Gina Carano on: Fast 6, respecting costars, ramping up character development & action, privacy, and more
Gina Carano recently spoke in-depth to The Nerdist.com, CraveOnline.com, Collider.com, & more.
You got to be the lead in your first movie, Haywire. What was it like to share in the ensemble of a Fast and the Furious movie?
We sort of get Girlfight vs. Haywire in this movie when you fight Michelle Rodriguez.
CraveOnline: I was so excited for you when you booked Fast & Furious 6 because that’s huge.
Gina: Yeah, when I got that call I was just in L.A. in an apartment. To get any job is good but to be part of such a big franchise, I was just like thank you, thank you, dancing around my apartment alone.
What kind of dancing do you do in your apartment alone?
Gina: It depends on what kind of call it is and that was a jumping, really dorky child dance.
We sort of get Girlfight vs. Haywire in this movie when you fight Michelle Rodriguez.
Gina: Yeah, yeah, of course I wanted to go after Dom and Hobbs. I’d love to have a big fight scene with a massive person like that but when they explained to me the whole premise of Letty coming back and how important it was for my character to be the opposing force there, and how much they wanted to make a really awesome girl fight, I was just like, “Okay, I think that’s fresh. I can definitely deliver that.” Michelle was just so funny. The girl just makes me laugh and I think we had incredible chemistry off screen and it made it more comfortable to push each other and be rough with each other on screen and laugh about it afterwards. Nobody was hurt. It was a lot of fun and a different kind of thing for me.
I think that’s the fight we want to see. When you’re fighting in the tube station, was it a real location or a set they build? Was there any padding in that area?
Gina: I think very little padding. Just for insurance purposes, they had to put stuff on corners just in case somebody fell and really, really got hurt. The setup of it was six to seven floors down and it’s an old tube station that’s shut down. The elevators don’t even work so I felt so bad for the whole film crew. I mean, the camera guys, cinematographers and their people had to lug these cameras up and down. There was no bathroom down there so we literally had two days to shoot the fight scene. Going down there, being physical, it’s hot, doing everything of course myself, and if you had to go to the bathroom you had to run up six flights of stairs and time is money. It definitely, I think, adds to the whole feel of the fight and it’s a really cool location too.
Had you seen Girlfight and was it fairly accurate to boxing?
Gina: I haven’t seen Girlfight actually but I really respect Michelle. She’s one of those people that you just love to watch on film. You know who Michelle Rodriguez is. You just learn to find a place in your heart for her because you adore seeing her act.
I think we recognize some of your signature moves. You’re still doing all the flips and holds yourself?
Gina: Oh yeah, the flying arm bar. Yeah, that was an amazing thing to do. Of course everybody’s talking about insurance with that move and I’m like, “Are you kidding me? I am doing that myself. There’s no even question about it. I don’t care what insurance says.” Of course finally, they started letting me do the move on some of the stunt guys, only two weeks before we actually had to shoot the scene. The first time I did it, they were like, “Oh, she does this better than we did it so it’s okay.” The trick is, to do that on somebody who’s smaller than you, you have to use all of your momentum and it’s pretty much doing a flip with somebody’s arm between your legs. It’s easier to do it on a guy who can handle a certain amount of weight and be stronger, but to do it with somebody who’s small is a little bit trickier. I was so ready and down for that challenge.
Did you ultimately do the arm bar on Michelle?
Gina: Oh, of course. I did it over and over and over and I enjoyed it because I could see the cinematographers and everybody around that was watching it was just so excited that an actress is actually doing something like that for real. No CGI, nothing, I was doing that myself and I think that added a little entrtainment for the evening. I think that whole fight, whenever I was on set and doing fighting, I think people had a good day because it was fun. To see somebody who was actually doing it and performing in the movie was special.
Gina: Yeah, that was a stuntwoman.
I’ve actually seen you fake fight more than I’ve seen you real fight just because I didn’t follow every MMA fight. Is that weird to you?
Gina: Well, I think it’s awesome because when people see what I’m doing on film and they want to know any background on me, they can see where I come from and why I am this way. I think that’s a compliment to me so if somebody has no idea who I am and they see, “Hey, that was pretty cool and I wonder who is that?” And then go on YouTube and watch some of the stuff that made me who I am, I’m proud of that.
You got to be the lead in your first movie, Haywire. What was it like to share in the ensemble of a Fast and the Furious movie?
