Professional wrestler Sasha Banks has followed in the footsteps of Dwayne Johnson, Dave Bautista, and so many others, making her (small) screen debut in season two of The Mandalorian. But it wasn’t just her time in the ring that got her the gig. It was a plate of hot wings.
In an interview with Variety, Banks (aka Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado) shared how she was recruited to play Mandalorian warrior Koska Reeves, who appeared alongside The Clone Wars’ Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) in the third episode of The Mandalorian’s sophomore season—and got to save Baby Yoda, something Banks called a highlight of her on-camera experience. The wrestler-turned-actress revealed how showrunner Jon Favreau reached out to her after seeing her in a popular show. Not a WWE match, but rather the YouTube series where celebrities eat chicken wings.
“Jon Favreau came to me because he watched an interview that I did with Hot Ones. And he really liked me and got my contact information. Then on FaceTime he asked me to be part of The Mandalorian. I was like, ‘Well, I cannot say no,’ but I was so incredibly nervous,” she said.
Banks noted how thrilling and terrifying it was to be on set the first day, enveloped in a Star Wars world. This was not only because it’s a naturally overwhelming experience for anyone, but because this was her first time doing any acting or performing outside of the ring. She shared Favreau’s encouraging words, telling her “Uh, you do WWE every single week and you do that live. You are amazing. There’s a reason why I wanted you to be a part of the show.” But beyond that, she said episode director Bryce Dallas Howard (returning from directing an episode in season one) was a game-changer for her.
“She really, really guided me and really took me by my hand because like I said, I was so nervous. She texted me to make sure I was all good. She walked me through everything, if I had any questions. She was there for me,” Banks said. “I was just really inspired by her and how she treated everybody. She was so down to earth. I brought a lot of her energy into my work because of how incredibly she treated me. And as you see she is getting so much praise for her work because she is just so special.”
The Mandalorian has had its share of badass women, both in front of and behind the scenes—and it turns out one of them wants to come back. In a recent interview with Insider, Ming-Na Wen expressed hope that her character, assassin Fennec Shand, sees a reprise in season three. She may have been shot in the stomach and left for dead in episode five of The Mandalorian’s first season—but, as we’ve seen on Star Wars many times, death doesn’t actually have to mean anything.
Wen referenced her time on Marvel’s Agents of Shield, when a massive fan petition asked to bring Coulson back (something that eventually happened) and expressed hope that it could happen for Fennec in the future. Not just because she loved her time on the show, but because she really loves Star Wars.
“Growing up, Star Wars was my religion. The force—I believed in it as much as I believed in Buddha as much as I believed in God. I used to pray to all three,” she said. “I wanted to be a rebel, a scoundrel, just daydreaming about being part of Star Wars.”
The Mandalorian is currently airing its second season on Disney+.
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