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Fennec Shand

"Your name will be legendary."

Ming-Na Wen joined the Mandalorian as Fennec Shand, an elite mercenary and assassin who worked for the galaxy's top crime syndicates, fulfilling her life-long childhood dream of being part of the Star Wars Universe. Fennec Shand is also the first big villain in the Star Wars franchise portrayed by an Asian actress.

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Fennec Shand made her first appearance on The Mandalorian Season 1 - Chapter 5: The Gunslinger, directed by Dave Filoni. After the New Republic captured most of her former employers, and with a huge bounty placed on her, Fennec hid on the desert planet, Tatooine. A young bounty hunter, Toro Calican, takes the bounty on her as his first assignment and with the help of Din Djarin, the Mandalorian (by Pedro Pascal), tracks her down. The episode ends off with a mysterious figure towering over her unconscious body, leaving viewers to speculate the fate of Fennec Shand. 

Though her appearance was brief, Ming-Na’s work as Fennec Shand was well received and Mingalings and Star Wars fans alike were hoping to see her return in the second season.

Bonding over Pittsburgh

While filming Season 1 of the Mandalorian, Ming-Na, and Executive Producer, Dave Filoni found out they were both from Pittsburgh, growing up in the same town and even attending the same high school, Mount Lebanon High School. Dave Filoni also shared in The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian that his collaboration with Ming-Na and she played a huge role in Fennec's story logic and dialogue.

“There was actually quite a few wonderful moments of revelation and synchronicity. We have the same vibe. There’s a courtesy and a sort of work ethic coming from this steel town….That sense of being able to communicate with each other and it’s about the work. Egos are put aside and all we want to do is make something great. Make the character great, make the story make sense. And, of course, our love for Star Wars, without a doubt.”

- Ming-Na Wen, starwars.com, 2020

Casting

 

The Mandaolorian Executive Producer, Jon Favreau offered Ming-Na the role of Fennec Shand, skipping auditions. Despite her dream to be part of the Star Wars Universe, Ming-Na was hesitant about accepting the role as Fennec was meant to only make a one-time appearance. Favreau and Dave Filoni did hint to Ming-Na on the set of Season 1, "that maybe she doesn't die". Thankfully, Ming-Na did not let the opportunity slip!

Just 2 days before the 1st anniversary of her debut episode, Fennec Shand returned to The Mandalorian, this time with a few upgrades and accompanied by the fan favourite bounty hunter, Boba Fett (played by Temeura Morrison) in The Mandalorian Chapter 14: The Tragedy.

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“Boba: But fate sometimes steps in to rescue the ratchet. 

Fennec: In my case, Boba Fett was that fate. And I am now in his service”

 

Though Fennec is “in Boba’s service”, Ming-Na shared that Fennec’s and Boba’s relationship are more of a partnership, with Boba respecting Fennec as an equal. Fans also picked up on the character’s relationship, saying Fennec is a boss herself when Ming-Na retweeted Boba Fett’s the Mandalorian poster with “Hi, Boss.” 

“Boba Fett’s poster came out a week ago and I finally posted it [with the words] ‘Hi boss.’ Just being flippant, being me. Being silly Ming-Na. And the response I got was very interesting! I think the fans did pick up on that equality because they were like, ‘Well, you’re a boss, too.’ That’s really cool.”

- Ming-Na Wen, starwars.com, 2020

 

[Spoilers Ahead]

 

With the capture of Grogu (Baby Yoda) by Moff Gideon (played by Giancarlo Esposito), Fennec and Boba joined the Mandalorian on a rescue mission. After attaining the coordinates of Gideon’s ship, Fennec teamed up with Cara Dune (by Gina Carano), Bo-Katan Kryze (by Katee Sachhoff) and Koska Reeves (by Mercedes Varnado) to take over his ship, while Din Djarin rescues Grogu. Though the team was successful, they were subsequently cornered by Gideon’s Dark Troopers. 

 

As the team prepared for a final showdown, a X-Wing appeared, along with a mysterious Jedi who swiftly took down the Dark Troopers. 

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The season ended with a special teaser:

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The Book of Boba Fett, executive produced by Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and Robert Rodriguez, starring Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen will coming to Disney+ on December 2021. 

Fans will also be able to catch Fennec Shand (voiced by Ming-Na) in the all new Star Wars original animated series, the Bad Batch debuting in Disney+ in 2021. We are not sure how big a role Fennec will have in the series yet, but Ming-Na has shared with Starwars.com that we will be seeing a younger Fennec Shand, exploring her backstory. You can view The Bad Batch trailer here.

