Meet Rana McAnear, the face of Mass Effect’s Samara

Posted on Jun 2 2013 - 11:00am by Tatjana Vejnovic
darkstars Meet Rana McAnear, the face of Mass Effects Samara

Darkstars Photography (MM# 648632)

With the assistance of modern technology, any of us can be scanned and accurately represented in a video game. Great examples are Ellen Page in Beyond: Two Souls, Yvonne Strahovski in Mass Effect 2 and 3, and James McCaffrey in Max Payne to name a few. If you’ve played through the Mass Effect franchise, you’re familiar with Samara the Justicar, a strong, wise Asari with incredible features. She has a defined bone structure, big blue eyes, and intense cheekbones — but are you aware that Samara is real? Samara is modeled after San Diego native Rana McAnear. We wanted to know what it’s like to be the face of a well-known character, so we asked Rana some questions.

How did you get into modeling?

I’ve been modeling since I was a kid. My aunt is a fashion show coordinator and she used to put me in her fashion shows. But most recently I started modeling for free headshots. Photographers who are starting out need someone to stand in front of the camera, so I signed up on Model Mayhem (#1049977) and it took off from there!

Do you have any advice for aspiring models?

Practice in the mirror, look at poses in magazines you like, don’t pay for pictures when you’re just starting out, get the practice in first, find out your best angle and poses, and get comfortable in front of the camera first!

Choose a photographer who’s work you like and pick out clothes you are comfortable in! Lastly, have fun!

Screen shot 2013 05 15 at 8.46.07 AM Meet Rana McAnear, the face of Mass Effects Samara

The ad Rana responded to from EA.

How did you hear about the Samara face modeling opportunity?

It was from Model Mayhem, actually.

Really? That’s crazy! Was it an ad?

They were looking for someone with excellent bone structure! Just a posting on the forums.

What exactly was the interview like when you applied? Was it just an epic staring contest, and when you didn’t blink you got the part?

Haha, no. I just sent in pictures and they picked me from that.

What was the scanning process like?

It was just a 3D scan,so I sat in a chair that rotated and they just scanned my whole head. Then they took pictures of my range of motion in my face. Raise one eyebrow, smile, stuff like that.

patrick Meet Rana McAnear, the face of Mass Effects Samara

Patrick Shipstad Photography (MM# 74806)

How accurate is the face scan?

I think it’s pretty accurate—they use my freckles and eye color so.. Yeah!

Did you have to do a rescan for Mass Effect 3?

No, they have my face forever!

Woah, crazy! Can they use it again? Or do they have to re-compensate you/get your permission?

They can use it as many times as they want for whatever they want. That’s the typical contract you sign as a model.

Have you played the games, or watched the scenes?

I have played ME2 and watched scenes from the third one and the DLCs to keep myself informed.

Was it disturbing to see yourself fight, love, hate, and die?

Yeah, it’s very weird when I play and Samara runs into the shot. I usually yell “Samara get out of my way! I don’t wanna shoot you!”

Have you done any other work with Bioware since?

No, I haven’t. I see them at conventions and say hello. But I travel to the conventions on fan funding.

Do you do that via KickStarter? Or do fans donate directly?

I did it through a site called Chip-In. But the site closed down, so now I use Pitch In.

Has becoming the face of Samara the Justicar impacted your life at all?

It has dramatically changed my life! It’s been amazing! It’s been my “big break” I guess you can say.

Elysiam Meet Rana McAnear, the face of Mass Effects Samara

Elysiam Entertainment (

Do you enjoy cosplaying as Samara?

I do. It can be pretty uncomfortable at times, but I love it.

How long does it take to get everything together? Is it difficult?

It takes about three hours. Sometimes more if things fall off, go wrong, that kind of thing. It’s not that difficult anymore now that I’ve done it so many times. I have it down to a science.

It’s pretty well known that you know Mark Meer. Did the two of you know each other before Mass Effect?

No, we only met at Dragon Con this past year. He is an awesome, fun person and I love hanging out with him!

How often have the two of you cosplayed together?

At Dragon Con and MCM Expo.

samaraShepard Meet Rana McAnear, the face of Mass Effects Samara

Soulfire Photography (

Who’s idea was it to cosplay together?

Well, I guess it was mine…kind of. He had heard that I was going to be at Dragon Con and reached out to me to say hello. And then I had the idea for the photoshoot. My friend Sonja Carter shot it. (

What do you do to promote yourself as a model and a face model?

I mostly tweet, run my fanpage, go to conventions, take pictures with fans, and do interviews as much as possible!

Do you have any fan interactions that stick out as truly memorable?

Recently, at MCM Expo, I had these two European guys come up to me, very excited to meet me, and take pictures with me. They told me I was their favorite cosplayer all day. The next day my friend told me they were looking for me again because they didn’t know I was the face model. So when they saw me again they came running up to me and apologized for not knowing! I’ve recently not been telling people I’m the face model just for fun, then when they post the pictures online later, their friends will tell them “dude, that’s the real Samara!” I’m sneaky like that.

When I met you in Boston, I admit, I think I stared at you for five minutes until walking up to you and going “are you her?” Do you ever get stares or weird looks walking down the street or going to Starbucks?

Hehe, I do but I think mostly because I have bright red hair.. But no, not when I’m out of costume.

Have you ever considered voice acting?

Yes, I’d love to, just never had the opportunity to do it. It’s a hard thing to get into.

Why is it difficult? What obstacles do you face when trying to work your way into that industry?

It’s a very small group of people who do a lot of different voices, so less roles. I guess the biggest obstacle is just getting in with the right people.

Your IMDB states you’ve done wardrobes and costume designs for movies. How long have you been doing that?

I’ve been dressing up my sisters since I was a kid, but I just recently started doing it for movies. I guess it’s been about four years now.

Was getting into that easier or harder than the gaming industry?

Different; I wouldn’t say easier or harder. I just lucked out with this Samara gig…Mom and Dad got together and made me! The wardrobe stuff is harder work, but it’s a skill that I acquired on my own.

Rana, it has been a great pleasure getting to speak with you today. Is there anything you want to say to all the Samara fans out there?

My pleasure my dear as it was with you! Yes! To all my fans: thank you for all the support! Don’t be shy if you see me at a convention, come say hi! Also if you want me at your local convention, contact them to see if they can get me there as a guest, if not help me raise funds to get out there! If there is enough demand I will be there! Lastly, check out my pictures! Buy one and it’ll help me get to the next convention!

Where you can buy Rana’s pictures:

Where you can tweet her: @rana_mary

Where you cans see her pics with filters: @ranamary

Where you can like her:

Where you can see more pics:

Where you can see her officialness:

Mastermind behind the headpiece:

Engineer of her weapon:

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Gamer. Photographer. Internet superhero. Commander Shepard. Specializing in urban decay photography and being a gamer since she was two, Tatjana is one unique cookie. Not only does she climb fences and risk arrest for the perfect shot, she's also convinced that she's actually Commander Shepard.

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