|Star Wars character|
Ming-Na Wen as Fennec Shand
|First appearance||"Chapter 5: The Gunslinger" (2019) (The Mandalorian)|
|Created by||Jon Favreau|
|Portrayed by||Ming-Na Wen|
Fennec Shand is a fictional character in the Star Wars franchise who appears in the Disney+ television series The Mandalorian. An elite mercenary and assassin, she is sought by the bounty hunters "The Mandalorian" and Toro Calican in "Chapter 5: The Gunslinger".
Portrayed by actress Ming-Na Wen, Fennec Shand is the first major Star Wars villain character portrayed by an Asian actress. Elements of the character's personality were inspired by the fennec fox, including its trickiness, stealthiness, maneuverability, and ability to survive. The fox also influenced the design of Fennec's costume and hairstyle. Costume designer Joseph Porro incorporated orange accents into Fennec's black costume, and Wen recommended the character's hair include braids inspired by the fennec fox.
Fennec Shand has been received positively by reviewers and fans alike, and has been described as a fan favorite. Several reviewers felt the character was eliminated too quickly and did not get the chance to live up to her potential. Some critics have speculated the character could still be alive.
In The Mandalorian, Fennec Shand is presented as an elite mercenary and assassin who developed a significant reputation committing murders for the galaxy's top crime syndicates, including the Hutts, before their leaders were imprisoned by the New Republic. Little else about her backstory is revealed. She appears in the Mandalorian episode "Chapter 5: The Gunslinger", starting the episode in hiding on the deserts of the planet Tatooine, because a large bounty has been placed upon her. Toro Calican, an aspiring bounty hunter, takes the bounty on Fennec as his first assignment, believing capturing such a notorious target would bring him prestige and allow him to join the Bounty Hunters' Guild. Toro recruits the show's protagonist, a bounty hunter known as "The Mandalorian", to help him find and capture her.
They track Fennec to a part of the planet known as the Dune Sea, where they discover the dead body of another bounty hunter she had previously killed. While they investigate, Fennec opens fire on them with a long-ranged blaster rifle, keeping them pinned down from a high vantage point. The Mandalorian and Toro eventually charge toward her position on speeder bikes and use flash charges to temporarily blind and distract her. After a brief fight, they are able to incapacitate Fennec, and restrain her with handcuffs. When the Mandalorian temporarily departs to secure them transportation, Fennec informs Toro that the Mandalorian is wanted by the Bounty Hunters Guild, and that capturing him would bring Toro a legendary reputation. Fennec offered to work with Toro to subdue the Mandalorian and turn him over to Guild. Instead, Toro fatally shot Fennec in the stomach, believing she would have killed him if he had released her. Toro decides to attempt to capture the Mandalorian himself, and leaves Fennec's body in the desert. "Chapter 5: The Gunslinger" ends with an unidentified person wearing boots and a cape walking up to Fennec's body to investigate.
Fennec Shand is portrayed as an elite assassin, one who is mysterious, and very dangerous. She is a highly skilled fighter at both firearms and hand-to-hand combat, and displays a sharpshooter's ability with a sniper rifle. She is very graceful and agile, and stealthy, demonstrating an ability to maneuver and survive. Ming-Na Wen, the actress who portrays Fennec, felt the character has a moral ambiguity similar to that of popular Star Wars character Han Solo. She is also very tricky, playing mind games were her victims, as demonstrated by her attempts to manipulate Toro Calican once captured. Anthony Breznican of Vanity Fair has noted that the character is rather talkative in this way, in contrast to the usually stoic and silent title character, the Mandalorian. Wen feels the character "has a good sense of humor about it all as well". Nevertheless, she also at times demonstrates a gruff and reserved personality. Fennec is ruthless, independent, unpredictable, and is loyal to herself first and foremost. She occasionally shows errors in judgement, however, like when she fatally underestimates the ruthlessness of Toro Calican.
Fennec Shand is portrayed by Ming-Na Wen. It marks one of several notable performances by Wen in Walt Disney Company projects, including voicing Mulan in the animated films Mulan (1998) and Mulan II (2004), and portraying Melinda May on the Marvel series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Patrick Hipes of Deadline Hollywood called this a "Disney franchise trifecta". Wen has jokingly said of Disney: "Please just keep acquiring all these different franchises, because I just keep getting employed by them. I have hit every bucket list thanks to Disney."
Wen was a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy, and as one of the few Asian girls growing up in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania during her childhood, she could relate in particular to the character Luke Skywalker and his dreams of a more meaningful life. She said: "Just that image of him looking at the binary suns and wishing for more, it always stays with me." She has described Star Wars as her "favorite all-time genre". Wen grew up in the same town as The Mandalorian executive producer Dave Filoni, who also directed the episode in which she appears.
