“As a little kid the message made me feel empowered. It ignited my passion for Star Wars that has lasted all these years later.”

Now, as a mom, Landa looks to be inspired (and entertained) again and again.

“I think all the moms in Star Wars are pretty great,” said Landa of her hopes for the franchise’s future. “The books and comics have done an excellent job in showing complex, strong, and loving mothers like Lyra Erso (Jyn’s mother) and Shara Bey (Poe Dameron’s mother).

“I’m hopeful that The Last Jedi will explore Leia and Kylo/Ben’s relationship further.

“And perhaps we’ll learn more about Rey’s mother, too!”


Landa’s coverage of SWCA for StarWars.com

Happy Mother’s Day to all of our Star Wars moms out there (especially my wife Andrea)… 

A graduate of Boston and Northeastern universities, John Bishop became the beat reporter for BostonBruins.com prior to the B’s 2006-07 hockey season. While with the Bruins, “Bish” traveled North America and Europe to cover the Black & Gold’s every move via laptop, blog, and smart phone. The co-author of two books, Bygone Boston and Full 60 to History: The Inside Story of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, John covered the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 and the B’s 2011 championship run and banner raising before taking a faculty/communications position at a prep school outside Boston in 2013. He lives with his wife Andrea and sons Jack, Scott, and Luke in central Massachusetts.