Gina: It was such a good move for me because I needed to go and get the experience and be a part of a big production. You can speculate all you want on how great of an actress you want to be and how you want to perform but until you get the opportunity, you never know how good you’re going to be on film. So for me, that was just a great experience to go and be around. Now I feel like I haveHaywire which is a beautiful, strong, intimate experience that was safe. Now I have this experience and I did a movie called In the Blood that came directly after Fast 6 which I’m very excited about because it was In the Blood that I started feeling leagues more comfortable acting. I really, really got the bug now. If I had any doubts before, they’re all squashed because now I’m really looking at the scripts that I’m being offered and I’m reading through things. It’s going to be important for me to be a character and to have character development as well as take action to the next level.
We talked about In the Blood last year. That was already on your schedule. So In the Bloodwaited for you to do Fast & Furious?
Gina: It was a little hectic at first. To get released from Fast and the Furious 6 was almost like down to the day I didn’t know if it was going to happen. Finally, thank God, Universal was a really cool studio and they gave me the go ahead to leave and shoot this movie for a month right directly after that. They’ve got such a huge budget on Fast and the Furious 6, if they needed anything, if they needed to get me back, thank goodness they got everything and they signed a waiver so that I could go do In the Blood. Literally, I wrapped on Fast 6, I got on a plane to Puerto Rico and a day and a half later I was shooting In the Blood for the longest hours of my life, straight for four weeks. I didn’t get home until December 22 which went straight into Christmas and seeing my family, and I’m so glad I did it because I feel like I had such a great experience on Fast 6 and such great opportunity and exposure, but then In the Blood I think, when people start seeing the teaser for that, they’re going to be excited. I think it’ll be a fun movie for people to see the range and where I hopefully will want to go.
Will we still know it’s a Gina Carano movie?
Gina: I think you guys are going to be pleasantly surprised. Of course you’re going to know it’s me, but I think you’re going to see me be a character and really get into the feeling of what my character is. I was able to somehow really just go for it. I don’t know if it was such a quick shoot or the chemistry between the cast on In the Blood or what it was. I’ve seen a teaser for it and my heart lights up because I’m like, “That is a movie I would want to go see just to check out, just because it’s so intense and interesting and different.” It’s like okay, if I can do that, if somebody sees that, they might be like, “Okay, she’s really going for it.” (CraveOnline.com)(Fred Topel)
Collider: Since the the Fast and Furious franchise is all about cars, I was curious what your first car was.
Gina: Oh, my first car was a Chevy truck and I couldn’t tell you what year it was, but … my papa – my grandfather – gave my mom a truck when she was in high school and then my older sister got the same truck, so by the time I got the truck … I mean, we’re talking pathetic little radio with an antenna and the windshield wipers didn’t work, but it was painted baby blue and it had my name on the side of it. My papa didn’t want to spoil us too much so he tried to keep it real. [laughs]
Yeah, same thing with me. I had the hand-me-down car that was probably older than I was.
Gina: Yeah and then my little sister gets the old, old-school Mercedes that was my mom’s college car and I’m like, “Oh, you guys just treat the middle child like that, huh?”
After your experience with Haywire, how did that change your Hollywood exposure? Did you start getting more calls? What sort of calls were you getting?
Gina: It’s a film that piqued people’s interest and I think people still, even after Haywire,were a little gun-shy, but they still wanted to talk about it. They definitely wanted to talk a lot about it. So, when I got the call for Fast and Furious 6, that was, “Okay, now I can go from doing something like Haywire with director Steven Soderbergh and take that experience and then go into a huge franchise.” Really, there’s nothing that can teach you more than experiencing all this.
After that, I did In the Blood, and that was directed by John Stockwell. I went straight from London to Puerto Rico and only had a day and a half off from shooting Fast 6 to filming In the Blood, and it was just a four-month, intense, crazy shoot that I learned so much about myself acting-wise. I was so excited to be like, “Okay, I think I really want to get more into this, I really want to explore this, because if I can do what I have done so far in such a short amount of time, I want to see what else is inside me.” It’s challenging. Of course, I feel like I can always do better with action and I always want to push the envelope there as long as I can because I’m a physical person and I love expressing myself physically, but I’m also, on the very flipside, an extremely emotional person. I like watching the relationships and the chemistry and the relatability … seeing somebody do it just right, just like if I’d see a fight scene in a movie, it’s like, “Okay, that person’s moving correctly and throwing their punches correctly,” and so, I want to portray that in acting. I do love entertaining and I love characters; it’s one of the reasons why I’m going into this with a positive belief in myself and I like this more than fighting right now, because in fighting, you’re representing yourself. In acting, you get to explore such an artistic side with different characters to research and learn and explore different things inside yourself and I do that anyway, so I might as well be doing something that I already do, as in a second nature to me, on film.
