Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves – How Michelle Rodriguez Brings Holga the Barbarian to Life

Michelle Rodriguez plays Holga the Barbarian in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. She told us about her preparation for the role, her favorite monster from the movie, and more.

Michelle Rodriguez as Holga in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Photo: Paramount

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There may not be car chases in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, but Michelle Rodriguez—best known for her work in The Fast & the Furious series—doesn’t let that stop her from being at the center of the action. As Holga the barbarian, Rodriguez has some of the best action sequences in the film. She spoke with Den of Geek about her training, filming, and her history as a gamer.

Den of Geek: What can you tell us about Holga, the barbarian you play in the film?

Michelle Rodriguez: She’s a woman of few words and a big temper. At the end of the day, I’ve made an entire career of temper tantrums. It’s cool that I get to play this really awesome barbarian who’s very matter-of-fact about everything.

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In tabletop D&D, barbarians have the rage class feature—did you play into that?

Absolutely. She turns it on a few times. I think people will be satisfied with her battle rage. 

You are doing some fantastic fight choreography. Do you have a background in martial arts (or fighting with a battle axe)?

Absolutely not, but the 15 pounds of muscle I gained for the role beg to differ. It was really more about trying to develop a great scene because sometimes you can get lost with punches and kicks. My main concern in almost every action movie I do is to try to gain some flight in there and to accentuate the fight so that it doesn’t look like everything else we see. 

What was your conditioning like? 

[My trainer] overfed me with protein and pumped me up with weights. I was pretty hardcore. We were shooting during Covid, and it was lockdown in Northern Ireland. I had to ask them for a punching bag because Holga really got to me!

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Despite being locked down, you got to do some great location work.

There were so many really great places that we visited not only in Northern Ireland but also in England. The old cathedral that we shot in was my favorite. It’s massively beautiful, the architecture—it’s pretty extraordinary just to be walking through there and watching a Dragonborn [enter the scene]. The Dragonborn are made by the Legacy Effects, who developed all the practical effects. We weren’t staring at a blue screen, and that really made a difference for me in the performance. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your fight scenes and stunt work?

The biggest one was the Holga fight, which you see a little bit of in the trailer. I worked with the team for a month, just developing and fine tuning the sequence. They did a wonderful job, training five people to do their sequences, and shooting at the same time.

How was it working with the horses?

The number one horse guy on the set was Chris [Pine]. He’s a true cowboy. He’s way more comfortable on a horse than I am! I’d rather clean up the horses, pet them, feed them, and love them than ride them. [As far as Holga, the filmmakers] really wanted to ride on the courageousness that the barbarian has, and her accuracy with fighting has a lot to do with horsemanship as well. We wanted her to look like she knows what she’s doing. But if you ever flip the camera to the off-screen stuff, you’ll see me fumbling a lot. And then there’s Chris, smiling and hopping onto his horse with one arm.

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Did you play Dungeons & Dragons before being cast?

Absolutely. As a teen in Jersey City, man, it was my geek time. I had all kinds of friends, and I used to spread my time like a chameleon with different types of friends. I had a geek squad that I would hang with every now and then. We would play in the basement, playing homebrew D&D. It’s really wonderful that writers like Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who directed this movie, put in hundreds and hundreds of hours in the gameplay. It’s like lifting weights for creativity. Playing that game makes you a more creative person.

If you could choose one creature from the film to keep as a pet—

Owlbear. I didn’t even have to think about it. 

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves will be released in theaters on March 31.