Gina Carano made a memorable transition from the Mixed Martial Arts ring to the big screen in Steven Soderbergh's 2011 spy thriller Haywire, which vaulted her to a pivotal role in last year's Fast & Furious 6. Now, Gina is back on the big screen this weekend with the gritty, all-new thriller In the Blood, and she tells ETonline that with the help of this project she's determined to broaden her acting range and not simply be pushed into the "action hero" box – even if she has to punch her way out of it…
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"I just want to push and push, and that might mean humbling myself in front of millions and millions of people all the time, but I just have that drive and that creativity that I don’t want to ever be too pushed into a box, because that's not who I am," the 31-year-old Texas native tells ETonline. "It’s the harder road to go, but I’d rather do the real thing. … The better I can become at staying myself and really being honest on film, that’s the ultimate goal as far as being an actress."
In the Blood, in theaters, iTunes and On Demand today, casts Gina as Ava, a happy newlywed who heads to the Caribbean with her hubby (played by Cam Gigandet) for their honeymoon. But the island paradise turns out to be a lot more dangerous than it seems when trouble in a nightclub attracts the attention of the wrong type of characters. When Ava's husband experiences a frightening zip-line mishap and disappears on the way to the hospital, her trained fighter experience from a dark past kicks in. Faced with corrupt authority figures and suspicion directed at her, she must take matters into her own hands and fight her way to the truth -- one bad guy at a time.
The indie film just happened to line up its financing as production was wrapping for Gina on the $200 million-budgeted Fast & Furious 6, and she reports, "I went straight from London. Two days later I was in Puerto Rico in a wedding dress meeting my co-star for the first time. There was no pre-production, and it was just kind of a sink or swim, jump in." She adds with a laugh, "It’s a very raw film, so I looked raw, and there wasn't hair and makeup to make sure you look like a L’Oreal commercial."
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Directed by John Stockwell (Blue Crush, Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden), the film shoot had its share of dangerous moments, mirroring the sketchy nature of the third-world island setting.
"We were going through the barrios in Puerto Rico, and the people in these areas could care less if you’re shooting a movie or not -- they don’t want you on their territory, so it got really intense, and it was probably one of the more extreme things I did," she explains. "While we were filming, there were warning gun shots, saying, 'Hey you’re a little bit too close, you didn’t have permission to come into this area.' At one point, John Stockwell had tears in his eyes, with a huge smile on his face, because he had just experienced a really interesting moment where a man pulled a gun and shot it right into the air in front of him, just letting him know, 'Hey, you’ve crossed the line.'" John lives and loves off of that kind of stuff, and meanwhile I’m sitting here thinking, 'Oh my gosh, do I need to call my parents? Is the movie really worth it? Should I stay down here?' So it really had some kind of sticky parts to the filming."
Gina says of the perilous rainforest zipline scene, "It was actually first time I’ve ziplined in my life, and I have a man hanging from me and he’s screaming, and I couldn’t tell if he was acting or if he was really that scared!"
Gina says that despite the hazards of the shoot, she wouldn't trade the experience for a thing: "I’ve grown so much as a person, as an actress -- that movie was kind of a breaking point for me where I realized I really do like acting for the right reasons. … When you're in a smaller production, you feel more of the pressure, but at the same time you get to work more and be more active and creatively involved, and I really like that. I love to work. I love to put myself into something and grow together [with the cast and crew]."
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Just as she's beginning to cement her status as a kick-ass action heroine not to be messed with, Gina's keeping her eyes open for other genres and opportunities to expand her range and not get pigeonholed: "I think that for me, right now, it's about having a great script and a character and somebody who can put that vision together, whether that's action, comedy, romance, or a combination of all of them, that's what I want. I want to tell a good story that's entertaining and hopefully progressing and doing something different than what I've done.
"We’ll see what my future holds -- that’s the hardest part, waiting and finding the materials," she concludes. "But I’m not giving up. I'm going forward with a positive mindset, and I’m excited."