WB17 News at ten -October 1997

Reneť O'Connor
Interviewer: Toni Yates

Toni: What do you make of all the hype the show is generating?
Reneť: This is the first trip back to the states where people are actually recognizing me, and I have people go, "Yo, Gabrielle!". There is a following for the show, but it's strange for us working in New Zealand -not many people talk about the show, not many people approach you, so it's always different when you come to the states. People are much more friendly and accessible, so it's just bizarre. But it's exciting. It's nice to know that, you know, we have a large age group. We have children. We have older men. I had a man in his 60ís talk about how much he enjoyed the show and the friendship of the two women and it's just nice to see that it crosses both gender lines.

Do the producers play up the sexuality between the two characters?
It's funny because we started off completely platonic and then we noticed there's an interest in what our sexuality is so we play it up a bit, but then we've also decided that we don't want to stereotype our friendship one way or the other as, obviously, the gay community doesn't want to be stereotyped. So we just want to concentrate on the friendship, the love between friends, maybe a mother/daughter, sisters and try to condense that into these two women's lives. It was a surprise, and we did play up to it, but I think it's more; just a friendship.

Is there any controversy surrounding the show?
Definitely. There are a couple of scenes, for instance, where Gabrielle and Xena possibly kiss or were bathing together, that a lot of people were shocked, and um, some mothers wouldn't let their children watch the show any more. Whereas in the gay community, people embraced us, saying "Yes, finally!" You know we wanted to make sure that we kept it open to all the world, you know, all... all the different brackets. Itís a fine line. And since we are friends we have to keep true to our friendship and not just play to one side or the other.

What are Xena nights?
We actually heard about that. The Meow Mix in New York, they have a Xena night, and we heard about that the first season and we were all completely blown away. We had no idea that people were really embracing the characters like this. Now I think we're a little more used to the fact that they have look-alike contests, and Lucy and I always joke that we should go and try to participate 'cause we'd probably lose.

Do you have a message for fans?
I just appreciate all the support. I know that Gabrielle is going to be changing this next season where people might question her morals, which is a big dilemma for my character and I hope people are patient and just realize that everyone is human and that sheís going to make mistakes and hopefully we can all learn from it.

Are you tired of playing the good girl?
The first season I definitely wanted to. I didn't want Gabrielle to be too perfect, but then I appreciate the fact that Gabrielle has strong moral beliefs and she's a wonderful role model for a lot of young people, young women, and now that she's changing, I almost, I wish that she could stay the same, you know, like Iím her mother. I don't want Gabrielle to change, but she will and itís a nice challenge for me as an actress. Iím playing dilemmas that I don't agree with. Gabrielle makes choices that I possibly wouldn't make. Everyone changes, everyone learns and grows through life experiences. Some are right, some are wrong and Iím learning with her.

Where else have you worked?
I worked in a lot of TV movies. Luckily Iíve been working with a lot of older actors
- James Garner, Ellen Burstyn; these people that Iíve learned from. Iíve usually been the baby on the set, so I quietly just observe everything and Iíve tried to absorb different acting techniques. Iíve actually learned a lot through Lucy because Iíve never worked with a woman before who's been so strong, so beautiful as a person and on the inside, and Iíve um, Iíve changed by working with her. Iíve become, I don't know, just more of a person, more of a complete person, more of a woman.

What is it like to work with Lucy Lawless?
Sheís very charming. Lucy's very accessible. People can walk up on to the set and she greets them. Sheís always willing to just give more of herself than you'd expect. There was a woman, she's our horse wrangler, and Lucy works a 12 hour day and then after work she went and visited this woman at the hospital, took her home, took care of her, and after 12 hours of filming, all you want to do is go home and go to bed. So, she's like that. Thereís another side to her that people don't know. Sheís very warm.