Fast and Furious 6 obviously has a lot of great action, but it has good character turns and relationship building. We’ve got to talk about your fight scenes in this movie because they’re brutal, they’re fantastic and they’re actually refreshing; it’s nice to see the ladies getting involved in the action in these films. You have two big fight scenes with Michelle Rodriguez; can you talk about how you approached the choreography and rehearsals?
Gina: I think with such a massive film like this and knowing that they wanted the fight scene between two women to be great, they hired such a wonderful stunt coordinator and we were training, it seems like, forever. As soon as I got to London, it was fight rehearsal after right rehearsal. Michelle was great; she showed up to every one. It’s kind of interesting. You never know who’s going to be standing in front of you, how intimidated they’re going to be or how insecure they’re going to be with acting or with action. They don’t know me, either. All they know is my past of being a professional fighter, so what kind of ideas have they built up in their head about me, not being able to control my punches or getting frustrated, the cliché that people think about fighters. But me and Michelle had such a great energy and there were no egos involved and I think we really took care of each other and made it okay to have a couple bumps and bruises. You can’t take it too seriously because this is what we’re doing. Nobody was hurt; I really pride myself on that. I don’t think I’ve ever hurt anybody unless I intended to. [laughs]
I had a blast doing this. The rehearsals were intense. We went over the fight scenes over and over and over, me and Michelle did, until we were absolutely sick of it. That made it, on the day, so much easier to perform, like a dance that we had done over and over and over and on the day it was just like, “Oh!” And you put your energy in there that you’ve been holding up until the day and it was just such a beautiful way to do business and to work. It’s just like studying for a test and making the test easy; it makes it a lot of fun, especially when people enjoy it.
From script to screen, about how much changed? Was there a lot of improvisation on set or was it pretty much as scripted? Do you know if any of your scenes didn’t make the final cut?
Gina: That was really interesting because when I did that Haywire experience, what was written in the script with the revisions and everything is what was shot. Fast and Furious 6was constantly, constantly changing and just constantly a new thing every single day, so you really had to just expect that. I wish I could say from the first conversation I had to the last conversation I had what transpired, but I think Justin Lin is a great, great director because he can take something on such a massive scale and have that many huge characters on and off the screen and he can manage it with a smile on his face and keep the positivity up and really keep everybody working. Not only that, but he pushed the action up on a whole new level, which is the escapism that people love to see, and he’s so passionate and excited about it. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Justin Lin does next, because he takes such care. I heard they had to pretty much pry the movie out of his hands just to get it shown in London because he was just so meticulous and there’s just so much respect to someone who takes that time and energy.
You get to do a bit of a tag team with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Can you talk about your experience shooting with him on the movie?
Gina: Yeah, he’s just a really wonderful man. I’ve heard that about him, people say, “I just love working with Dwayne,” and it was exactly that. He’s such a pleasure to be around and, at the same time, for me, knowing where he’s been and gone and kind of having a similar – not exactly the same, but a relatability to that – I have so much respect for that. Then, his work ethic and his professionalism was just … I have never seen a man work so hard. He was up at 3AM working out, then going to set, being a lead/main character, doing so much output. I was like, “When do you have time for yourself?” He’s really like a Superman, like a super-being. I don’t know how he gets it all done. I was inspired, because if the man can do all of that and keep his head on his shoulders and stay professional, then it just raises the bar for everybody around him. And having that be my second movie and standing next to him, watching how he works, it was really cool. He surrounds himself with good people from his hair and make-up to his bodyguards, they’re some of my favorite people to this day, I just love being their friends. He surrounds himself with really good people and keeps really grounded and I can’t tell you how much that means in this business. I really respect how he’s created his own company in and of itself.
So, I just wanted to clarify: you said The Rock has bodyguards, is that right?
Gina: [laughs] Yeah, The Rock has bodyguards. Yeah, they’re soldiers, they’re ex-soldiers that you don’t really want to mess with. They’re sitting there watching us play soldiers, so if I had a question I’d go up to one of them and be like, “How would you do this?” You feel really safe when they’re around, they’re just good solid guys.
