The alliance starbird under her left eye can only mean one thing: rebel. The Mandalorian’s Cara Dune (Gina Carano) fought in the galactic war as a shock trooper, but now she's facing the difficult reality of finding purpose in life after battle. The extremely physical role on the Disney+ series is a perfect fit for Carano, who has a background in MMA fighting and has appeared in action flicks like Fast & Furious 6 and Deadpool. But playing Dune ended up being more a personal and emotional experience than she could have ever imagined.
The Mandalorian is set five years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and though the war may be over, the impact of this hostile time in the galaxy's history is still felt. Used to being on the front lines, Dune is now trying to get accustomed to the banality of civilian life. When audiences first see Dune in Episode 4, the pain of her past has pushed her to the Outer Rim, a secluded area of the galaxy where she meets the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal). Fighting has always come easy to her, but without a war to win or a battle to throw herself into, she's looking for purpose. It's a sentiment Carano felt she could relate to.
"She is going from planet to planet, and in my life, I am going from one film set to the next," she tells Bustle. "You live in this world for a bit, and then you leave, and you are never really attached to anything."
Like Dune, Carano has found purpose in her life and career through her physical abilities, both in the MMA world and Hollywood. But despite her ease in taking on major fight sequences and stunts, she has still struggled to celebrate her body on screen as she shifts her focus from fighting toward acting.
“Cara is the first time I’ve really just embraced my body and embraced my strengths,” Carano says, adding that she struggles with anxiety and depression. Though she gets shy in public, suiting up as Cara Dune allowed her to gain a newfound confidence. "When I put on the armor and go to set, I turn into that character that I never knew existed in me."
Outside of Carano's personal journey getting to know the character, the role also gave her the opportunity to challenge the way the action genre portrays female characters. Dune is neither a damsel in distress nor a latex-clad villain, and Carano wanted Dune to be someone that viewers could relate to and see themselves in. “I’m not a sample size, I have a thicker, stronger build and I am coming from an athletic background,” she says. "I think it is really important [to see that] when you go out to the theater and watch these women, these hardcore badass characters."
For viewers who are longtime Star Wars fans or new to the epic world, Dune is bound to be a character worth paying attention to.