How do you train for those physical action sequences?
I actually get nervous right before the fight scenes, because although Iím comfortable with it, I know Iím going to end up hitting someone so I have to, but it's part of it, they're pretty tough. I started taking kick boxing classes as my character started to fight more and Iíve always been spoiled by the fact that the stunt men take your punches and take your hits and they don't hit you back. And my first boxing class, I was sparing with this woman who must have been in her 50ís, a little thing, shorter than me and spunky, and she was; she hit me! I said, "Wait a minute! Thatís not whatís supposed to happen here," you know. It was just funny Ďcause, you know, you're not surprised. Usually it's all staged, but itís different when you're in the ring and people come at you.

Are you having fun fighting?
I love it. I do. Even though Iím nervous I still love the adrenaline rush of fighting. Especially being a woman and being short and small you love the fact that you can be tough and staunch and men go flipping across the room, you know.

How do you like working in New Zealand?
New Zealandís wonderful. Itís like going back to the 1950ís. People there are very warm, they have moral values, a lot of family events. Itís funny, their Christmas is different, and this is always strange for me. Christmas will be their summer, so usually they have barbecues on the beach. And this year will be fun, just to have a different sense of a more like a 4th of July picnic for Christmas instead of the white snow Christmas.

What does the future hold for Gabrielle and Xena?
I know the writers are working on our friendship this year where we might split up. Our friendship will be tested. And I think every year no one really knows what we'll do. I think the audience plays into that. I just hope that we continue to be strong and to try new, to embrace our characters in a new way. I think the friendship of the characters will be tested and, I think, I hope that we'll always be true to each other and have a friendship that will be a part of history -that everyone can say these two women were good people, you know, influenced our lives in some way. Itíll be interesting to see.

Do you enjoy the Xena conventions and meeting the people at them?
This is my first convention, so I really don't know what to expect. Iíve been told that it's like a rock concert where everyone loves the same thing and everyone's excited and having a good time but I get nervous getting up in front of a lot of people so itíll be interesting to see if, you know, it's something that I really love or if I become a bit more shy. Itís different, it's like going to a different world. Everyone speaks in Xena language and knows the costumes and knows every character that's ever been on the show and that's almost strange for you because they know it better than you do. There's a group of people who love Gabrielle and theyíre having a picnic tomorrow and they're going to have a squid toss and that's really funny because they took one aspect of the show that Gabrielle hates, you know, hates fish, hates to be on a boat and embraced it and created this wonderful wacky world.

Are you afraid of being typecast?
I didn't worry about it at first because I didn't think Iíd be on the show past the first season, and obviously the characterís grown and now I worry because everyone calls me Gabrielle; that there may not be an acting career after Xena, but Iím learning so much and I appreciate the job. Who knows, I might not want to act again, you never know. Iím just really enjoying it now.

Have your expectations changed since when you first started?
Iím very true to Gabrielle. I wanted to fight, I wanted to get us involved in every part of the show Xena as I could, which is very much like the character. Gabrielle was Xenaís tag-along and wanted to be in the middle of the action. So that was very much a part of me. Now Iíve become much more mellow and just enjoy the storylines, the different characters that come on the show, which also helps Gabrielle because she's more centered. Sheís more philosophical ... I would like to see Gabrielle become more passive, more of a mentor to other people, just to be the opposite of Xena. But who knows. The writers are always changing everything.

What's it like to see yourself animated on the new Hercules/Xena cartoon?
That was strange! I saw the Gabrielle sketch for the cartoon and everyone agreed that my cartoon was closer to me than everyone elseís. Lucyís character has this red triangular head with red hair, raven hair and it's great! Itís so funny to see us all as a cartoon. It's interesting because it's someone's interpretation of you and your character. Gabrielle in the animated feature is much younger than Iím playing now and a little more naive, because my character grows every season. Itíll funny to look back on what she was like the first season. Weíll have to look for all the people tomorrow dressed as Xena and Gabrielle and find a six foot Gabrielle, so if we could find one, that would be funny! I guess it's similar to the Star Trek phenomenon. I don't know if Xena will ever be a cult where we're part of history like Star Trek, but right now there's a following. Ten years from now weíll really see the difference and see how we've affected peoplesí lives.

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