Daily Illuminator

February 5, 2024: Six Degrees Of Star Wars Explores The Force Of Connection

Six Degrees of Star Wars

Sam Marchiony is a film fan on a mission – to figure out just how influential Star Wars was, is, and will be. To that end, Sam has created a podcast called Six Degrees of Star Wars, which takes a look at the actors, directors, and other people involved in the creation of one of the most famous franchises in movie history. During our interview, we discussed the impact this space opera has had on fans, as well as just how interconnected Hollywood truly is.

1) What inspired you to start your podcast? Are you a Star Wars fan, or someone who is newer to the franchise?

I have been a Star Wars fan for about 8 years. As my family's resident film and TV buff, I have often had to explain to them where they know actors from. Star Wars was one of the most frequent movie franchises I could be sure everyone in the family would know. What pushed me over the edge into starting the podcast proper was Thor: Love And Thunder promotional stills and trailers coming out in 2022. Everywhere I looked, the recurring comment surrounding Natalie Portman's return as Jane Foster/The Mighty Thor was some variation of "Padmé got RIPPED." This actress has had a long and storied career with a good amount of critical acclaim and accolades, but her role in Star Wars is still definitive, proving the podcast's eventual logline: this franchise surrounds us, binds us, and penetrates us in the landscape of cinema. 

2) What are some of the more surprising connections you've found between the Star Wars franchise and other film properties?

I don't want to spoil some of the movies we have upcoming, partially because we leave that up to a roll of the dice — excuse me, Chance Cube — and partially because the catalog of episodes we've done is pretty small. (We went on hiatus in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA during the strike since Star Wars was considered struck work.) So, I'll go with Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden, which shares a cinematographer, Chung Chung-hoon, with the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. It's an instance where the two works are so starkly different that it wouldn't seem like a logical fit, but range isn't something that is limited to actors. I like being reminded of that.

3) Who has been your favorite guest so far, and why?

I love all my guests, but I have to spotlight three people who have been exceptional, not just as guests, but also as contributors:

  • Bryan Harris came up with this setup called the Star Wars Degree Checker Inator that let us cut down on the amount of IMDB scrolling we had to do to find connection points. When Bryan has been on as a guest, he often brings a perspective that feels very refreshingly different and introspective when running against some of the more eccentric brains, my own included.
  • Jasmine Garcia, who was a guest on my very first episode, is someone with whom our rapport is so strong. I'm shocked we're not a Force Dyad with how easily we can fall into step with each other. And when Six Degrees of Star Wars was on hiatus, we joked that I was living in the walls of In Each Retelling, given how frequently I guested. Now that Six Degrees of Star Wars is back, we've made it official that we're sibling podcasts.
  • And finally, there's Shamila Karunakaran. Bryan made the Inator, but Shamila is one of its most frequent users, and further sorts a lot of the suggestions we get by theme, genre, and country of origin, and she co-runs the Six Degrees of Star Wars Tumblr account, having cultivated the majority of our tag system and queue. She's also one of my favorite guests to have on because she always has some piece of meaningful scholarship or interview related to our subject prepped and ready.

4) What's the most interesting thing you've learned during the course of putting this podcast together?

I knew fairly early on that I couldn't adhere to the normal "six degrees" structure that most people know, because it became obvious very quickly that so many people work on Star Wars that the degrees would be whittled down to two: people who'd done Star Wars and people who had done things with a Star Wars person. 

So the degree system turned into how Star Wars-y a person or a project was: Degree 0 is up at the top as "actual" Star Wars. Degree 1 consists of projects George Lucas himself or Lucasfilm had a hand in. Degree 2 is where the leads of the trilogies, anthology films, and TV shows live. Degree 3 features those who have been in more than one Star Wars project. Degree 4 is for one-time appearances. Degree 5 is populated by everyone who had a hand in making the film who wasn't George Lucas. And Degree 6 houses everyone connected to Degrees 1-5 in the way most people think about degrees of connection. 

What's been interesting to see is that because Degree 5 covers so much ground, it keeps snatching up titles that I thought were Degree 6s. It's been an eye-opening reminder of just how many people play a part in creating the stories that drive these beloved franchises.

Six Degrees of Star Wars is available on numerous podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Buzzsprout, and Podbay.

-- Katie Duffy

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