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Interview: Actress Gina Carano talks ‘In the Blood’

Gina Carano
Gina Carano
Anchor Bay Films

Steven Soderbergh’s “Haywire” showed the world that former mixed martial-arts star Gina Carano has the skills to become the next action heroine. And her new indie feature, “In the Blood,” which releases simultaneously to limited theaters; VOD; and iTunes on April 4, is further proof of that, but it also has Carano trying something different – and that is going for a much more emotional range in her acting career.

In the film, Carano plays Ava, a newlywed whose husband (played by Cam Gigandet) goes missing during their honeymoon in Puerto Rico. She then sets out on a solo quest to find him.

What most people don’t know about Ava is that her father (played by Stephen Lang) raised her to be an independent woman and to protect herself in the most dangerous situations. She can take down any man or woman who crosses her path.

In the Blood” also stars Luis Guzman Danny Trejo, and Treat Williams, and was directed by John Stockwell (“Turistas,” “Into the Blue”).

The Chico Movie Examiner recently caught up with Carano about the film; what other genre she would like to do as an actress;

David Wangberg: I was watching the movie last night, and I was fascinated by all the stunts you do in this movie – as I was with “Haywire.” And I was kind of wondering, being a former MMA fighter and doing all your own stunts, how do you maintain control and tell yourself that you’re actually not trying to hurt your costars or knock them out or anything?

Gina Carano: I find that’s been pretty easy for me, I think, because I actually don’t want to hurt them. [laughs]

So, when you want to take care of someone, you do everything in your physical ability to not hurt them. And, for some reason, that’s just been easier for me. I can access the feeling of aggression without wanting to actually hurt someone. I’ve always had that. I can be so physical and intense, but not actually want to hurt anyone. So, that’s actually easy.

But as far as the stunts go, there’s a lot more. I was two days out of London, and I showed up on set in Puerto Rico, and then I was in my wedding dress and meeting my co-star [Cam Gigandet] for the first time and getting married to him. And then days later, we were hanging on one of the tallest zip lines in the world. And I’ve got a little bit of a thing with heights. And, so, I’m going down to do it, and the first time I do a zip line with them, they’re hanging and screaming for me, and I can’t tell if they’re acting or if they’re really that scared. [laughs]

And then you’re hanging out there on the zip line, looking down over the beautiful Puerto Rican rainforest, and John Stockwell’s yelling at you to go 15 more feet out, and you’re forgetting your lines because you’re that scared. It was really one of the more intense scenes I’ve ever done.

But the action stuff, and all the physical stuff, that part’s fun for me. I really enjoy getting into the more emotional part of the film, because that part was a little bit more scary. But once I got there, and I got over the hump, I was like, “Oh, I actually really like [this]. This moment’s so huge.” I’m very proud of that, because it was so hard to get there.

DW: You just mentioned one of the things I was going to ask you. In the film, Ava can take down any man that crosses her path, but she’s afraid of heights. Is that the same for you? You can fight well, and you can do all your own stunts and all that, but what’s your biggest fear? Is it heights, or is it something else?

GC: I think heights is a huge thing for me, but I think that always being able to take care of myself – that I think is more of a fear. I always want to be able to be independent. I will get up there on that zip line and hang over hundreds of feet, before I will give up my independence and my freedom. [laughs]

DW: I was watching an interview you did with Robin Roberts about two years ago.

GC: Right.

DW: One of the things you said in it was, “I want to see an athlete crossover correctly and do it well.” This was talking about your acting career.

When do you think that moment will be, when you realize you’ve crossed over from being a great fighter to a great actress?

GC: I think that it’s important for me to enjoy the journey. I don’t know when that moment’s going to be, and I think it’s not necessarily about getting an award or having people recognizing that in you. It’s more about you living and walking through those doors that scare you and taking those chances and doing those things for the correct reasons. I think that I’m doing that, and each time I do, I feel like I gain new knowledge, and I get better, and I get more comfortable. I think that, hopefully, in the future, I’ll be able to do something where it’s a moving story, and it’s a character that I can really be proud of.

I’m not sure what that is at this moment, but I think that providing what I have in me as far as artistic and female and emotions and everything I go through, and who I am, combining that with my physicality and the aggressive side of me and making that intricate, hopefully, will open up doors for other females to know that it’s OK to do both. You don’t have to be one or the other; you can be an all-rounded individual. I think that’ll be a good moment for me. I don’t know what character; I’m looking for that character. I might have to write that character or create that character, but I think I’ll get there eventually.

DW: A lot of athletes who go into acting do these big, action films, but there are some who have gone on to do a comedy or a drama or some other genre. What other genre do you see yourself doing in the near future?

