How Gina Carano's once bright 'Star Wars' future on 'The Mandalorian' flamed out

Ethan Alter
·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·11 min read

2/12/2021 UPDATE: Gina Carano has announced her next career move after being fired from the hit Star Wars series, The Mandalorian. Speaking with Deadline on Friday, the actress revealed that she is collaborating with the conservative website, The Daily Wire — co-founded by Ben Shapiro — on a new movie project. “The Daily Wire is helping make one of my dreams — to develop and produce my own film — come true,” Carano said. “I cried out and my prayer was answered. I am sending out a direct message of hope to everyone living in fear of cancellation by the totalitarian mob. I have only just begun using my voice which is now freer than ever before, and I hope it inspires others to do the same. They can’t cancel us if we don’t let them.”

Shapiro wasted little time taking aim at her former employers. “We could not be more excited to be working with Gina Carano, an incredible talent dumped by Disney and Lucasfilm for offending the authoritarian Hollywood Left. This is what Daily Wire exists to do: provide an alternative not just for consumers, but for creators who refuse to bow to the mob,” he told Deadline. “We’re eager to bring Gina’s talent to Americans who love her, and we’re just as eager to show Hollywood that if they want to keep cancelling those who think differently, they’ll just be helping us build the Xwing to take down their Death Star.”

Carano posted similar sentiments on Twitter, welcoming her fans and supporters to “the rebellion.”

No details about Carano’s film have been announced, but it will be produced under the Daily Wire’s partnership with Bonfire Legend, the production company established by Texas-based producer, Dallas Sonnier, whose past credits include the Vince Vaughn vehicle, Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Bone Tomahawk, starring Kurt Russell.

[Original article continues below]

Lucasfilm’s recent decision to sever ties with former Mandalorian star Gina Carano over offensive social media posts might have seemed abrupt. But the actress’s Feb. 10 firing capped a long-simmering controversy that has disturbed the positive forces surrounding Disney+’s blockbuster Star Wars series. An outspoken conservative, Carano made a number of controversial statements during her two-season tenure that cut against the inclusive community that fans, and Lucasfilm, hoped to create around the show.

Carano’s firing was spurred by a since-deleted Instagram post that likened being a modern-day conservative to the experience of Jews during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. But her cause has been taken up by right-wing figures like Ted Cruz who are eager to portray her as another victim of cancel culture. Some have also noted that Carano’s co-star Pedro Pascal drew allusions between Trump supporters and Nazis and Confederate soldiers in a since-deleted Instagram post in November, but hasn’t faced the same repercussions.

Gina Carano returned as Cara Dune on the latest episode of 'The Mandalorian' (Photo: Disney+)
Gina Carano returned as Cara Dune on the latest episode of The Mandalorian. (Photo: Disney+)

Even as viewers embraced her on-screen alter ego — Rebel soldier-turned-mercenary Cara Dune — Carano herself always seemed eager to rebel against the larger expectations for her when she became part of George Lucas’s far, far away galaxy. Early on, the former MMA star, who broke onto the big screen with Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 action movie Haywire, was thrilled to suit up for Star Wars.

Appearing at 2019’s Star Wars Celebration alongside Mandalorian co-stars Pascal (who plays the title character) and Carl Weathers (who portrays bounty hunter boss Greef Karga), Carano described the experience as “kick ass” and seemed genuinely awed by the fan reaction to her groundbreaking character — the first female mercenary to have a prominent role in a live-action Star Wars project. “I have to say, when I got this job, I instantly was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I get to be part of a whole other family.’”

When The Mandalorian debuted on Disney+ the following October, the Star Wars family thought that Cara Dune, and Carano, was pretty kick-ass as well. The actress earned positive reviews for her performance, with Vanity Fair describing her as “the kind of multilayered female action star we rarely get to see onscreen.” Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau indicated that he’d written the role specifically for Carano, and pointedly avoided auditioning any other performers for the part. Cara made her first appearance in the fourth episode — an extended Seven Samurai homage, directed by Bryce Dallas Howard — and returned for the final two chapters. In the Season 1 finale, she chooses to retire from the mercenary life and becomes an “enforcer” (think “space cop”) on Outer Rim planet Nevarro.

