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LESBIANA MAGAZINE (AUSTRALIA), Issue #74, November, 1998.

 

All Hail The Sidekick

In a time of ancient gods, warlords and kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a mighty princess, forged in the heat of battle... Her courage will change the world. But not without her loyal comrade Gabrielle at her side. Bard of Poteidia, Gabrielle not only chronicles the adventures of the Warrior Princess but her wide-eyed naivetÚ, idealism and sweetness is the foil for Xena's darker side, harsh past and hardened nature. As Gabrielle says to Xena in the episode Hooves and Harlots, "You know I just thought of something... You're a Warrior Princess and I'm an Amazon Princess. That's going to make such a great story."

Xena: Warrior Princess is the TV show which more than any other captivates, charms and titillates the lesbian viewer. The growing relationship between hot babes Xena and Gabrielle, their cheeky double entendres, slapstick heroics and blatant correcting of history as written by men have all made XWP a cult among women. Australian audiences recently saw Xena promise to better acknowledge Gabrielle's contribution to the team and their adventures and we thought Lesbiana would do the same with a few 'tit bits' about Gabrielle and her alter ego ReneÚ O'Connor (ROC).

The power brokers behind XWP are certainly ROC fans. Universal Television's Senior Vice President for Drama Development, Dan Filie, said of ROC's casting as Gabrielle, "It came down to this: Xena is our sexy character, if people don't think that Xena, Warrior Princess, has sex appeal, we're out of luck (Well they got that right, but I wonder who they thought she'd appeal to.) So we decided, 'Let's get the best actress as Gabrielle,' and in reading the scenes, ReneÚ was just the better actress. And, it's funny, because we cast ReneÚ for one reason, and now I think she's an incredibly attractive, very sexy character as well."

Appreciating her own role, ReneÚ told Curve magazine recently, "One thing about our show is that they don't focus on me being the sidekick, they let me keep growing." This is reflected in part by the evolution of her costume from long peasant robes to the current short skirt and tank top showcasing ROC's tight and toned body. "I think it's part of the evolution of Gabrielle", ROC told Curve. "Even though it is skimpy, it's more appropriate for what I do in character, it gives me more freedom. And the skirt, even though it's small, it's appropriate for my body type. I think it's the great irony of the character: to be the cute little sidekick and then have this athletic side". And ROC is certainly aware of her legion of lesbian fans and acknowledges their devotion, again commenting to Curve, "It's pretty amazing. All I can do is just be grateful... it's flattering. The more the merrier."

So ReneÚ knows she's appreciated. But what of those deeper appreciation's we all want to see expressed between Xena and Gabrielle? Or even between actors Lucy and ReneÚ? There's certainly no lack of acknowledgment or affection between the two off screen. On Australia's ReneÚ O'Connor Official Web Site, ReneÚ says of her relationship with Lucy Lawless, "The relationship between Lucy and I has come so far it doesn't matter who stands on the other side of the camera and reads her lines, it's not anywhere near the performance I could give if it were her. All she has to do is look at me and you'll get a reaction from the context of the scene. Lucy and I both try to be there so we can give as much as we can to the other person."

Do we live in hope?

Perhaps hope for a 'different' appreciation between XWP and Gabrielle or Lucy and ReneÚ can remain alive when we know things like one of ROC's favorite Xena episodes is A Day in the Life. This is the episode which recounts a typical day for Xena and Gabrielle, showing how these spunky, leather-clad, ass-kicking adventurers rewrite history and give new meaning to seemingly mundane events. Waking up involves a fight with attacking bandits; lunch features a wrestling match with the spirited entree, a giant eel, (the Xena in wet leathers and undergarments look); along the way, Xena casually engineers the destruction of a warlord's entire army by a giant, whom she then defeats with a last minute strategy involving the world's first kite; Xena and Gabrielle share a bath (yes, you remember the one) and giddily splash water at each other; they stretch out side by side to sleep under the stars, and Gabrielle expresses her gratitude to Xena by kissing her on the cheek. The episode's dialogue includes Gabrielle cautioning Hower, a man smitten by Xena, that Xena wouldn't marry because "she likes what I do" too much, before 'correcting' herself and saying, "She likes what she's doing".

Dream on.

Some ROC facts taken from her Aussie website... (of course certain aspects of anyone's lifestyle and interests can change over time)...
Eye Colour - Green, with a hint of blue...
Real Hair Colour - Blond...
Height -5 foot/3.5 inches...
Birthdate - February 15, 1971 ...
Marital Status - Single (but serious about one special Kiwi guy)...
Place of Residence - Auckland, New Zealand...
Hometown - Katy, Texas...
Siblings - One brother, Chris...
Dependents - a cat named Kia Ora (means Hello and Welcome in Moon)...
Book Interests - Non fiction, classic literature, American and Irish playwrights, history, and novels from other countries...
Favorite Color - Teal...
Favorite Music - Gloria Gershwin, Sinead O'Connor, Tina Turner, Rent, Elton John, Rod Stewart, The Police, Dinah Washington, Jewel, Celine Dion, Elvis Costello does Gershwin, musicals, older stuff. Mostly picks CDs for individual songs. Not a big country/western fan...
Favorite Xena Episodes - A Day in the Life; Return of Callisto; Been There Done That...
Hobbies - Rollerblading, reading books, travel, movies, rock climbing, kickboxing, water skiing, loves to sail, has an attraction to extreme sports in general. She jogs and lifts weights to keep in shape for her work on the show, which has become increasingly more physical as her character has gradually learned to defend herself under Xena's tutelage...
Last Vacation - Milford Track, New Zealand (January 1998)...
Fascinated by - Archaeology, Egypt, history, other cultures, (and X:WP fandom)...
Movie Interests - Primarily enjoys character-driven stories and dialogue movies, although also likes basic action and sci-fi flicks, with Tim Burton being one of her favorite film makers...
Age started acting - the wee age of 8; she turned professional at age 18...
Previous Jobs - Aerobics instructor, waitress...
Future Career Goals - Directing and doing some acting outside of X:WP...
Yes she does most of her own stunts... Yes, ReneÚ and Lucy friends are good friends both on and off the set... No she hasn't done any nude or semi-nude photo shoots, and don't hold your breath for any either... No, you can't visit the set of X:WP, it is a closed set, normally... Yes, the recently seen sprained ankle was real...
Previous acting roles include Hercules and the Lost Kingdom, Darkman II: The Return of Durant, Follow the River, The Rockford Files: A Blessing in Disguise, Tales from the Crypt, Danielle Steel's Changes, NBC movie The Flood, The Adventures of Huck Finn, an episode of the acclaimed television series NYPD Blue.

Sources:

Australia's ReneÚ O'Connor Official Web Site (The ROC File)
http://xenite.simplenet.com/rocfile/index.html
Curve, August 1998: "Of Mythic Proportions" by Katherine Derrick.
Xena Warrior Princess - The Official Guide to the Xenaverse by Robert Weisbrot (including photos).

[IMPORTANT NOTE: The web page cited above is NOT the Official ReneÚ O'Connor website. The official site is located at http://rampages.onramp.net/~rocweb/]

-- JAN CAMPBELL

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