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Star Wars: The Bad Batch's Ming-Na Wen on the return of bounty hunter Fennec Shand

Fennec Shand in The Bad Batch
(Image credit: © 2021 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.)
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Spoilers for the latest episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch follow.

“Any story about her is fascinating to me,” she adds. “I had created all this imaginary backstory for her, because I thought she was only supposed to be in one episode of The Mandalorian. Now I'm really curious [to see what The Bad Batch creator and Lucasfilm executive creative director] Dave Filoni and the other writers are going to come up with.”

When you’re a bounty hunter in a certain galaxy far, far away, it’s not hard to make an impression. IG-88, Bossk, Zuckuss, 4-LOM and Dengar barely appear in focus in The Empire Strikes Back, yet these silent assassins became integral figures in the Star Wars underworld after appearing in Darth Vader’s infamous line-up. Even Boba Fett spoke just four lines of dialogue before becoming the superstar of the mercenary universe.

When Agents of SHIELD and Mulan star Ming-Na Wen turned up as Fennec Shand in a season 1 episode of The Mandalorian, she instantly became a worthy heir to their lineage of scum and villainy – she even wore the kind of outfit memorable action figures are made of.

The fact she was left for dead at the end of ‘The Gunslinger’ wasn’t enough to stand in her way, either, as Shand proved that every assassin deserves a second shot when she returned (with cybernetic enhancements) in the show’s second season. She’ll also appear at Fett’s side in upcoming Disney Plus spin-off The Book of Boba Fett.  

In the meantime, however, we’re getting a glimpse of Fennec Shand’s early years courtesy of The Bad Batch. In The Clone Wars follow-up – set in the early days of the Galactic Empire – she’s a rookie bounty hunter on the trail of Omega, a young female clone under the protection of a team of uniquely skilled Clone Troopers who defied the Emperor’s Jedi-exterminating Order 66.

“This is Fennec Shand, like, 20 years younger,” Ming-Na Wen tells us over Zoom. “So [the question is], who was she as a young Fennec, and how did she become a bounty hunter?

“I'm curious to find out why she became a bounty hunter at such a young age. Was she an orphan? Did she grow up in a bad family situation? How did she learn her skills, and who taught her? Also – I don’t think I’m wrong in this (Editor's note: we’ve checked, and she isn’t) – in The Bad Batch Fennec Shand doesn't have her [facial] scar. So I'm really interested to find out how she got that scar."

Fennec Shand in The Mandalorian season 2

Ming-Na Wen as the live-action Fennec Shand in The Mandalorian season 2. (Image credit: ©2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.)

The Omega Factor

Fennec Shand had her first entanglement with the eponymous Bad Batch in the show’s fourth episode, ‘Cornered’, when the mercenary attempted to capture Omega on the planet of Pantora. While that assignment failed, Fennec’s back on the clones’ trail in episode 9, ‘Bounty Lost’ (available now on Disney Plus), crossing paths with both the Bad Batch and the infamous Cad Bane, a Duros bounty hunter who’s taken style tips from Clint Eastwood. Despite Shand’s questionable motives, however, she’s eager to make Omega, her young target, believe she’s on her side.

“I think ultimately, Fennec is quite the mercenary character,” Ming-Na explains. “She’s very about taking care of herself, so even when she is helping Omega – or when it seems like she is befriending her – it’s with an ulterior motive. Everything that she does, she’s very cunning, she’s very adaptable, and I think that’s why she’s such good bounty hunter. She knows how to read people, she knows how to make them scared and how to make them trust her. I don't know if it was very altruistic what she was doing with Omega – I’m glad if you thought she was because then she’s doing a good job!”

Anyone familiar with Star Wars lore will have noticed the links between Omega and Boba Fett – Shand’s future savior and partner in crime – seeing as both are clones created on the world of Kamino. When we ask if we should be looking out for any Fett connections in The Bad Batch, however, she raises the forcefield of secrecy she perfected on Agents of SHIELD.

“It’s such a good question, I wish I could answer it,” she laughs. “I’ve had years of training with Marvel, it’s probably now in my DNA. I think I’ve become that friend that you could say anything to and I will be able to keep your secrets to my grave.

“I guess the only way I can answer your question is that obviously Fennec loves Boba Fett because he saved her, but at the same time, probably doesn’t appreciate him because he saved her, and now she owes him this huge debt. There is something great about her where she does honor the code, so she is honorable in that sense. And to me that that that says a lot about her integrity, so maybe there is something about her that is genuinely grounded and trustworthy. Maybe there’s a good person underneath all those assassin kill skills that she has – if that’s possible?”

The Bad Batch

Can the Bad batch stay one step ahead of Fennec Shand? (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney Plus)

Going Solo

Where Ahsoka Tano and Bo-Katan Kryze started out as animated characters in The Clone Wars before showing up in The Mandalorian, Fennec Shand has moved in the opposite direction. Unsurprisingly, Ming-Na says the voiceover experience is very different to her live-action adventures.

“Physically it’s definitely a lot easier,” she admits. “I don’t have to spend two hours getting my hair done – that’s a very elaborate hairdo – and I don't have to be sweating in my four-layered leather outfit with boots and gloves. I also don’t have to do any stunts, so that part’s really great.

“The one thing about voiceover work is that for an actor, a lot of times it’s a very lonely job, because you’re really just in the studio with the producers, the directors or the writers, and none of the other actors. The Bad Batch, especially, was unique because of Covid. They sent me the audio equipment and the computer and everything, and I set it up in my closet and recorded all my lines with the directors on Zoom. It’s really amazing how much our technology has advanced to where you could take a major project like this and still get high quality audio from inside my closet!”

Another advantage of working in animation is that there’s almost no limit to the iconic characters Fennec Shand could meet as she makes her way through the galaxy – pretty much anyone who’s alive at the end of Revenge of the Sith could find themselves in her sights.

“Oh my goodness, can you imagine if Fennec meets up with Han Solo,” says Ming-Na, activating fan mode for a moment. “I would go nuts! If I'm in the same room, with the trio of Luke, Han and Leia, that would be so crazy. I’m about to cry right now, just thinking about it as a possibility. Dave [Filoni], are you listening?!”

New episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch debut on Disney Plus every Friday.

Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.