interview xena: warrior princess Taken from TV Zone #136

Renee O'Connor: Gabrielle's Hope

Renee O’Connor continues to look back on her life with the warrior princess

Gabrielle & Xena: darker tones in Who's Gurkhan?

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Darker Sixth

Compared to previous outings, the sixth season of Xena was a bit darker in many ways, from the Evil Dead like storyline of The Haunting of Amphipolis, to Xena’s graphic torture scenes in Who’s Gurkhan?, to Gabrielle’s near-roasting in The Abyss and near-decapitation in Legacy. “I definitely think it’s a dark year,” affirms O’Connor. “One of our recurring themes is, what do you do with the one man who’s trying to exterminate a race? That seems to be our situation: do we have to exterminate him in order to keep the greater good intact? That’s a huge challenge.

"Being a hero show, nobody wants to see the hero kill anyone, and we’ve been approaching that theme time and time again this year. So to me that’s pretty dark. Roasting Gabrielle over a fire was actually for me, the most profound moment in the entire series. It was such an awful experience; I’ve never before felt completely violated in acting ever..."

Some of the changes in the series are much subtler. Gabrielle’s physical appearance for example, has continued to evolve into the formidable young warrior of recent seasons. “It’s funny,” reflects O’Connor, “I was just thinking about that after watching the profile of Lucy [for the E! Network in America] and seeing us in the early days. It’s really interesting for me to think about what I was doing physically at the time; I was lifting a lot of weights and eating carbohydrates in order to exercise as much as I was.

"I think I had this bizarre sense that I had to be a big strong woman in order to pull off this sort of role. I obviously had to realize that it didn’t look that attractive on camera, so I basically experimented over the years and tried to find what sort of exercise and diet suited my body type the most. It’s been really interesting, actually; I finally met with a nutritionist and worked out what sort of food is really good for you, because I’d been experimenting quite a bit. I tried vegetarianism for about a year, but I’m really pleased with the results [now], and how comfortable I feel with my lifestyle.”

While on the subject of life style choices, it seems fitting to acknowledge the show’s long-running subtext about just how deep the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle actually runs. “You know, we have an interesting episode coming up with our musical, where we play different characters. That’s when I really think we’ll embrace the gay community who have supported us all these years and hopefully have a ball with enjoying and celebrating that culture. I’m playing Sappho, and Lucy is playing her lover, it was Fred, but I think they’ve changed her name. Lucy is such a wonderful comedian that I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with the characters...”

Joe Nazzaro

Note: after this issue went to press, there was a big question mark over the musical episode as described above by Renee. Seems like it won't happen, sadly - Web. Ed.


Renee O'Connor talks more about Xena's Gabrielle, becoming a director, and thinking about life post-Xena in this seven-page feature in TV Zone #136

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