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“She’s cutting her teeth as a bounty hunter in The Bad Batch…She’s still a loner, a drifter…. There’s just a sense of more recklessness about her, just bravado. You know, a young punk. She’s more adventurous and willing to take greater risks because she doesn’t know what the consequences are.”

- Ming-Na Wen, starwars.com, 2020

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Ming-Na Wen at The Mandalorian Premiere

 

Ming-Na attended The Mandalorian Premiere dressed in orange as a tribute to her character, Fennec Shand. She had just returned from a family trip from China with only 70 mins to prepare for the event. Her glam squad completed her whole look in time, even adding a hairdo inspired by her character.

 

Dress: Mark Zunino | Hair: Chaz Dean | Make Up: Suzanna Melendez | Jewelry: Erica Courtney | Clutch: Tadashi Shoji | Heels: Stuart Weiztman

Creating Fennec Shand

 

Fennec Shand’s look and personality were inspired by her name. To create the character, Ming-Na researched on the fennec fox and how it behaves, modeling her character’s personality after it. She speaks slowly, with a slight drag, and odd pauses in between - showing how the character is always thinking.

“She’s tricky, and yet she’s able to maneuver and survive, and be stealthy—so very graceful and agile. I just love that whole image with the name.

- Ming-Na Wen, Vanity Fair, 2019

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Joseph Porro, costume designer, played with the fennec fox’s colour - orange, adding orange features to Fennec’s primarily black outfit, paired with her sleek half orange, half grey helmet. 

 

For her hairstyle, Ming-Na and hairstylist, Maria Sandoval wanted to create a unique look for Fennec. Being an elite assassin with a helmet, Ming-Na had an idea of adapting the fennec fox features into Fennec’s look. Maria then came up with an intricate braiding system with a long tail, and orange cords woven into it, resembling the fox’s ear - creating the beautiful and unique Fennec Shand look we love. But the process of braiding her hair is not easy at all - when filming Season 2 of the Mandalorian, Ming-Na shared she usually goes home with the braids, hiding it under a baseball hat and sleeping in it, just to cut down the time needed to create her look. 

“But we thought it was only going to be one episode, so we wanted to make Fennec memorable. When she came back, we were stuck with it. Oops.”

- Ming-Na Wen, starwars.com, 2020

Ming-Na and Star Wars

 

Ming-Na has been a Star Wars Geek Girl since she was a child. As a kid, Ming-Na often finds herself alone, struggling to feel like she belonged in the white suburbia of Mount Lebanon. The Star Wars universe became her escapism and her religion. Young Ming-Na often daydreamed about being part of Star Wars, pretending she was Luke, Leia or Han Solo on their intergalactic adventures.

Ming-Na connected deeply with Luke Skywalker’s journey of self-discovery and becoming the hero of his story. When young Skywalker stared into the binary suns of Tatoonie, Ming-Na saw herself in him.

“I knew exactly how he felt. Wanting more. Feeling like my parents didn’t understand my dreams.”

- Ming-Na Wen, Instagram

 

Skywalker helped young Ming-Na believe she could someday achieve her dreams and she did. Ming-Na was also able to meet her childhood heroes - George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford throughout her career.

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Ming-Na has always wanted to be part of the Star Wars franchise. Whenever she’s asked “what role would you like to play?”, Star Wars, without fail, would be at the top of the list.

Ming-Na was finally able to check off her ultimate dream from her bucket list in 2019 when Jon Favreau cast her as Fennec Shand in Disney+’s The Mandalorian. Seeing her Chinese name credited as part of the Star Wars universe was surreal. 

Video Credit: SYFY Wire

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“And now, Ming-Na Wen, my Chinese name is now part of Star Wars. I’m glad I never changed it. It reps that little girl struggling with her identity & dreaming for something more.”

- Ming-Na Wen, Instagram

 

Ming-Na also had the opportunity to share the screen with Luke Skywalker himself in the Mandalorian 2, when Mark Hamil made a guest appearance. We can imagine how much Ming-Na actually freaked out and fangirl on set.

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Like how Luke Skywalker is to Ming-Na, Mingalings look up to and relate with Ming-Na and the many amazing characters she played. Ming-Na has proven that with hard work and determination, dreams do come through, we just need to keep believing in ourselves and work hard for it.