Cara’s three-episode journey from outcast to authority figure delighted fans who were ready to see different kinds of female heroes populate the Star Wars franchise. Fan-drawn portraits of Carano in Dune’s battle armor proliferated online, and the character became a cosplay fixture on the convention circuit. One cosplayer, Jay Justice — who identifies as a queer disabled Black superhero — told Vanity Fair how much she appreciated seeing a female character with Carano’s specific body type.

And the actress herself applauded Justice’s homemade version of Cara when she debuted the look on Twitter. “To have the person say, ‘Hey, nice job. I see what you’re doing there. I want to support you, I want to promote you, and make sure you feel like you’re included in the space that’s been antifeminist for a long time’ — it is something that you can’t even quantify,” Justice remarked. “It is just a priceless validation of your existence as a fan in the space.”

But fandom’s relationship with Carano soured over the course of 2020, as the actress became more vocal in expressing her conservative political views on social media. Many noted that she remained silent during the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the death of George Floyd, and her Twitter feed featured several posts challenging COVID-19 mask mandates.

The breaking point came in September, when Carano seemed to mock the use of trans pronouns on social media by writing “boop/bop/beep” in her Twitter profile. “They’re mad cuz I won’t put pronouns in my bio to show my support for trans lives,” she wrote in a reply to someone asking about the rapidly-growing controversy. “After months of harassing me in every way. I decided to put 3 VERY controversial words in my bio.. beep/bop/boop. I’m not against trans lives at all. They need to find less abusive representation.”

In addition to social media, those sentiments almost certainly didn’t go over well with Carano’s Mandalorian collaborators, particularly Pascal. The actor recently celebrated his sister, Lux Pascal, for coming out as transgender in a heartfelt Instagram post.

But at that point in September, Carano had already completed shooting Season 2 of The Mandalorian, which wrapped production in March ahead of the coronavirus pandemic and premiered on Disney+ on Oct. 30. Once again, Cara Dune’s first appearance came in the fourth episode, directed by her co-star Weathers. That installment premiered on Nov. 20, two weeks after the U.S. presidential election and Carano had spent the interim retweeting unfounded conspiracy theories echoing Donald Trump’s allegations that the results were rigged.

On Nov. 14, she announced that she was leaving Twitter for Parler, the social media platform that became a temporary home for right-wing personalities and politicians. (Parler went offline in January, when Apple and Google removed it from their app stores following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.)

In the wake of her Parler announcement, #FireGinaCarano began trending on Twitter and continued to pick up steam after Carano’s episode aired. While Weathers, and other fans, praised the actress on Twitter, many others felt they could no longer separate the art from the artist, and accused Carano of ruining the character.

Lucasfilm, meanwhile, remained out of the fray as the season unfolded, culminating in a finale that positioned Cara Dune as a key player in the future of Star Wars on Disney+. Having become a marshal on Nevarro, she’s invited to serve the fledgling New Republic founded by former Rebel, Leia Organa. During a Disney investor call in December, the company announced a swath of new Star Wars series including one titled Rangers of the New Republic, an ensemble show that many assumed would feature Cara Dune front and center.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Disney did indeed intend to announce that Carano would star on her own series during that investor call, but abandoned course after #FireGinaCarano gained momentum. Still, the studio held off on completely cutting ties until the most recent Instagram posts surfaced, at which point Lucasfilm made her firing official. "Gina Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm and there are no plans for her to be in the future," a spokesperson said in a statement. "Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable."

While Carano is no longer part of Star Wars, fans believe that Cara Dune still has a vital role to play in the franchise and are already crowdsourcing potential replacements.

Lucasfilm has yet to announce any details about The Mandalorian’s third season, which isn’t expected to premiere on Disney+ until 2022. But with Mando’s traveling companion, Baby Yoda, now in the hands of the Jedi, the bounty hunter will be facing new quests with new allies along the way. That means viewers should have a new hope of eventually meeting the next Cara Dune.

The Mandalorian is currently streaming on Disney+.

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