The rise of Gabrielle... Renee O'Connor

While battling for freedom alongside
Xena: Warrior Princess,
Renee O’Connor is spending
a lot of time playing with babies.

Ian Spelling brought a rattle.

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Xposé Special #11

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Gabrielle is... malleable. “Xena [Lucy Lawless] is such a strong and stoic figure and she doesn’t change very much in the course of the season, because we always need her strength,” comments Renee O’Connor, who has spent five years now on Xena: Warrior Princess playing Gabrielle, Xena’s loyal and nearly as formidable partner in heroics.

“As a result, my character has to be the one that suffers the plot devices from year to year. That’s why Gabrielle tends to change so often. It’s been exciting for me because I never have an idea of what the writers will throw at me from episode to episode.

“Gabrielle has changed quite a bit, especially this season I would say, because she has been trying to fill the void of strength that’s been caused by this third person who has entered the picture, because of Xena’s baby, Eve. Gabrielle has been fighting for three, in a sense, just out of sheer obsessiveness, to protect us all.

"I’ve been using a new weapon and I’ve been fighting this year probably more than I have throughout the entire run of the show. So, Gabrielle is definitely a little more spunky and forthright this season than she has been in the past. And that’s great.”

Many of the changes and about-faces in season five are, to be sure, the direct result of Lucy Lawless’ real-life pregnancy and subsequent birth. As the season progressed, Xena appeared less and less often, with Gabrielle picking up much of the action slack. Chakram and Little Problems come to mind right away.

Later, following the arrival of Julius Robert Bay Tapert, Lawless took some time off to get back in shape and be with her son, providing O’Connor with additional opportunities to shine. “Oh, it’s been great for me,” O’Connor enthuses. “And it was easy to do the extra action work. When we start rolling the camera and we’re doing a fight sequence, it’s just another dance that’s been choreographed. That’s automatic pilot for me. I love doing it and it’s just that we’ve been doing more of it this year...

"Gabrielle kind of went from her peace-loving phase to fighting harder than ever. That is all just about trying to let the character evolve over the course of the years of the show. You’ve got to find tangents that the character can latch onto... Gabrielle is also the kind of person who, when she gets an idea in her head, becomes pretty obsessive about trying to fulfil it to the utmost capacity. Her period of being calm was really just another one of her ventures.

“For me,” continues the actress, “I believe that during this last year Gabrielle probably went too far into becoming more like Xena. She was starting to become a pragmatic warrior. Now I think that she is going to resort back to her peaceful ways and find a balance between the two extremes. And, to me, it will probably be the most solid Gabrielle has ever been. Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed season five. It’s been my most [physically] tiring season, but it’s just been fantastic.

"In terms of favorite episodes, if we’re talking about action, it would be the one where I was wielding a fireball. That was so unlike Gabrielle and it was just fantastic to do. Our 100th episode was ideal because I was able to play with some of the show’s drama, which we rarely get into.”

Off-screen, O’Connor has been associating with another handsome leading man. His name: Julius Tapert, the son of Lawless and Xena creator/executive producer Rob Tapert, who was born on October 16 1999. “He is just adorable,” O’Connor raves. “He is very quiet in that he doesn’t really cry a lot. When he wants to make noises, it’s usually just little outbursts of yells and war cries. He’s very funny. I was sitting down, having lunch with Lucy the other day on the set, and I happened to glance at our young Julius. He was just staring up at me. Then he smiled. It was very charming.”

But back to imminent happenings... “Right now, we’re on our way to Egypt,” O’Connor says, noting the show’s latest excursion to a foreign land (after the China arc). “We’ll also be meeting Marc Antony again and he’s going to have a battle with Cleopatra, which Xena and Gabrielle will be joining in on, of course. We’ll be out on boats and doing our first week of night shoots this year. After that we’ll be getting prepared to have the end of the gods. That was introduced in the baby episodes [particularly God Fearing Child], because the birth of Eve [who was an immaculate conception] means the end of the gods’ rule...

Xena A to Z

If you’re a beginner to the world of Xena, worry no longer as in this issue Kate Anderson presents an A-Z guide to the important people and places so you can tell your Amphipolis from your elbow. Here's the...


Ares, God of War: seductive

Acrobatics: Xena’s larger-than-life acrobatics may stretch the boundaries of physical reality, but lets face it, in Xena: Warrior Princess, reality really doesn’t play a big part. Besides, the back flips and running up walls (not to mention people) all add to the show’s immense sense of fun.

Afterlife: In the Xenaverse, death is never the end – it’s a new beginning. When Xena and Gabrielle are crucified, their souls go to Heaven. But not for long – because of their good deeds on Earth, they are rewarded by becoming reborn.

Alti: An old foe of Xena’s, Alti is an evil shaman who has a vision of Xena and Gabrielle being crucified.

Amazons: A nation of women warriors, most of whom regard Xena as a real hero and ‘true Amazon.’ In Greek mythology, they caused havoc and appeared to be abnormal creatures. But in the Xenaverse they are proud, peace-loving people and fierce warriors only when necessary. They took Gabrielle under their wing, making her an Amazon Princess and gave her military training. When she desperately tried to save Queen Melosa’s sister, Gabrielle became next in line to the throne.

Ambrosia: The food of the gods. Meaning ‘immortal,’ if consumed by a mere mortal, he or she will become a god.

Amphipolis: Xena’s home town, which Callisto tried to burn down because Xena, in the days when she was an evil warrior, set fire to her village, killing young Callisto’s family.

Aphrodite: The goddess of love and half-sister to Hercules. Mischievous and vain, Aphrodite commands attention on physical appearance alone. She may look sweet and innocent, but in Aphrodite’s case looks really are deceiving. She likes to wreak havoc and is always interfering in people’s love lives.

Ares: God of war. Decked out in black leather, he’s a bad guy with a penchant for good food, good wine and the good life.

Argo: Xena’s horse and companion. Argo wasn’t best pleased when Gabrielle first appeared on the scene. Perhaps jealousy got the better of him! Still, he gets center stage in his very own episode. And about time too.

Autolycus: A con artist and adventurer, the self-styled ‘king of thieves’ is a bit of a scoundrel and definitely a ladies man. He’s more than a little miffed when his charms don’t work on Xena....

Continued in
Xposé Special #11

available now

Renee O'Connor talks lots more about outrageous twists, being settled in New Zealand, controversy over The Way and her own experience of directing in the full version of this feature. Get it when you buy Xposé Special #11
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