Did you guys do a lot of working out together during your downtime?
Gina: No, not really, not at all. I like to do what I do, so I found a nice gym in London and I found a Muay Thai guy so I could hit some pads. That’s kind of like yoga to me, it balances me out and keeps me normal. I think that because all of these guys have worked together so much, they all bring their own people and their families, so coming in as a new person … I think somebody asked me once, “Where’s your entrouage?” And I was like, “Nope. I don’t have one. I kinda roll solo.” Everybody had an entourage. But I can find a home because I’ve pretty much been living out of my suitcase for the last ten years, so I can find a home anywhere. I know I can find Muay Thai and martial arts anywhere so I can always find a nice gym to help get that going. I think that everybody has worked together so much but everybody has their own lives when they go home at the end of the day, whereas Haywire we stuck together as a group and that’s the lovely thing about doing a new movie and having a fresh movie, but at the same time it’s understandable that people have worked together, it’s like, “Okay, we’re here to get the job done.”
Can you talk about your experience filming in London?
Gina: I just absolutely fell in love with London. I had a nice apartment and I’d go out and sit on the balcony and look around. I come from a family of little fashionistas who absolutely, their dream was to come to London and they came and visited me and just really soaked it in. It’s something that, you have to remind yourself that it’s something not everybody gets to do. I’m so fortunate to have done it and be able to invite my sister and my cousins out and say, “Hey, come stay with me in London.” It’s something that they have always wanted to see and really something special to them because they’re so fascinated and London has such great opportunities. You get used to taking the Tube stations and taking away trips to shop. The people are great, everybody’s relaxed and there are such interesting creative artists here. It was really a good experience for me and I really love it here.
You already mentioned In the Blood. You’re also attached to the Adi Shankar project, which I believe is the female version of The Expendables. Are you still involved with that and can you give us an update?
Gina: With that one, it’s kind of a work in progress and I think that as soon as I read the script I’d be able to answer that more thoroughly. I think it’s important to find a director who has a good vision behind it and, like, from Sucker Punch – I absolutely love that movie. So I take that and I say, “Okay, it’s a bunch of females and it’s very fantasy driven,” but if you take a couple of women who are very realistic and could actually pull off some amazing fights, maybe put a darker twist to the story to it and make it very cool and believable, that would be something I’d of course be interested in. There’s something about … it’s lovely to work with guys, but it’s a whole other educational experience working with women. It is a blast because you learn so much because you’re on the same page and it’s like, “Well, you’re a woman and you’re saying this and you’re doing this and we’re in the same profession, so we’re learning a lot from each other!” I went through this working with guys and I absolutely love learning stuff like that and having that camaraderie with someone of the same sex. So, if a good visionary wants to jump on board with that and I see their vision correctly and I like it and I like the script, I would absolutely do it but I have to read the script first.
Briefly, Steve interviewed you previously for Haywire and he brought up the topic of Wonder Woman. With all of the recent superhero movies that are coming out, have you done any auditions for any superhero roles recently?
Gina: No, I haven’t done any auditions. There have been talks about some different characters. That’s a dream to put on a costume and be a whole other level of character, but I think that … we’re looking at a whole bunch of different things right now. There’s always the possibility that some day I will be a comic book character that I’ll play and I’m not sure who that’s going to be. It would be very fun and fascinating. We’ll just have to see where my career is going to go. There’s so much I want to do. I love emotions, I love drama, I love comedy and I also want to take action up to another level, I love comics. I’m just reading some scripts and putting myself out there and seeing what’s attractive to me. We’ll kind of figure out where this goes. It’s going to be interesting and keeps it very exciting, I’ll tell you! [Laughs]
Are there any dream roles that you would want to play if the opportunity came up?
Gina: You know, when I was a teenager, it was Pride and Prejudice. It was Elizabeth inPride and Prejudice. I know that really sounds ridiculous. But that’s already been redone, Keira Knightley did that. That was when I was young. I really like the idea of creating something new that’s fresh and something that people don’t understand what they’re watching. I like to break down barriers and I think that Hollywood is doing the same thing over and over. I want to do something new and say, “Let’s evolve as artists!”
Well, I’ll tell you what, there’s always Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If they can get that off the ground you might have a part; you might get to do both things in one!
Gina: [Laughs] Alright! That’s what I’m sayin!
Do you have any other upcoming roles or projects you want to fill us in on?
