If you’re a fan of mixed martial arts, there is nothing more thrilling than seeing Quinton Jackson or Randy Couture pounding the canvas.
If you’re a fan of movies, there is nothing more terrifying than seeing Quinton Jackson or Randy Couture acting on the big screen.
As the popularity of MMA reached a fever pitch in the United States, so did Hollywood’s interest in putting the sport’s top names in front of a movie camera. From Jackson’s role in “The A-Team” to Couture’s appearances in “The Expendables,” nearly every grappler has failed in grand fashion – except for one. Her name is Gina Carano and, for once, she’s here to stop the bleeding.
Before there was a Rhonda Rousey, Carano was the celebrated face of women’s MMA and amassed a 7-1 record in organizations such as EliteXC and Strikeforce, as well as a legion of fans drawn to her beauty and brutality in the ring.
After stepping away from the sport in 2009, Tinseltown came calling and Carano made her leading lady debut in the 2011 Steven Soderbergh thriller “Haywire,” followed by a role alongside Dwayne Johnson in the 2013 film “Fast & Furious 6.”
Gina currently stars in director John Stockwell’s action-thriller “In the Blood,” which follows newlywed couple Ava (Carano) and Derrick (Cam Gigandet) as they embark on an island honeymoon. When an accident renders Derrick near death, he is shipped off to a hospital where he mysteriously vanishes. As Eva scours the island in search of her missing man, she calls upon her dark past for the skills she needs to take on a corrupt police department and an endless supply of fist-swinging thugs.
I recently caught up with Carano to talk about the new movie – which is now available with XFINITY On Demand – as well as her (surprising) fears, her place in the action genre and her “preppy” yearbook photos.
David Onda: You gave a great performance in “Haywire,” and it’s obvious that you’ve been working on your acting since that. You have some really excellent emotional scenes in “In the Blood.”
Gina Carano: Thank you. For me, it’s one of the best moments I’ve had – walking into the hospital and the frustration that… She just wants to know if he’s alive or dead. I watch movies sometimes and so many people are just doing the same thing. They’re all crying the same way. So when I see somebody on film that does it in a way they would actually do it, and you can connect with that – that’s what I was hoping to accomplish. That was me crying. I felt very vulnerable and I really accessed that emotion. It ends up being one of my more proud moments on film, more than some fight scenes I’ve done.
Onda: “In the Blood” was shot in Puerto Rico and sometimes feels like a guerrilla film. The people your character interacts with in certain scenes appear to just be locals going about their daily routine.
Carano: Yeah. [laughs] That’s John Stockwell’s style. He kind of throws you into real-life circumstances. When I’m passing out fliers, he kind of just puts the camera on you and says, “Go.” It’s kind of scary, and at the same time, you get really authentic reactions. The woman that I’m crying with when I show up to the hospital, that woman is actually a nurse there. She was excited to be in a movie, and I think it helped me out, because I’m looking at this person who’s actually probably seen some stuff like this.
Onda: I realize this is probably a silly question, but do they let you do your own stunts?
Carano: Oh, yeah. I definitely do all my stunts in this movie, except for the motorcycle slide. They always have a stunt double on set, and my stunt double on past films has probably been a little bit bored. The stunt women – I have so much respect for them. They put their lives on the line for movies all the time. So, we really train together. I’ll do the fight, she’ll do the fight, I’ll do the fight. That way I can see, also, how another strong female would do it. I like to keep my stunt women – even though they might not be used that much – I like to keep them actively involved.
Onda: With the exception of Milla Jovovich, films have been missing a convincing female action star for the last 10 years. You are the person who fills that void. Are you conscious of your place in the action genre?
Carano: I really feel like we’re in an interesting place, because they can do so much with CGI. But what I want to bring to film is the same strength you see in women in older movies, like Melanie Griffith, Julia Roberts and Sally Field. I want to figure out how to do a role where it’s the strength of those characters we used to love to watch in these older movies [combined with] the modern physicality of women today, because that’s what I feel like. I don’t feel I’m that girl that shows up and says, “Hey, I’m a badass. Listen to everything I say. I’m the super-modern woman that’s trying to be a man.” I don’t wanna do that. I wanna bring the real genuine strength of the women I grew up watching, like my mom, who’s completely 100% all woman and loves to be the woman and, at the same time, has this weird physical aggression type of thing.
Onda: You have a few scenes in this film that take place in high places. Do you have a fear of heights?
Carano: Yeah! Oh my gosh. I’ve never been zip-lining before, and I am a little bit afraid of heights. And the first time I go zip-lining, I’ve got a man hanging from me. And he’s hanging from me screaming and I’m looking down at him like, “Oh my gosh. I can’t tell if this guy is acting or he’s genuinely afraid.”
Onda: When you’re in the seaplane in the beginning of the film, you let out a little scream as it landed. I wondered if that was legit fear.
Carano: Oh, it was. Completely. Complete legit fear. [laughs] You’re in this tiny plane and, at one point, they went down and they were like, “Wait, wait. We have to go back up. We have to make another pass at it, because that was just feeling wrong.” Cam Gigandet doesn’t have any fear. This guy is hanging over the zip-line, sprawled out, could care less about falling. Meanwhile, I’m totally afraid of everything. It was so much fun, that part of the movie. Instead of doing all the physical and dark stuff, I really loved expressing the fun, natural fears that I have. Now, if you throw some spiders in there, then I’m really gonna be able to freak out.
Onda: You’d think that, after taking a punch to the face, everything else would be easy.
Carano: It kind of puts things in perspective. I, strangely, would rather be punched in the face than have to feel a lot of these other things in life. [laughs]
Onda: I don’t know if you heard about this, but someone is selling your ninth and tenth grade yearbooks on eBay for $385 each.
Carano: Oh, my gosh. I saw that! I think I might need to buy it, because I don’t have one. It’s like somebody’s selling my childhood.
Onda: The ninth grade photo labels you a “prep.”
Carano: I know. I saw that and I was like – I have no idea how other people saw me, but I was pretty much the same as I am now. I had this extreme physicality about me, and then I think I’m pretty nice in person. So, I saw that and I was like, “I don’t even have these pictures!” Maybe somebody could buy it and send it to me. I feel like I was such a little dorky kid. It was weird to see how much time has passed. I can’t believe people are posting yearbook stuff. People actually care enough to see it.
“In the Blood” is now available in select theaters, as well as at home with XFINITY On Demand.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.