GC: I think kind of like a real life [movie]. I really like the idea of something being comedic and funny, but also emotional, and combining all of those – like a good drama. But what a good drama [has] is all of those aspects to it. Something that people could watch and think, “OK, that’s not the real story, but that’s a real person’s character and life that we’re watching.” And that doesn’t necessarily just mean all one thing or the other. So, I think a complete character with all of the emotions put in there.

I’m looking through scripts now, and I get sent a lot of action scripts that has those characters missing. Personally, I don’t want to do a story that lacks anything. You could make a million action movies with no heart behind it and think they’re going to sell and it’s pointless. But you could make one good story and have one action scene and have it impact so many more people. I’m looking for something with impact. There are a couple projects coming up this summer that might be fun, but I’m really looking for that one story that really turns my career. I’m going to make it happen, regardless.

DW: In the film, we see flashbacks of your character and her father, and he’s training her to be the woman she is in the present day. What are some of the things your father taught you that have made you both the fighter you are today and the actress you are today?

GC: I think what my father taught me was to work hard and to always treat everyone the same. He’s gone from [being] a professional athlete to owning some hotels in Reno. He’s in charge of a lot of people, and he’s almost like his own little entertainer; he constantly has people around him. But he’s the same person no matter what he does. He’s treating the people who do the house keys; the people who clean the floors; and he’s treating the presidents of other companies all the same, and he leads in that way. In order to have a good machine run the way you need it to, and for people to enjoy the environment, you all have to be on the same page and treat each other on equal levels.

And I realized that, even working in the film industry. You’ve got the sound department, and then you’ve got the set department. None of these things are more important than the other. They all have to work together, and they all have to be good to create something. So, I think my dad taught me how to be a natural leader without being full of himself. Because he’s not full of himself; he just loves to work, and he loves to make people happy, and he loves to get people involved. And I see that I’m kind of like that, too.

DW: I saw on your IMDb page that your number one movie star crush was Paul Newman. If you had the opportunity to be in one of his films, in which one would you liked to have had a role?

GC: [laughs] I guess that two of my favorite films don’t have any women in them, actually.

“Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid” is one of my favorites, and then “Cool Hand Luke” is my other favorite. And then what’s the summer one that he was in, where he met his wife?

DW: “The Long Hot Summer?”

GC: Yeah, “The Long Hot Summer.” You know, “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid” is one of my favorite movies, because you saw two leading male actors really work together and take those roles, and I think that’s just really cool. Sometimes, in a lot of movies, you see so many egos, and it’s like, “OK. Obviously that person had more of the pull with the director and producers and the other actor, and so somebody gets overshadowed in the story.” But what I thought was really cool about that movie is that they both equalized their strengths as characters, and I hope to see more of that kind of thing in film.

DW: You did a couple films before “Haywire,” but your big breakthrough came in “Haywire,” where people started to recognize you as an actress and everything. What have you learned about being an actress while doing “In the Blood,” that you didn’t learn while doing “Haywire?”

GC: I think I realized that you work a lot for different types of people. I think I’ve had a little bit more experience [here] to where I can get a little bit more into my character and I’m more comfortable in film with the lessons that I learned by this point. I wish I could have put some of those lessons into “Haywire,” but that was my first film. There’s nothing that beats the first film, but I wish I had the skills I have now to help out that film. But you live and you learn, and I think Steven Soderbergh did a really good job with “Haywire.” I just wish I knew more at that time, you know? But I’ll probably be saying the same thing about “In the Blood” at some point, too. [laughs]

DW: We were talking about all the athletes that have crossed over into films. Out of all the ones who have done it so far, which one do you think has done it the best?

GC: I think Dwayne [Johnson] has. I think that he likes being the action guy; he likes being the performer as far as what he likes. He’s done a really good job, and he’s been the most successful. And I really kind of admire the way he’s done it. However, I’m a completely different person, and I’m attracted to completely different projects than he is. But for what he’s done, and how comfortable he is with film, he does it really well. I’ll kind of have to look that up and see. Who do you think?

DW: I don’t know. I mean, I think [Sylvester] Stallone has done well with the “Rocky” films. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did great in “Airplane!” It really depends.

GC: I also think now that Dwayne has done so much as far as action goes.

DW: Yeah, he’s done well, too.

GC: I think that if he ever had that project he wanted to do, he should do it now. That’s what I would do. [laughs]

I would definitely watch that. He’s a buddy of mine, so I really adore him. But, yeah, that’s what I would do – just this real passion project with an amazing story that has some impact. That’s what I’m drawn to. I don’t want to do the same action; I always want to figure out how to take my personality and experience and express them and figure out how to put them down on film and in a story, and that’s what I’m looking for. That’s it. [laughs]

This concludes the interview, but the Chico Movie Examiner would like to thank Gina Carano for taking the time to talk about “In the Blood.”