Fennec Shand is the first major Star Wars villain character portrayed by an Asian actress. Wen said she is pleased there has been more representation of Asians among the casts of Star Wars projects in recent years, citing Kelly Marie Tran's character Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) as another example. She noted that the Star Wars franchise has often been influenced by Asian culture in its costumes and set design elements, despite an earlier lack of Asian actors. Wen said: "There was all this incredible imagery, but yet there were very few Asians in the films. Any sort of representation is important and necessary. And I’m just happy that I got chosen."
After attending the premiere for The Mandalorian on November 13, 2019, Wen posted photos from the event on Twitter and wrote: "What a night! If you told my 13 yr old self that I’d be on the red carpet celebrating being IN a @starwars project, she’d think you were nuts! Well, that little girl inside me still think it’s nuts!"
Elements of Fennec Shand's personality and development were inspired by the character's name, which Wen said brought to mind the idea of the namesake fennec fox. Anthony Breznican of Vanity Fair noted the fennec fox is a particularly appropriate model for the character because, like Fennec Shand, it is both predator and prey. Wen felt the character shared common attributes with the fox, including trickiness, stealthiness, maneuverability, and the ability to survive.
The character of Fennec Shan and casting of Wen were first announced at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California on August 23, 2019. Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, announced the news on the same day that Wen was named one of the Disney Legends for her past work in Disney works. Footage of Fennec Shand was first publicly shown in a 30-second teaser trailer for The Mandalorian released on November 4, 2019. The teaser concluded with a shot of Fennec delivering the line: "Your name will be legendary." Abbey White said the character was "eagerly anticipated" by the time The Mandalorian premiered.
Fennec Shand's costume was created by Joseph Porro, the costume designer for The Mandalorian. A black, leathery outfit of armor with broad shoulders and accents of orange, it was inspired by the fennec fox referenced in the character's name. Wen referred to it as an "amazing outfit that I fell in love with right away".
Original plans for Fennec's hair called for it to be loose and unkempt, but Wen suggested her hairstyle include some of "the fennec fox architecture", similar to the costume. She also felt the original plan was too similar to the long, flowing hair of her Melinda May character on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and she wanted the two characters to be more differentiated. Wen brought these ideas to Dave Filoni and The Mandalorian creator and showrunner Jon Favreau, and they responded enthusiastically. As a result, the hairstylist on The Mandalorian conceived a braiding system with triangular points, similar to the ears of a fennec fox. The braids are pulled back tight against her head and threaded with orange, which was also influenced by the fennec fox animal. Wen said felt the hairstyle "gives her such a strong, unique look".
Fennec Shand has been received positively by reviewers and fans alike. Izak Bulten of Screen Rant wrote: "Despite appearing in just one episode, she had a clear, well-realized character and has quickly become a favorite amongst fans of the series." Men's Health writer Evan Romano said "In only a few lines, this character has already had some very impressive lore built around her". Vanity Fair writer Anthony Breznican felt the character continued a positive and significant trend of greater diversity in Star Wars casting, citing other examples of Asian actors in recent projects such as Kelly Marie Tran in The Last Jedi and Christopher Sean in Star Wars Resistance. Joanna Robinson, also of Vanity Fair, praised the character, saying she had a "coiled power in her", and complimented the casting of Wen. Jackson McHenry of Vulture praised Wen's performance, and called the character "one of the badder-ass badasses in the world of The Mandalorian". Fennec Shand was included on Vulture's list of the show's 15 best cameo appearances from season one.
Several reviewers felt the character was eliminated too quickly and did not get the chance to live up to her potential. Joanna Robinson said she would have preferred a full episode of word play between Fennec and the Mandalorian, and said of Fennec's role in the episode: "There's a real potential there, and it was over too quickly for my taste. I would've loved more of it." Dirk Libbey of CinemaBlend called the character "criminally underused", and Allie Gemmill of Inverse called her death "hasty". Breznican said, "There's way too much potential for that character to just vanish like this." Keith Phipps of Vulture wrote that she "seemed too clever to be taken out so easily by a rookie". Kerr Lordygan of TV Fanatic wrote that "Fennec's demise was too easily obtained, though the possibility of her return was left open".
Several reviewers have speculated the character could still be alive, with some arguing this is foreshadowed by the final scene of "Chapter 5: The Gunslinger", during which a mysterious stranger investigates her body. Allie Gemmill called that scene "one of the most tantalizing closings to a Mandalorian episode since the series premiere revealed Baby Yoda". Dirk Libbey called the mysterious character's identity and his interest in Fennec "one of our bigger cliffhanger moments" from the series. Evan Romano said he would not be surprised to see Fennec Shand turn up again in a future Star Wars film or series, writing: "This character seems just a little too capable, and a little too cool to be disarmed and killed after just a single brief appearance". Stephanie Dube Dwilson of Heavy.com said she so enjoyed Wen's acting that she hopes the character returns.
