The force is with Pa. father-son's Star Wars podcast
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. — A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Brooklyn in the 1980s), Kerwin Yarde grew up a secret Star Wars fan. The only people who knew how the force was awakened in him by the epic space odyssey were the two friends who went to see The Empire Strikes Back with him when he was 12.
“At the time Star Wars was considered nerdy, so I kept the fact that I was a Star Wars fan in the shadows because I was afraid I’d be called a nerd,” Yarde, 53, said. “That continued through adulthood. I couldn’t find anyone who watched Star Wars as I did.”
But the force remained with Yarde, always, and when the Star Wars sequel trilogy debuted in 2015, he bought his older son, Keith, a set of Star Wars Little Golden Books to introduce him to the series that meant so much to him.
As it turned out, the force runs strong in the Yarde family. Like his father before him, Keith is a Star Wars fan, too. Now “10-ish” (he turns 10 in December), Keith has read more than 30 Star Wars books and comics, constructed an untold number of Star Wars LEGO sets, and seen every Star Wars TV series and movie (except for Revenge of the Sith, which is a little too grown-up for him right now).
“I’m kind of an action kid, so I like the fact that there’s a lot of action in Star Wars,” Keith said.
But when the pandemic and quarantine hit last year, action was in short supply at their King of Prussia home.
“Life just became very redundant for us. Work, school, eat dinner, get up, do it again,” said Yarde, an assistant vice president at a financial institution. “I could just see that my sons, Keith especially, he was losing interest in virtual learning and it started to show.”
Yarde and his wife, Tanya Manning-Yarde, who also have a younger son, Maceo, talked about what they could do to boost Keith’s morale. Around the same time, the second season of The Mandalorian came out on Disney+ and following every episode, the father and son would dissect each story in detail.
“The conversations would start before breakfast or when we’re having lunch or dinner. It didn’t matter if we were outside or going to the park, we talked about Star Wars all the time,” Yarde said. “We just needed some encouragement. Star Wars has done that for me throughout my years and it’s doing that for us now as a family.”
After filming one of their conversations at the dinner table, Manning-Yarde suggested that her husband and son start a Star Wars podcast. Hesitant at first, they agreed when they came home one day and found she’d purchased all the necessary podcast equipment.
“I have to applaud her for her belief in us before I believed in it,” Yarde said.
In March, Yarde and Keith launched Father and Son: A Star Wars Podcast, the title of which is a nod to Darth Vader’s line in The Empire Strikes Back: “Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy together as father and son.”
They record the show at their home for release on most podcast platforms and Manning-Yarde films accompanying videos for YouTube. Listed as the show’s producer, Manning-Yarde makes sure the seating, lighting, and audio are correct, and she lightens the mood before recording by performing a “crab dance,” which always makes her son giggle.
Keith, who took an online course in video editing last year and loves making stop-motion movies with LEGOs, does all the editing, music, and title credits for the series.
From Star Wars books, TV episodes, and movie reviews to interviews with people in the Star Wars universe and character studies of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, their show touches on all things Star Wars and explores the series’ many themes, including obstacles, love, loyalty, and failure.
Recently, they interviewed the producers for the upcoming Disney+ show Star Wars: Visions and in August, their guest Mark Daniel, who works for Disney Entertainment and hosts the fan convention, Star Wars Celebration, surprised Keith with a personal message from Ashley Eckstein, who voices his favorite character, Ahsoka Tano, in The Clone Wars animated series.
“I was just in awe. I’m still star struck! I never thought that the character that had always been my favorite would send me a personal message,” Keith said. “It’s awesome. Who’s next. Mark Hamill? Harrison Ford?”
While their interviews and reviews are thoughtful and informative, the real joy of Kerwin and Keith Yarde’s series comes from their interactions together. The show’s heart lies in the love this father and son share not only for Star Wars, but for each other.
“It’s me and my son bonding, it’s no different than a father taking his son to a sports game,” Yarde said. “In my case, it’s me and my son talking about Star Wars. That’s what Star Wars is about, family.”
And that’s resonated with many of the people who’ve reached out to say they love their podcast because it reminds them of spending time with their own father.
“I got another message from a man who said ‘I didn’t have a father in my life, but if I did, I’d want to have the type of relationship you and Keith have,’” Yarde said. “That’s powerful and I had no idea I could impact people in that way.”
Yarde and Keith are also affecting how the Star Wars fan base is represented. While there’s always been diversity among fans, there’s often been a lack of diversity in representation, Yarde said.
“What I think we also bring to our podcast is that people have never seen an African American son and father talk about Star Wars,” he said. “We’re here to let them know if you’re out there, please let us know how much you love Star Wars. It doesn’t matter where you are, who you are, or what color you are, you can love it.”
Yarde and Keith’s greatest hope for the show is that it still feels like they’re sitting at their dinner table, just a father and son having a conversation about Star Wars.
“We understand it’s not real, but it has meaning to us,” Yarde said. “It’s always had meaning to me and I’m passing that down to my son.”