Xena: Warrior Princess was a New Zealand-American television show which ran from 1996-2001. The title character was originally featured on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Fan response to episodes featuring her was so strong that the producers decided to create a new series based on Xena. Her show, like Hercules, was set in a generic ancient Mediterranean world, featuring characters and stories from Bronze Age Greece to Imperial Rome. Xena, a penitent warlord, sought to redeem the lawless destruction of her early life by defending innocence and peace against wickedness and savagery. Xena: Warrior Princess developed a huge fan following which persists to this day. Here are some things that you might not know about the show:
1. Lucy Lawless nearly missed being cast in the title role for the show. She and her family were on a long camping trip when the producers selected her. Her in-laws correctly guessed where they would be and managed to get in contact with Lawless so that she could accept the producers’ offer.
2. The chakram wasn’t invented for the show. It’s a real weapon from India.
3. The show was shot in New Zealand and featured many Kiwi actors, but the marketing was focused on an American audience. The directors therefore hired a full-time dialect coach to teach the New Zealand actors how to speak with an American accent. After pondering a number of different American accents, they selected Southern Californian as their standard goal.
4. The opening sequence music consists of a Bulgarian bagpipe called a gaida (left). This instrument is made from the stomach of a goat or sheep. Score computer Joseph LoDuca selected it for its exotic sound and decided to continue working with a Bulgarian theme. The choir singing in the background is Bulgarian Women's Chior, which LoDuca had heard years before the show aired, and they're singing in the Bulgarian language. Here are the lyrics translated into English:
The Warrior Princess rides alone. Her past drives her from shame. Against the forces of a dark world She fights for good, not for fame. Horns sound her coming, blare her name. “Make way the Warrior! Cheer!” Drums beat a rhythm Let villains betware The Warrior Princess is here!
5. Renee O’Connor’s (Gabrielle) first paid acting gig came at the age of 16 as Porky Pig at a Six Flags amusement park.
6. The character of Joxer, played by Ted Raimi, was inspired by Danny Kaye’s character in The Court Jester (1956). The story episode “For Him the Bell Tolls” was a tribute to that movie. Raimi played the character as a mixture of Bob Hope and Woody Allen.
8. The producers’ first choice to play the role of Xena was Vanessa Angel, who is best known for her role as the genie Lisa on Weird Science. Angel briefly considered, but declined the offer after an illness.
9. In October, 1996, Lawless was in Los Angeles rehearsing for an in-character appearance on The Tonight Show. She fell off a horse and shattered her pelvis. This prevented her from taking a major role in the show for several episodes, leading to some inventive solutions from the writers. They quickly wrote the episode "Intimate Stranger" which had Xena switch bodies with the villain Callisto, thus permitting actress Hudson Leick (right) to play the lead role. Despite Lawless' troubles, the publicity from the accident resulted in major Nielsen ratings boost. The show immediately jumped from 10th place to 8th place.
10. The writers intentionally teased viewers with a the possibility of a lesbian relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, never affirming nor denying the homoerotic subtext. Executive producer Steven L. Sears said that “(Xena and Gabrielle) have love for each other. It’s up to the audience to determine what that love is.”
Sources: Cox, Greg. Battle On! An Unauthorized, Irreverent Look at Xena: Warrior Princess. New York: Penguin, 1998. Print. Stafford, Nikki. Lucy Lawless and Reneé O'Connor: Warrior Stars of Xena. Toronto: ECW Press, 1998. Print. Weisbrot, Robert. Xena, Warrior Princess: The Official Guide to the Xenaverse. New York, Doubleday, 1998. Print. Van Hise, James. Hercules & Xena: The Unofficial Companion. Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 1998. Print. Images: Renaissance Pictures, karpacious, USA Network.