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Renee O'Connor Speaks Out: Balancing Work & Family

<snipped various pics of ROC>

Xena: Warrior Princess began as a spin-off of Hercules: The Legendary
Journeys, premiering as a series in 1995. By the showís second season,
Xena was television's highest-rated, first-run syndicated drama. During
its original run of six seasons, the series aired over 130 episodes,
creating a legion of straight and gay fans from all walks of life. The
Xena fan phenomenon spawned thousands of websites, never-ending reams of
fan-fiction, and major conventions around the world.

Even though Xena went off the air in 2001, fans still maintain their
love and passion for the originality, innovation and women-power theme
of the show. Co-stars Lucy Lawless and Renee OíConnor have become cult
icons worldwide for their portrayal of the adventurous warrior-princess
Xena and battling bard Gabrielle.

The DVD release of the first season set of Xena: Warrior Princess was a
rousing success as gay and straight fans alike scrambled to secure their
own personal collection of the series. Now the release of season two of
Xena on DVD is finally at hand!

The second season of Xena features some of the most dramatic and most
comedic moments of the entire series. An entire queer Xena fandom was
launched into orbit during this season due to the gay Ďsubtextí in such
episodes such as ďGirls Just Wanna Have Fun,Ē ďThe Quest,Ē and ďA Day In
The Life.Ē With the release of the season two DVD boxed set, now fans
can enjoy all of those early glorious subtext-laden episodes to their
heartís content!

Personal interviews and audio and video commentaries from stars Renee
OíConnor and Lucy Lawless are among the original material included with
the 22 episodes from the second season of the hit adventure series. Not
to give away any secrets, but GLBT Xena fans will be more than delighted
with the attention they are given by the stars of the show during the
commentaries.

The seven DVDs in the set contain all 22 episodes of Xena: Warrior
Princess Season Two, plus a photo gallery and commentaries from Lucy
Lawless, Renee OíConnor and executive producer Rob Tapert. The last disc
features series trivia, Xena Chronicles and Season Two actor/director
biographies.

In honor of the Season Two launch, Anchor Bay is donating a portion of
the proceeds from each DVD sold to The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

In celebration of the much-anticipated release of the second season of
Xena: Warrior Princess now available on DVD, Renee OíConnor chats with
Lesbianation about the series that launched her as a cult icon, the
show's gay fans, life after Xena, and her upcoming film Diamonds and
Guns.

Lesbianation: Weíll start off with something easy, how are you doing
today?

Renee OíConnor: Fine, good, Iím alright, my throat is a little hoarse,
so I hope you can hear me all right.

LN: I can imagine, doing all of these interviews all of the time.

R.O.C.: Oh, no actually, we had the horrible fires that came here, Iím
here in Los Angeles.

LN: Oh, thatís right!

R.O.C.: So, thereís been a lot of ashes in the air, you know and a lot
of allergies coming up from it.

LN: I hope youíve been safe.

R.O.C.: Oh yeah, I was fortunate. The whole thing was bad, but I was
fortunate.

LN: We're thrilled that the second season of Xena on DVD is finally out.
This was the season that propelled the show into becoming television's
highest-rated, first-run syndicated drama.

R.O.C.: Yeah, thank god!

LN: What do you think was the strongest reason the second season was
such a success?

R.O.C.: I think basically the characters sort of came into their own,
you know. You started to understand the chemistry between the two ladies
and we finally found our niche.

LN: With episodes like A Day In The Life and The Quest, this season was
a big hit with gay & lesbian fans. How much of a contributing factor do
you think those fans were to season two's success?

R.O.C.: Oh, I think they basically just discovered the show and
supported it and created all the hype around the show. I think by the
time we got to Day In The Life, actually, even The Quest... The Quest
was really showing the love of the characters, you know, and that they
were soul-mates and meant to be together. And then Day in the Life, you
know, Lucy & I were just having a good time!

LN: So it would seem! You, Lucy Lawless & Rob Tapert provided audio &
video commentary on several episodes for the DVDs. What's it like to do
that kind of in-depth reviewing of your own work?

R.O.C.: You know, itís really difficult. Most of the episodes I have
only watched one time, maybe two. So I only remember my experiences of
filming them. But unfortunately I didnít keep a journal at the time, so
its been really hard for me to recall certain aspects of it. Iím better
if I watch the episode and somehow remember something, like what I was
thinking even, very specifically in a scene. But if weíre just on camera
just talking about the episode, I find it very difficult because I
usually remember things visually.

LN: Well, you certainly seemed to have a lot of fun doing it.

R.O.C.: The commentary?

LN: Yes.

R.O.C.: Oh, I just love hanging out with Lucy, you know, regardless -
could be anywhere! (Laughs) Itís fun for us to look back. These two
characters are just, you know, so unique and it does seem like a
lifetime ago. So itís really interesting to have a different perspective
now and I just appreciate the whole thing in such a different way.

LN: Do you think you'll be doing commentary again for future Xena DVD
sets?

R.O.C.: Weíve already done commentary for season three and Iíll be going
back to do a little bit more I think.

LN: The commentary contains quite a few remarks about the 'subtext' in
the shows. Do you think doing the commentaries gave you kind of a fresh
insight about why gay fans identified so strongly with the characters?

R.O.C.: Well, I think when we were actually filming the show that we
were really striving to not Ďcome out of the closet,í so to speak. I
think we were really trying to keep the characters in a way that it was
about the friendship and love. Because, you know, they went through so
much together and personally I thought that itís a battle that they have
to endure for the rest of their lives. I think we just tried to balance
it all and I think now, looking back, I can watch these episodes and I
just see the love in a whole new profound way that they have for each
other. (Laughs) Itís undoubtedly obvious, you know, to me, that these
two are absolutely together, and will be together forever. In any realm,
in any reincarnation. So I guess, in that respect, I feel like I have
the freedom to see clearly now. When I say freedom, itís hard, when
youíre in a show working every day, to really step aside and look at it
from the outside.