Gina: In the Blood will be coming out later this year. It’s being looked at by distributors and there’s a bunch of incoming calls on it. I really felt like I tapped into something good there. I feel like I have potential to do so much more, but I feel like I showed a different side of myself that anybody who has been following my career is going to be extremely intrigued by. I look forward to hearing reactions because I just saw a little teaser for it the other day. It’s nice to watch something and say, “Oh my gosh, I did that!” I’m so glad that somebody caught that on film. I’m excited for people to start learning about In the Blood, and I think that when people see that, they’ll start to see how serious I am about where I’m going right now. But people haven’t seen it yet; they’ve only seen trailers for Fast and Furious 6 and Haywire and I understand that, but I’m looking forward to people seeing In the Blood. (collider.com) (Dave Trumbore)
MetroNews: You’re a tough chick but you look almost petite next to the Rock. What did you do to assert your dominance?
I just fed off his energy. It’s kind of an intimidating thing, the size difference. But he’s such a lovely person. It just made me want to mirror that kind of energy.
What do you do to stay in shape?
I train everyday. I do Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu. You go through phases when you’re training: you start out and you’re like, “This is brutal.” Then you’re laughing and think, “This is ridiculous!” By the time you pull it together you get a second wind and you get focused and it’s just the best feeling.
All that kicking and punching, you must need a lot of fuel to keep going. What’s your diet like?
It’s been a long road to get here but I have a very healthy relationship with food. I’m just normal. You go through ups and downs of figuring out how your body responds to food but sometimes you have to cheat and eat some pasta you know? When you start putting too many rules on something you get a bit anal about it and it’s counterproductive.
Your co-star Michelle Rodriguez looks like the kind of girl that doesn’t take anything. Were you on guard when you first met her?
She is feisty. I’ve been around feisty people my whole life, so I didn’t have any expectations. I gave her a chance to be exactly who she is. We had great chemistry — she’s the first actress I’ve ever worked with physically.
You guys fight a lot in the movie — is it all for real or stunt doubles?
I do all my own stuff but she’s quite tiny. I grabbed her wrist to handcuff her and I was like, “What!” She has the tiniest little wrist I’ve ever seen. But if you don’t walk away with some pain, you don’t feel like you did your job.
You’ve worked with both Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender. Now, girls have obsessed over Channing’s abs in Magic Mike and Michael’s bum in Shame. You’ve actually seen them both, up close. What would you score their assets, out of 10?
He’s known for his bottom? I respect them too much to rate that. Channing has worked so hard to be taken seriously and Michael is just automatically taken seriously.
Most guys like the fact they’re the stronger one — physically — in a relationship. But you’re a martial arts expert and could probably beat the heck out of anyone. How has this affected your romantic relationships?
You don’t know any of my ex-boyfriends. They could have been strong. My ex-boyfriend got me into Muay Thai and we would go to the gym and spar. But my relationships are private.
I don’t want to talk about him.
Do you ever look at people and think, “I could totally kick your butt.”
If you don’t like someone, of course you have that kind of thought sometimes. You kind of get violent fantasies and then you’re like, “Wow! why did I do that?”
Your last professional fight ever. Who would you want to be up against and why?
The person I lost to: Cyborg. You always want to avenge that.
Fast and Fierce: Getting to Know Gina Carano
(by Brian Walton)
Nerdist: You got paired off with Dwayne Johnson for the majority of this film. What was your working relationship like, and how did you approach going into the pairing?
Gina: It was awesome. I’ve watched Dwayne professionally and I just completely respect what he’s done. You can’t drive around now without seeing a billboard or seeing him on tv every other commercial. He’s just done such a great job for himself. He’s so professional and he’s such a hard worker; it was good for me to be around someone like that and learn from him. It was awesome, man, just being next to him. I’m really not used to that kind of thing. He made me look smaller. I was kind of disappointed, because originally I wanted to go up against him in some way or have a fight with this monstrous man, but they really wanted to build up the fight between these strong female-type women. Michelle was just awesome to work with, and I really, really enjoyed it.
Nerdist: Speaking of your fight scene with Michelle, with your training and career, how easy is it to adapt your fighting style into choreographed fights for film?
