Diana Lee InSantos: A Journey from Martial Arts to the Mandalorian

Diana Lee InSantos: A Journey from Martial Arts to the Mandalorian on Where Rockies

Calgary Expo

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Calgary's Culture and Entertainment District had its grand celebration of the 17th Annual Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo at Stampede Park from April 25th to 28th, 2024. One of its highlights is the presence of Diana Lee InSantos. An actress, director, and advocate, Diana's journey is a compelling narrative of resilience and revival, encapsulated not just in her roles but in her real-life challenges and triumphs.

Diana's acting career faced early challenges due to her mixed Filipino heritage and background in martial arts, which typecasted her and limited her opportunities. "Initially, it was a hindrance," she admits, discussing the lack of roles that fit her unique profile. However, these same skills eventually opened doors for her, leading to significant roles in high-profile series like The Mandalorian.

Diana's journey through the film industry was far from straightforward. Originally working as a stuntwoman to support herself and her son, who is on the autism spectrum, she faced industry stereotypes that boxed her into certain types of roles. "Being a stuntwoman was about survival," she shares. Her resilience paid off when she landed the role of Morgan Elsbeth in The Mandalorian and Ahsoka, marking a turning point where her martial arts expertise enhanced her acting rather than overshadowing it.

Behind the camera, Diana's drive to create meaningful content led her to direct The Sensei, a poignant film set in 1985 Colorado. The movie follows a black belt martial artist who returns to her hometown to train a bullied gay teen secretly. Frustrated by proposed changes from other directors who wanted to alter key themes, Diana took on the role of director to preserve the integrity of the story, which reflects her personal experiences and challenges as a woman of colour in the industry. 

Looking ahead, Diana is excited about her role in the upcoming Star Wars animation, Tales of the Empire, set to release on Disney+ on May 4th. This project deepens her connection to a universe she has long admired, blending her love for Star Wars with her martial arts skills.

Naureen Othi