“She’s a character that I really identify with and I respect and admire. She’s a loner. She’s everything I actually am. I’m confident in certain situations and I rise to the occasion. I’m still very—she’s still very vulnerable.”
A badass in the ring turned Hollywood queen, Gina Carano gives us an inside glimpse into her journey to the big screen.
While she hasn’t quite been moving planet to planet like her character in the new Disney + Star Wars series The Mandalorian, Gina Carano sees a lot of similarities between her “badass” character, Cara Dune, and her own personal journey. “She’s definitely intense,” Carano says. “She’s a character that I really identify with and I respect and admire. She’s a loner. She’s everything I actually am. I’m confident in certain situations and I rise to the occasion. I’m still very—she’s still very vulnerable,” she says.
The fact that she even got the Mandalorian role was a surprise to Carano. Jon Favreau, the popular actor (Friends, Rudy, Swingers), director (Elf, The Lion King) and producer, who developed the eight-episode series, set up a meeting through her agent, and he offered her the role essentially on the spot. “I looked at the concept art and the inspiration boards and I came to the [Cara Dune] character that looked exactly like me,” says Carano, who adds that Favreau told her she was the first actor he saw for the series, and he hadn’t visited with anyone else.
Carano had similar luck landing her first motion picture role in the 2011 action film Haywire, when director Steven Soderbergh and his wife came across the 5-foot-8-inch former muay thai and MMA fighter on TV. “They happened to be sitting there watching my fight and they said, ‘Why don’t we make a real-life action movie off the girl right here?’ And that’s how I got into Hollywood.” Since the big break, Carano played major roles in Fast & Furious 6 (Riley) in 2013 and Deadpool in 2016 (Angel Dust), before landing the part in the Star Wars series. It wasn’t a straight shot to the top, though; just like everyone, she had to pay her acting dues making low-budget films in the “back alleys of some pretty sketchy places” to make a name for herself.
But the Carano name isn’t just known among Hollywood heavyweights; her family is one of the most monumental names in Nevada. Her dad, Glenn Carano, a former UNLV and Dallas Cowboys quarterback, works as a hotelier in the business his late father, Don Carano, started. Another big name, Louis, a pioneer in the gaming, law and wine industries, started the Eldorado Resorts in Reno, which is closing in on buying mecca casino corporation Caesars Entertainment. Carano’s mother’s family also holds deep community ties. Her mother’s father, Papa Jack Cason, moved to Las Vegas 70-plus years ago and opened a gas station. “He borrowed $5,000 from my grandmother’s mother and he opened up the business... one convenience store with a partner,” says Carano, adding that he eventually owned every Rebel Gas Station.
If there’s one lesson Carano has learned from the family business, “You don’t take handouts—you have to make things happen. You have to go out there, and you have to develop your own business, and you have to just go for it.” No matter the planet, Carano always takes advantage of every big break.
Photography by: Mike Rosenthal