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- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 48:15—49:06 Wen: "We got our inspiration really from the name. Her name is Fennic Shand, S-H-A-N-D, and the idea of fennec the fox came to mind. I was talking a lot about it with Dave and Jon, and just really liked that idea, that she's this assassin and that she's tricky and yet she's able to maneuver and survive and be stealth. And very, very graceful and agile. I just loved that whole image with the name. And whether that's her real name or her nickname because of it, it just started spawning all these ideas.
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- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 55:05—55:17 "I think, thinking that she's a mercenary, it can of course go either way. Han Solo was a mercenary. I think it remains to be seen."
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 34:22—34:41 Breznican: "She's a chatterbox too. She's a talking kind of gunslinger. She's the kind that gets in your head and scrambles things around. The Mandalorian is a very quiet dude; strong silent type. I like that."
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 34:41—34:54 Breznican: "When she was captured, as soon as she began to talk to the kid, to Toro, I just thought, 'Oh, he's done.' She's picking the lot, basically, by way of going through his brain. Of course, underestimating how ruthless he was."
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 56:39—57:08 "I think she has a good sense of humor about it all as well, which is also fun. You can't really pinpoint which direction she's going to go, which I like, and I think that's very fox-like of her. That's the part that love."
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 55:27—55:40 Breznican: "She doesn't sound like a sweetheart type." Wen: "No, she is definitely not that. She is definitely someone who is loyal to herself."
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- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 51:54—52:01 Wen: "It's definitely a film that has had such an impact on so many people's lives, including my own."
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 52:01—52:51 Wen: "Growing up as an Asian kid in Pittsburgh, especially in Mt. Lebanon, sometimes you feel very alone and very isolated. And I think for me, Star Wars just, I connected so much with Luke about having these dreams and wanting something bigger and better than being a little farmer in Tatooine. And then just that image of him looking at the binary sons and wishing for me, it always stays with me. So the fact that I am now in The Star Wars, it's amazing."
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 50:59—51:20 Wen: "For me I just think it was so much fun to participate and help with feeling out who this new character is in my favorite all-time genre, the Star Wars legacy."
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 52:59—53:28 Breznican: "We have Rose Tico played by Kelly Marie Tran. And we have Christopher Sean doing the character on Resistance. But I feel like this is still significant and important. Does it feel important to you, to continue expanding the representation of human beings? There's so many aliens in the galaxy, there needs to be more different kinds of humans there too, doesn't there?" Ming: "Absolutely, absolutely."
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 53:52—54:55 Wen: "There were so many influences of like the Asian costumes that she wore. ... Natalie Portman's character, Padmé. ... There was all this incredible images, but yet there were very few Asians in the films. So it was very nice to see Tran in it and now I'm part of it. Any sort of representation is important and necessary and I'm just happy I got chosen. Like, it was meant to be."
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 47:36—47:40 Breznican: "A fennec fox is both predator and prey, and I think it fits very nicely with her character."
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- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 50:27—50:54 Wen: "The designer Joseph came up with this amazing outfit that I fell in love with right away. I just saw pictures of it in the beginning and it's really cool. Of course, there's black, but then there's the fennec orange, there's an orange punch to it, so that's kind of like her brand, I guess."
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 49:06—49:58 Wen: "At first the idea was maybe just have her hair be loose, unkempt, that kind of thing. And I thought, well, she's going to be wearing a helmet. And she's this stealth assassin, I thought, how great would it be if her hair almost had a bit of the fennec the fox kind of architecture to it a bit. So me and the hairstylist came up with this great braiding system that just kinda gives an idea of these triangular points." Breznican: "Like ears? Like big ears." Wen: "Yeah like her ears, you know? And Jon loved it, Dave loved it. And for me it just gives her such a strong, unique look, you know?"
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 49:06—50:16 Wen: "And also because I've been doing Agent May all these years with long flowing marble hair, I wanted to make this character, who's also such a badass, different. Very different, very stark in a way."
- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 33:43–34:22 Robinson: "We were both really excited that Ming-Na Wen was on this show. If this is the end of her, which it kind of seems like it is, if this is just like a short appearance... I would've really dug like a whole long night with the Mandalorian and Fennec Shand, like, sitting up against some rocks, trading barbs or something like that. I think there's real potential for a character like this. I mean, The Mandalorian's a very action-heavy show, but I really feel like with a performer like Ming-Na Wen, with a character as coiled, there's like this coiled power in her, and I feel like we could've gotten some fun mind games out of her."
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- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 35:37–35:43 Robinson: "There's a real potential there, and it was over too quickly for my taste. I would've loved more of it."
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- Wen, Breznican & Robinson 2019, 36:19—36:31 Breznican: "I think there's way too much potential for that character to just vanish like this. So I don't know. I would've liked to have seen her eyes open at the end of it."
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