Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter and actress Gina Carano poses for a portrait while promoting the film "Haywire" in Beverly Hills, California
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter and actress Gina Carano poses for a portrait while promoting the film "Haywire" in Beverly Hills, California, January 7, 2012. Reuters

Retired female mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano may be a household name to those in the sporting world, but the 29-year old beauty is now broadening her horizons to include acting.

Carano, a pioneer in the world of female competitive fighting, makes her big screen debut in Steven Soderbergh's action thriller Haywire, in U.S. theaters on Friday. She plays a framed government agent who must prove her innocence and find out who betrayed her, all the while warding off assassins.

Carano sat down with Reuters to talk about her first film and making the transition from fighting to acting.

Q: You've never starred in a film before. What was that like?

A: I feel like I went to Film School 101 on 'Haywire' because I never experienced anything like this. I've never read lines with an actor and I got Michael Fassbender for my very first actor in Dublin. I was sitting there in awe. I was like, 'Okay, this is what's he's doing, so I just gotta keep up.' He actually became a mentor to me for the majority of the movie.

Q: Any take-away moments for you during this first experience?

A: Every single day in this movie is ingrained in my heart. You have certain firsts in your life but this whole movie was a first -- my first time acting, my first day of filming in Dublin with Michael Fassbender. Steven Soderbergh is my first director. It was my first time in Barcelona, my first time in New Mexico.

Q: The film was designed to showcase your strengths as a fighter. That must have made your experience much less daunting.

A: Any day I was physical, I was really happy. That's where my confidence came from - from the running to the fight scenes. I think that's why Steven kept me active in the film, so I wouldn't get into my head too much.

Q: What was the most challenging thing?

A: Reading lines and acting, but that soon became an every day thing...But I learned how vulnerable a person has to be, how open they have to be. You have to let yourself go and be ridiculous and let go whatever walls you have up. That's not incredibly easy for me.

Q: What do you consider yourself now - an actor or a fighter?

A: I'm definitely between worlds. The fighting world is like, 'Wow, she left us,' or 'She was one of us, we respect her for that.' And the acting world is like, 'Who is this? Who is this stranger?' (laughs) So it's like starting over.

Q: So you want to continue with acting?

A: Fighting is always my first love and my passion. With acting, I got to express myself in a different way...I didn't have to hurt anybody or get hurt doing it, but I could still be physical. I would love to do that again.

Q: So what's next for you then? Are producers and studios lining up to meet with you?

A: I think a lot of people have been reserved on this. They don't know what to expect yet. I have little projects here and there that are on hold because people have been waiting for the film to come out first. Of course I've got a little anxiety, like, 'What's next?'

Q: You've paved the way for so many young female fighters and now you're kicking butt on the big screen. Do you feel like a role model?

A: If you're inspired, God bless you and keep being inspired by as many people you can...Because if you can see it in me, you can see it in yourself. But don't build anybody up too high because they'll just let you down. I've done so many things wrong in my life and I've done so many things right, but I'm real and you can talk to me and if I inspire you, I'm glad. But be you.

Q: How does a middle child of three sisters end up a fighter?

A: I was the boy my dad never had - the darker one with dark eyes, dark hair and big bones. So I played that role my whole life. I got in street fights because I was never good at talking.

Q: So even as a kid you fought?

A: I definitely did. I had a lot of street fights growing up in Las Vegas. Not ones that I instigated, but I would not back down. My mom and dad both told me: punch a bully in the nose and they'll go away. You don't have to be pushed around. That's something I hope I can access more as I get older

Q: Punching bullies in noses?

A: No, life. Punch life in the nose if it starts pushing you around. You gotta face it. You can't run from it.