Actress Gina Carano caused an unpleasant scandal for the Star Wars franchise this year, terminating her role in The Mandalorian after she shared an anti-Semitic Instagram post. This came after a long string of controversial social media posts where she promoted anti-mask sentiments, made transphobic jokes, and shared conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
Gina Carano’s departure also reportedly led to the cancelation of an entire TV show: the Mandalorian spinoff Rangers of the New Republic, which would have starred Carano’s character Cara Dune. This week we heard about a more surprising casualty of the scandal. In an interview with the Metro newspaper, actress Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) says may have she lost out on a Star Wars role due to the Gina Carano backlash.
“To be honest with you,” Lawless told Metro. “I was already in discussions about something on – it wasn’t The Mandalorian – something Star Wars-affiliated.” However, she didn’t get the role, allegedly for “political” reasons. This revelation has less to do with Lawless’s personal politics (she supports vaccinations and is a longtime champion of LGBTQ+ rights) and more to do with public infighting among Star Wars fans.
At the height of the Carano controversy, a lot of progressive fans were campaigning for Carano to be fired, while right-wing/anti-mask fans saw her as a figurehead. One facet of this conflict was a fan campaign to have Lucy Lawless replace Carano in the role of Cara Dune. This idea caught on because the two actresses look somewhat similar, and Lawless is famous for playing similarly tough roles in sci-fi/fantasy projects. (Disney has since confirmed that the role won’t be recast.)
“It might have hurt me in some way, because then they couldn’t hire me because it would seem to be pandering,” said Lawless, adding: “I became political.” Lawless herself had nothing to do with the campaign, but the campaign itself was prominent enough that she believes it was a deciding factor.
“I haven’t thought about that since, so it hasn’t given me any pain,” she said. “But that was my thought at the time, like, ooh, this makes me look like a political appointment, and not an actress.”
Actors lose out on roles for all sorts of reasons, so it’s possible that Lucy Lawless misinterpreted the situation. However, the idea of being turned down due to a fan campaign is a very plausible scenario. Disney has a troublesome history with handling political backlash around the Star Wars franchise, particularly when it involves far-right groups on social media. John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran both experienced racist harassment after they were cast in the sequel trilogy, something that might have been mitigated by more public support from Disney. Then in The Rise of Skywalker, Tran’s co-starring role was reduced to a meaningless cameo, a creative choice that was widely interpreted as pandering to racist fans. Disney obviously wants to avoid similar accusations in the future, but that’s an impossible goal. You can’t detach an entire multi-billion-dollar franchise from real-world politics.
The Daily Dot has reached out to Disney for a response to Lawless’ comments.