UNLV alum Gina Carano rose to fame as one of mixed martial arts’ first female stars. Since leaving MMA she has been pursuing a career in entertainment, first as the spandex-clad “Crush” on the revamped version of American Gladiators, and then making her movie debut in Steven Soderbergh’s 2012 thriller Haywire. She had a supporting role in last year’s Fast & Furious 6, and this week marks the release of In the Blood, in which Carano stars as a woman tracking down her husband’s kidnappers.
What drew you to this part? When I was younger, I was always thinking about my two sisters—I’m the middle of three girls—it was always one of my fears as a kid: What if something happens to someone that you love, and they went missing? I used to have dreams about it. I adore my family so much, and so it was always kind of like, what happens if one of them disappears? Especially with my older sister, because she was just always a little—she likes to cause problems. So then when I read that script, it kind of accessed that emotional response in me that has always been there.
Do you see this movie as challenging gender stereotypes in action films? I think this movie’s great for men and women who can really kind of imagine—if a guy looks at his girlfriend, “What would you do?” And that’s what we see so much in the women around us, just really strong, powerful women. I don’t think that it really challenges [stereotypes], because I think that people can kind of understand and appreciate and be inspired by it. When people leave watching this movie, they’re going to feel inspired by what women can do.
What was the biggest challenge for you working on this film? The best thing about it is that I have to be so actively involved. It was a smaller-budgeted movie, and it was a smaller shoot. But also at the same time, it required me to be so much more invested and kind of learn about that part of the business. I’ve worked with an amazing director in Steven Soderbergh; I’ve been on a huge set in Fast 6; and then this movie kind of gave me a whole new education on movies getting made and really kind of going to war.
How was working with director John Stockwell? Did his background as an actor help you? Yeah, I think it really did. He really did empathize with me and look at me like, “Okay, I’ve done this before, and this is what’s worked for me in the past. What works for you?” He’s got this controlled chaos thing where it’s like everything’s out of control, but he’s getting it done and completely organized. And so it made me feel really comfortable to express some emotions and to feel a little bit more free, and flirt with the character more, and how I would really be in those circumstances. I think that it was exactly what I wanted to do.
What kind of characters are you looking to play in the future? Right now I’m very open to anything from comic [books] to comedic to drama. I really enjoyed the dramatic parts in In the Blood, and expressing emotion that way. I definitely don’t want to be doing the same thing over and over. I don’t want to always be doing the physical thing. I’m keeping my eyes open for 1. just a really good script, and 2. a really good director.
There have been rumors recently that you might return to fighting. Yeah, I just said that if the circumstances were right, it’s something I’d definitely consider. I’m trying to grow in a way that’s productive in my life, and I really am enjoying the storytelling and the acting and what goes into being creative and making films. I still love to train. ... [O]f course, everybody’s going to ask that, and I get it, but it’s just if the circumstances were right, I’d definitely consider it.
Living in Los Angeles now, do you get the chance to come back to Vegas often? Yeah. My grandparents are from Las Vegas, and my papa, Jack [Cason], moved there about 65 years ago. He’s actually got the Rebel gas stations. He had the Rebel gas stations before UNLV even had the name Rebel. So we’ve definitely got some serious roots in Las Vegas.
In the Blood Opens Friday.