How The Mandalorian‘s Cara Dune Saved Gina Carano

Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images.
I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the only thing making anyone grin ear-to-ear during The Mandalorian is the yet-to-be-officially-named "Baby Yoda." But, as the actual Yoda once said, there is another.
We're about to meet The Mandalorian's ex-rebel soldier, Cara Dune (pronounced Kah-rah, not Care-ah) in episode 4, but we've been seeing lots of the actress who plays her. Gina Carano has been cheesin' all over the Disney+ series' promotional tour.
Perhaps it's because she's a Star Wars character now and that would make any actor (who's not Adam Driver) smile from ear to ear. But after speaking to Carano, I suspect there's another factor at play here. One that might just make even the coldest heart grow a few sizes.
"There was a point in my life where it was like, I don't know if want to be in movies anymore, because I don't want to bring them down; I don't know if I'm good enough for them," Carano tells Refinery29.
Prior to landing her role in The Mandalorian, Carano was largely known for her work in action movies like The Fast & The Furious 6, Deadpool, and Stephen Soderbergh's Haywire. Before that, the actress was kind of a big deal in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting world: The one-time American Gladiators star was a champion fighter. At the top of her game, she was named the "face of women's MMA" (she later rejected the title, asking that she be referred to simply by her own name).
But Carano had a second dream. Unfortunately, she says many of the roles she was getting weren't what she wanted for herself and she worried it had something to do with her body type.
"When I tell people I'm an actress, they're like, 'Do you do stunts?' because I don't look like the average actress — I'm not a sample size. I remember I'm normal, but I just don't feel like I look like what an actress should look like," she says. "I've always had these big legs, big thighs."
Photo: Courtesy of Disney+.
Despite feeling like she wasn't accepted as an actress, a few years ago, Carano decided to give Hollywood one last try. She says she started thinking of herself as an actress, rather than an "actor-athlete," and the next thing she knew, The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau was calling her in to play Cara Dune. And this character — in addition being a warrior and all around badass — allows Carano to see herself in a new light.
"I always like to cover up with a poncho and just kind of hide. I don't like to really show my body. It's something that I've been avoiding for a very long time," she says, noting that Cara's costume calls for her arms to be exposed. But after filming season 1 of The Mandalorian, and now part of season 2, Carano says something has shifted.
"I am like a Mack truck. I've always been strong. I've always been this person. I've really come to accept and embrace that through playing Cara," she says. "It's just meant the world to me because, really, beauty doesn't just from what we think of all the time as beauty, it comes from the inside."
The ex-rebel has also given Carano a home in an industry that often felt unwelcoming.
"I've been pretty much like a loner walking my own path and carving my own way and just finding my way around in this business. This feels incredible because I've never really, really belonged anywhere," says Carano.
Even though Carano was, admittedly, never a big Star Wars buff before slipping into Cara Dune's boots (don't worry, she says she "100 percent in" now), this world is now everything to the actress.
"Jon kind of just plucked me out of the desert and put me in this beautiful tropical place. And yeah, it's hard work — sometimes 18 hour days — but I don't care how hard this work is. I just absolutely love going to work; it gives me so much purpose."
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