"Your name will be legendary."
To be part of the Star Wars franchise has always been Ming-Na Wen’s childhood dream. This dream became reality in 2019 when Jon Favreau cast her as Fennec Shand in the streaming television series “The Mandalorian”, for Disney+. The official announcement was made on August 23, 2019, by Bob Iger, then CEO of Disney during the D23 Expo Disney Legend Award Ceremony in Los Angeles, while presenting Ming-Na’s career.
"Ming-Na Wen has broken the mould and made her mark as a Disney princess, a Marvel star and when The Mandalorian debuts this fall she'll officially become part of the Star Wars universe as well."
- Bob Iger, D23 - Disney Legend Award Ceremony
Fennec Shand makes her first appearance on Season 1 of The Mandalorian - Chapter 5: The Gunslinger, directed by Dave Filoni. She is the first big villain in the Star Wars franchise portrayed by an Asian actress. We don’t know much about her because of her short appearance, but the character was very welcomed by many reviewers, and especially by the fans who hope to see more of her in future episodes.
Fennec’s personality was inspired by the fennec fox and its characteristics were adapted into the costume and hairstyle. Joseph Porro, the costume designer, added a few orange features into her black costume, and Ming-Na Wen suggested the hairstyle with braids.
“We got our inspiration really from the name. The idea of a fennec fox came to mind. 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.
At first, the idea was maybe just have her hair be loose, unkempt kind of thing,” she said. “And I thought, Well, she’s going to be wearing a helmet and she’s this stealth assassin. How great would it be if her hair has a bit of the fennec fox architecture to it? So the hairstylist came up with this great braiding system, that just gives an idea of these triangular points. Like her ears.”
- Ming-Na Wen, Vanity Fair.
Fennec Shand is an elite mercenary and assassin who worked for galaxy’s top crime syndicates. She ran away from the New Republic after they captured the people she worked for and hid from them. As we start the episode we know that she is hiding on the desert planet, Tatooine and a large bounty is placed upon her. A young bounty hunter, Toro Calican, takes the bounty on her as his first assignment and with the help of the Mandalorian, the show’s protagonist played by Pedro Pascal, tracks her down.
The episode ends off with a cliffhanger, leaving viewers to speculate the fate of Fennec Shand. We are all excited to find out if we will be seeing another appearance of this mysterious and interesting character. But in the meantime, you can catch the episode and the rest of the Mandalorian Season 1 and 2 on Disney+.
Ming-Na Wen at The Mandalorian Premiere
Ming-Na attended The Mandalorian 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
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.
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
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.
“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
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.