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Transcript and Scans by Gova
Life After Xena
Interview with Lucy Lawless & Renee O'Connor
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The Stars of the cult hit reflect on their characters' lesbian appeal and answer the question: could the Warrior Princess kick Buffy the Vampire Slayer's ass?
By Carson Hunter
It's been nearly ten years since Xena: Warrior Princess first aired on television. The series started as a spin-off of the adventure series Hercules: The Legendary Journey; but Xena soon eclipsed Hercules to become the highest rated show in first-run syndication. Even today, the fan base for the show remains energetic, and devotee fuel a booming merchandise business on the show's official Web site, www.legendaryheroes.com.
Along the way, Lucy Lawless as the fierce warrior Xena and Renee O'Connor as her loyal companion Gabrielle found themselves lesbian cult figures. Xena became a showcase for action packed fight scenes and, at its heart, a paean to the enduring love between two women.
Since we last saw our heroines, Lawless has appeared in plays in her native New Zealand, hosted a series on ancient warrior women for The Discovery Channel, and recently finished two as-yet-unreleased films, Eurotrip and Boogeyman. O'Connor tells me she has moved back to Los Angeles where she became the mother of a little boy and is now
preparing to star in a film for the SciFi Network, Alien Apocalypse. Both recently found the time to look back fondly on the characters who helped launch them into the hearts of their adoring public.
GF: What do you think is so sexy and attractive about really strong women?
LL: I don't know, they're an ideal, aren't they? They're Artemis; they're the Huntress. It's one of the archetypes of women: there's the Mother, the Huntress and is it the Virgin? Hestia, Artemis and I think Aphrodite is the third. Anyway, they're archetypes.
ROC: Everything! It's so empowering! I love seeing women who are really strong. I just love that they can be in their bodies and they're not threatening to anyone.
GF: The flip side of this question is; why do you think men are threatened by a strong woman?
LL: Because people don't feel the softness. Because she doesn't allow them to see her vulnerability, her nurturing side, although I believe every woman has one. But I think those qualities have to be sublimated in order to achieve the great ideal of a strong, forceful, physically able woman.
ROC: I don't really know if I believe that. I think if a woman feels really good in her body, then she's sexy, period. And it doesn't
really matter what she looks like to other people, as long as she feels sexy, I think that's the hurdle; how do we become aware of who we are, and how do we really feel good about ourselves?
GF: Looking back now, are you surprised that the characters took off as lesbian cult figures?
LL: It did surprise me, but looking back, it shouldn't have. Renee and I were just considering ourselves lucky to have a job, that it was a cool gig. And then for it to become something grander to other people was a surprise to us. But, yeah, it makes perfect sense to me now.
ROC: Looking back now? No, I'm not surprised at all, actually.[Laughs] At the time? Yeah. I didn't see how much it would
affect people because it takes time to step back and look at the whole picture and see the writing and the humor and the love between the characters, and you go, "Oh of course!" But at the time we were actually filming it, we were so busy going, "Okay, what is this character's plot objective?" I didn't really think how much this would affect the gay community, and I'm really proud of being a part of it. I think it's fantastic.
GF:When you watch it now, do you say, "oh, of course they were gay"?
ROC: Oh, absolutely! I just crack up. I go, "Oh my God, that's hilarious!" We had fun with it, we just had fun. We tried not to
label the characters, you know what I mean? I mean, there's a lot of funny moments there where we're just goofing off. And there's titillation there, too. And in other moments where the love is just so profound and, to me, that's not labeling the characters, that's just allowing a bigger love that is there to come shining through. I understand that the gay community maybe wants to label the characters because it empowers a greater cause, but at the same time, it's like, why limit yourself even there? It' easy for me to say because I'm straight and I haven't been through any sort of discrimination. But you look at these characters, and you say, "What's the bigger love there with them and with everybody?"
GF: But c'mon, they were gay at one point, weren't they?
ROC: It's funny because we never had a scene where we're talking about it but I think…yeah, I think they must have been going all different ways if you think about it! Because they had the guys, and then they had each other, but they were together; they were a couple, and they will always be a couple. So yes, I would say, yeah, they were.
GF: If the show were done now, given how popular gay storylines are, do you think they would be gay from the start?
LL: Yeah, I do. By the end, there was no doubt anymore in my mind that they were [lesbians].
ROC: I don't know…I don't know. I just think it evolved into that. I really think that the way the show started, with Gabrielle being sort of a tagalong who was annoying, was so important to the development of the characters. We needed to see Xena change and actually open up her heart and change toward Gabrielle. And we needed to see Gabrielle come into her own, so I don't think if I were doing it over that I would want to change it at all. I don't know, even now, if we could have pushed it any further. To me, you don't want it to be about shock value, you want it to be classy and about the love. I think we captured the love, so I don't know how we could have done it any differently.
GF: If we looked in on Xena and Gabrielle right now, what would they be doing?
LL: Oh, Xena would be building a house. She'd be up on the roof.
ROC: They'd be having a little goblet of wine and having a laugh, that's for sure! They would be laughing absolutely.
GF: What do you think they'd be if they came back today? They'd have to be cops sitting around in a squad car.
LL: Oh yeah, they'd have to be cops! And Xena's big as a house, eating donuts, and Gabrielle has a nasty smoking habit.
ROC: But then there's a bullwhip in the car, you know? Just something out of the ordinary that just takes us back to the original characters. Or a little chakram hanging from the rearview mirror.,
GF: What do you think is the appeal to lesbian? The muscles or the love story?
LL: I definitely think it was the friendship. If you ask people what they like, they'll say "I like the monsters!" or "I like the
fighting!" but what they really respond to, on a much more basic level, is the friendship. It's all about the ideal that love triumphs over hate, good triumphs over evil. It's where good wins out and I think that humans gravitate toward that. And the fact that these two women had such a great friendship and had some good laughs, I think that's very attractive on-screen.
ROC: First and foremost, it was the love story. It was two friends, and they had a lot of fun together, and they kicked ass!
LL: and it's spawned a dozen knockoffs all around the world! So that's a great thing, to breathe new life into a female action hero.
GF: The new Chalie's Angels owes a huge debt to Xena.
LL: You tell `em!
GF: Somebody wanted me to ask if Xena could kick Buffy's ass.
LL: Oh yes. I think Sarah Michelle Gellar would say that too. Only because…oh hell, what do I know?
GF: Because you could snap her in half, that's why. I'll say it if you won't!
LL: Your words, not mine! Did you see Xena versus Ally McBeal, Celebrity Deathmatch? It would just be a replay of that, all over again.
Carson Hunter reports on entertainment for Australia's Lesbians on the Loose.
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