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Gina Carano embraces her strength with 'The Mandalorian'

It's safe to say that venturing to the "Star Wars" universe changed Gina Carano's life.

Carano, the actress and former mixed martial artist, co-stars in "The Mandalorian," now streaming its eight-episode first season on Disney Plus. The series is set in the aftermath of 1983's "Return of the Jedi" but decades prior to the 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

Featuring "Game of Thrones" alum Pedro Pascal as the helmeted bounty hunter, "The Mandalorian" features Carano as Cara Dune, a former trooper for the Galactic Rebellion.

It was at a meeting with "Mandalorian" showrunner Jon Favreau that Carano was first pitched the role, complete with concept art of Cara that bore a striking resemblance to the actress.

Favreau told her "I was the first actress or actor that they’d met with, and I just think I kind of blacked out, out of adrenaline, after that, just thinking, ‘Oh my God,’ " Carano said. 

Where to stream: How to watch The Mandalorian

Gina Carano as Cara Dune in Lucasfilm's

Carano, 37 was a pioneer in women's MMA more than a decade ago and, with this role,  has now appeared in the "Fast and Furious," "X-Men" and "Star Wars" franchises . But before the Disney Plus series she felt "a bit stranded out there in the indie filmmaking" world.

“I felt like I was drowning," said said. "And I felt like Jon and ‘Star Wars’ came along at the right time and plucked me out of there and gave me some fresh water and passionate people. And on top of that one of the biggest, if not the biggest world, you can put an actor in is ‘Star Wars,’ and now I’m going to have a spot in this world forever."

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That world has gotten bigger and far more inclusive in recent years, becoming more representational in terms of gender, race and body type and – with 2016's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" and "The Mandalorian" – telling stories in the galaxy far, far away not principally concerned with the franchise's Skywalker family.

“I’m just so happy," Carano said of the series' growing inclusivity. "Everybody can enjoy this story, everybody can see themselves in this story."

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Gina Carano attends the premiere of Disney+'s 'The Mandalorian' at El Capitan Theatre on Nov. 13, 2019 in Los Angeles.

That includes Carano herself.

“I don’t really look like a normal actress. Usually, when I tell people I’m an actor they say, ‘What? What do you do, stunts? You’re not an actress,’ because I don’t look like a sample size. I wear sweats and yoga pants. I’m not super-glamorous – I don’t think – all the time. But I think that little girls and boys can look at me and think, ‘OK, so there’s a regular-sized woman.’

Working with "Mandalorian" stunt coordinator Ryan Watson and his team, Carano used her combat sports experience for  fight sequences that left her and her armor "absolutely drenched" in sweat.

Movies: 'The Mandalorian' star Pedro Pascal joined 'Star Wars' fandom as a toddler (even the undies)

Pedro Pascal and Gina Carano arrive at the premiere of Lucasfilm's

"I enjoy it because I feel like I bring that to the table in a very unique way," she said. "I go to these movies and I see these previews and I see these big action ladies, or big actresses, doing the action and I think, ‘Oh my God, I could make that (stuff) look so real.’ If somebody gives me the right opportunity and the right story, I can actually make you really believe that I can do that to that person, and (with) that kind of power."


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