Gina: It’s incredibly easy, actually. It’s something I’m good at. I used to dance when I was little; I would do choreography, and then for some reason I got into Mixed Martial Arts. I understand and I speak that language. So, when we go into choreography, it’s very challenging in the most beautiful way. I get to learn more. Doing mixed martial arts as a cop character is much different than being a cage fighter. What Olivier did, the stunt coordinator, he just helped me get into my character and learn all sorts of new stuff that I ordinarily wouldn’t use in a regular fight, a street fight, or a cage fight. It’s such a never-ending thing, you can never learn enough. When you have such good stunt coordinators, it’s a beautiful thing. It becomes art.
Nerdist: The film has its own sense of reality (and physics). When you’re acting in a movie like that, do you have to convince yourself to let go a little bit and buy in?
Gina: I think that’s the reason Fast and Furious is so popular. It is not a superhero movie, but it’s not a regular action movie either. It’s somewhere in between, so you have that relatability, and at the same time you get the feeling of watching a superhero movie. I think that it’s got real relationships and character building, but then it has that edge of letting people escape when they go see it. That’s one of the fascinating things about Fast and Furious, that it combines both of those elements so well.
Nerdist: How much training do you have to put in when preparing for a movie versus preparing for a fight?
Gina: Training to be in a movie and then training during the filming takes so much energy, by the end of the day you can’t get to your bed soon enough. It’s a different kind of energy and mentality. I love both of them, but I like the idea of a character and building yourself around that character. That’s completely fascinating to me. But just like a fight, you just train, train, train, and practice. On the day of filming, it should be a good day. It’s just as much training, but it requires a different mentality.
Nerdist: We really liked Haywire, but you got to be a couple shades lighter with your personality in this film. How do you feel you’re growing as an actress?
Gina: I actually did a movie, In the Blood, right after Fast and Furious 6. I went straight from London to Puerto Rico and was shooting two days later. It was kind of a guerrilla shoot, and because of that, I was able to tap that much more into my emotions and character building. That movie, on top of doing Fast and Furious 6, has me going through scripts that I really want to play and put myself 100% into. I want to find something that shows that, yes, I have a physical side I feel I can push to another limit and another limit, but I have an emotional side too that I can’t wait for people to see. It’s just getting better and better with each experience, and with the right role, it’s going to be really nice to tell a good story. When you get it right on set and you know you got it right, there’s not a better feeling in the world. On the flip side, when you get it wrong, you think, “Oh my gosh, what did I just do?” It’s a really humbling experience, but you just feel on top of the world.
Nerdist: You were an excellent straight-man for some of the Rock’s one liners. Are you looking to explore comedy more?
Gina: I am a bit of a goofball, and at this point I’m not opposed to anything. I feel like as soon as I read a script, it’s going to pop out at me. It’s more about the character that I find in whatever script that I’m reading and if I relate to that. For me, it is really nice to smile and laugh and be very awkward. I’m really good at that. I should find a character like that for sure, hopefully. But, I love drama and I’m a very emotional creature. I’m just looking for the next step right now.
Nerdist: There have been rumblings about you leading a female version of The Expendables. Is that something you’re interested in?
Gina: There have been talks of that, and as soon as I get a script, I’ll be able to answer that question more clearly. I am a huge fan of Sucker Punch. I absolutely love that movie. So, I can see the potential of getting a bunch of us together. It just depends on the script and if you get a visionary director in there. It could get cheesy really easily, so you have to have somebody that wants to take it and make it special, instead of what we’ve seen before. That’s the project I want to be a part of. I am totally open to being a part of something that is an all-female action based film, as long as it has a good vision
Gina Carano Interview – THIS IS WHY GINA CARANO IS SO AWESOME
(By James Fell)
Tough women are hot.
My wife is in the process of getting her second-degree black belt in karate. She can kick my ass. Perhaps I have a thing for that.
Gina Carano could do more than kick my ass; she could kick my ass off my ass.
A while ago I watched the movie Haywire, Gina’s first leading role in a big-budget Hollywood film. She starred alongside Ewan McGregor, whose ass she kicked, and Michael Fassbender, whose ass she kicked, and Channing Tatum, whose ass she kicked. Michael Douglas was also in the movie, but she took pity on him and did not kick his ass.
I watched the movie with my wife, who of course loved all the female-kicking-ass stuff, and starting Googling Gina. It was at that moment I knew I had to interview her. And, lucky for me, I get to see even more onscreen ass-kicking from Gina in Fast & Furious 6, which premieres May 24th.
“I have a couple of fights with Michelle Rodriguez,” Gina told me.
“We had a great energy and she was willing to make the best possible female fight scenes she could. She trusted me to be physical with her in an aggressive way.”