LN: I can understand that.

R.O.C.: I mean, even looking at what I was doing as an actor, that was
difficult, much less trying to visualize the whole show with an overview
of it all and how it was affecting people. You couldnít comprehend that
when you were right in the middle of it.

LN: Moving on to life after Xena, I believe you recently wrapped filming
on Diamonds and Guns. Can you tell us a little about the project and how
you became involved in it?

R.O.C.: I met this lady [in New Zealand] and basically she told me about
this script she had written with her co-producing partner. So they came
to me and I was absolutely amazed that these two ladies were going to
start producing this film themselves. They had no support from anyone in
Hollywood, so to speak, so they just decided to do this film and stop
waiting around. This is what I have been wanting to do for about a year.
But I am the kind of person that I wanted to know everything about
digital [filmmaking] media before I jump in. And I wanted to support
these two ladies. So I went in and I thought the script was funny. I
went on board basically to assist them in any way possible and ended up
co-producing it with them. I find that I love producing, itís really
interesting. I love to enable people to be creative and tell their own
stories.

LN: Well, you seem equally as comfortable behind the scenes as in front
of the camera.

R.O.C.: Well, I guess Iím a bit of a techno guy somewhere in there too
because I love working with the digital formats. We just set up an
editing system through a friend of mine, so Iím going to start playing
with Final Cut Pro. Not that Iíll ever be an editor, but I like to
understand everything about all the jobs.

LN: What other upcoming projects do you have in the works?

R.O.C.: Well, weíre going to, these two ladies and myself, Helena
[Beaven], Dawn [Higginbotham], weíre all going to be producing another
film together that Helena wrote. Itís a great story about a woman who
has sort of lost her identity and has to sacrifice certain ideals in
order to find herself again. Itís sort of a dark comedy, but its so
beautifully. . . I just love the story and the reason I love it is
because it is a social commentary on what happens to women nowadays,
sometimes. Iím probably going to be acting in it, but at first I had
wanted to direct it, but I donít know yet. Weíll see.

LN: Are you planning on hitting the theater stage again anytime soon,
maybe doing some more Shakespeare?

R.O.C.: Iíd love to do some more Shakespeare! Iím just starting to get
that little need to get back out there with that, but itís such a huge
commitment and right now Iíve been focusing more on the production
elements of my own projects. Possibly next summer, I really donít know.
Iíd love to do it next summer, but I have to wait and see.

LN: With all of these commitments, what do you think is the most
difficult part of maintaining a balance between your career & your
family?

R.O.C.: Oh my God, its so difficult, itís so much harder than I ever
thought it would be. I hate to leave the house because I feel guilty
about not seeing everything my son does. But at the same time I think it
is so important that I be true to who I am as well and having something
that I find very stimulating intellectually. So yeah, Iím finding it
really difficult actually. Itís been a huge year for me to make the
transition to try to balance the two. I canít say Iím very good at it,
but Iím aware that both are extremely important and my son is first. So
its just a matter of finding the time... And how do you do it? Youíre up
all night, thatís what you do!

LN: I donít know how you do it!

R.O.C.: You donít sleep, thatís what you do!

LN: You probably don't get a lot of time to take time off, take non-
working vacations. But, when you do, what do you like to do?

R.O.C.: Well, you know, itís funny that you should say that. Just the
other day I finally said, you know what, I have such a supportive,
wonderful husband. I said, I need some time just to be alone and
reflect. Because I go through stages where I suddenly have to look back
on my life and see where I am and what I want to be doing. And I canít
do that when Iím going a hundred miles an hour, which is how I tend to
function. So the other day I started drawing... (interrupted by car
alarm, she laughs and talks louder). I got back into my drawing, I used
to love to sketch in high school, at the performing arts high school I
went to. I just starting picking that back up and started playing
around, and before I knew it, there was a little Xena! I was like, oh my
god! Iím drawing Lucy!

LN: Thatís fabulous!

R.O.C.: Yeah, it was really funny! But then I was determined not to make
her look like Lucy and give her some depth and it was so difficult. It
was just hard. I admire all of these artists who have been doing it for
all these years.

LN: You've been known for being into rather physically demanding
recreational activities Ė like rock-climbing, kick-boxing - are you
still into that sort of thing as well?

R.O.C.: I just started getting back into the kick-boxing about a month
or two ago. I feel fantastic, itís so nice to be able to take care of
your body and also feel empowered in self-defense as well. Itís just
with a trainer or with a bag. Itís a great release, to think about
things and kind of vent, not vent angrily, but just vent the stress or
whatever youíre feeling.

LN: Absolutely.

R.O.C.: Itís great.

LN: Is there anything you always wish interviewers would ask you about,
but never do?

R.O.C.: Wow. (Renee seems to be rendered momentarily speechless) No, not
really. I think more than anything, just stepping away from Xena in a
couple of years. God, I canít believe how fortunate we all were to do
that show.

LN: But you just canít get away from it.

R.O.C.: No! I mean, I go through stages where there might be a lot of
material where weíre working on Xena still, like with the commentaries.
And then you just see it with a fresh eye and just really, god, you
canít believe how fortunate in the material. . . how in-depth the
material was, and how funny it was and the production value and all the
people combined. It was just one of those little gems and you can see
why the characters were iconic.

LN: Well, we'll let you get back to your busy schedule. Any final
comments?

R.O.C.: No, thank you!

LN: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. You have been
absolutely fabulous!

R.O.C.: Thanks! Take care!