See, there’s a great story with Gina. She’s a champion for equal rights. Carano is like a Susan B. Anthony or Eleanor Roosevelt of mixed martial arts. Any woman fighting in MMA today owes Gina a debt, because she paved the way.
Her athletic history began with more gentle pursuits.
“I started with dance,” she said. “Tap, jazz and ballet. I really excelled, but my parents got divorced and I moved to Las Vegas with my mom, and that ended the dance thing.” From there she moved on to gymnastics, basketball, volleyball and softball. “And I was always snowboarding in Lake Tahoe,” Gina told me.
Her genetics might have helped. Her dad was backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. “When I was a little girl I could throw a football really far — further than my older male cousins. It made them angry.” She used to wrestle those same cousins. “They were always impressed with how strong this little girl was.”
It was a former boyfriend who got her into fighting.
“He was watching friends go down the wrong path. Las Vegas can be a rough place to grow up, and he decided to change his life and walked into a Muay Thai gym the next day. He became a top contender, and I was watching him and decided to take it up as well.” She was 21 at the time, and hadn’t been active since high school. “I picked it up so quickly people were kind of shocked.”
In her first bout she was outweighed by 12 pounds against a competitor who already had two fights on her record. “I won that fight,” she said, “and people were surprised and saying it wasn’t really my first fight. Then it just kind of took off. I went through every kind of opponent and did well.”
But inside the ring wasn’t the only place a battle was fought.
“When I was training women weren’t as accepted as they are now,” Carano told me. “It was not a female-friendly environment. The only reason I was accepted was because I kept my mouth shut. It was not easy, but I sucked it up and tolerated it, and I gained respect because of it.”
And no, this isn’t meant as some message to women to get them to stay quiet. This was specific to the circumstances. Gina was there to train and to fight, and there were some men trying to antagonize her to get a reaction out of her. She didn’t bite.
“There was no fear anyone could instill in me that would get me to stop fighting,” she said.
And that’s what her training regimen was mostly about: fighting.
“I’d have Muay Thai three days a week, doing pad work, then two days a week of boxing and bag work. Then I also had my wrestling and jiu-jitsu.”
Randy Couture coached her toward the end of her fighting career as well. “He was more like a mentor,” she said, explaining that Randy acted more like a head coach who focused on the big picture for Gina.
“That’s one thing that takes weight off fast,” she said, speaking of the need to make her weight category. Many “weight-loss gurus” have derided running — or any aerobic exercise — as a weight loss tool. It is my opinion that many such gurus suffer from a medical condition known as rectal-cranial inversion.
But it wasn’t just for making weight. “I also did lots of sprinting for explosive power,” she said. “With fighting, you need to be able to explode and then maintain, which is why you need both types of training.”
For a while after MMA, Gina was an American Gladiator.
“I really didn’t want to do it,” Carano said. “But they called me back four times to get me on the show. My agent told me to take these things as they come.” As it turned out, she liked it. “I ended up having the time of my life. It was so much fun. It was easy work compared to MMA, and I was like, ‘I get paid to do this?’”
OK, now I’m going to tell you that if you haven’t seen Haywire, to go watch it, because it has one of the best fight scenes ever. It’s the one where Gina and Michael Fassbender beat the ever-loving crap out of each other in a hotel room.
“That’s probably one of my favorite fights I’ve done in film,” she said. “Michael knew he didn’t have to hold back. He knew I could take it, and so we just went for it. I liked working with someone who didn’t need to treat me like a delicate flower.”
Michael’s the one who ended up taking the punishment. “We banged our knees together and I barely even knew we did it, and he said, ‘Holy sh*t, that hurt!’”
The biggest difference between fighting in the ring and fighting on-screen, Carano says, is that, “If I’m getting hit, I have to sell it to the camera. There is an emotional aspect and I have to tap into anger.” Conversely, when she’s in the ring, anger is something that needs to be carefully controlled.
And now that Gina has retired from fighting and is focused on full-time acting, her approach to her health and physique has changed.
“I’m lighter now than when I’d cut weight for fights,” she told me. “Fighting can be such an extreme thing, and I’ve actually gotten healthier and learned more about my body because it’s not about the next fight anymore.”
And vanity has begun to factor into her fitness motivation.
“I never focused on looking good before. I just focused on not getting my ass kicked. But now I’m more concerned about taking care of myself. Looking good is part of that.”
(credit: Hey-Why-Her?, EoinA & Paul)