September 1997


Scanned by Roger / Transcript by MaryD

ACTRESS. "How can you have a show about two strong woman with practically an all male executive { group and have the women be so intelligent?" asks Renee O'Connor, who plays Gabrielle on the fantasy television series Xena: Warrior Princess. "I have a lot of respect for the men in our show, and it's very capable for us!" She laughs, "Oh, I'm sure there's the 'babe factor' there, but yet, they're intelligent women. They actually protect the heroes!"

O'Connor believes that as women take more active roles in the real world, the television audience demands stronger women on-screen. "There have to be plot lines and multidimensional characters to satisfy the public."

But, ultimately, television is about entertainment, and O'Connor loves creating something in which viewers can immerse themselves and suspend disbelief. "They can have a good time—laugh, cry, cheer along. That's the key to me. I'm always astounded by the sense of trying to create an illusion that's not really there. That's probably why I have an attraction to getting behind the camera.

"People are wondering if I might direct a Xena," she continues modestly, "but I don't feel qualified. I need to develop my skills first. I want to make sure that I have the respect of the crew."

In addition to playing the plucky and adventurous Gabrielle on TV, O'Connor leads a pretty adventurous
life offscreen as well. "My mom and I spent six weeks in Africa," says O'Connor. "We went to Egypt and cruised down the Nile. We also went to Kenya and Tanzania. I loved Egypt! I really want to go back. There is so much there, so much history. I want to do the whole thing over again!

Lately, Renee has picked up a lot of physical hobbies, including indoor rock climbing and boxing. While most boxers are there for the tension release, she says her motivation is different. "I learn to use my hand-eye coordination so I don't hurt anyone on set. That's the draw for me."

The active actress's life isn't always non-stop, though. Sometimes all she wants to do is curl up with a good book while her cat suns herself. She has two cats in Los Angeles being cat-sat by a friend until her return and one with her in New Zealand. O'Connor's mother found the cat during her sight-seeing in New Zealand and promptly named it Kia Ora, which is the Mauri word for welcome or good health. "The neighbors think I'm crazy," she laughs, "because I'll go outside yelling, 'Kia Ora! Kia Ora!'"

Laughter comes easily to O'Connor, especially when she shares some of her less successful attempts at the culinary arts. Being the daughter of successful restaurateurs, cooking skills are almost a requirement. "I've got a picture of a chicken I tried to smoke out here in New Zealand. It ended up being half the size and burnt to a crisp. It was hilarious! I have to confess that I'm not following in the footsteps of the family very well."

When she can find the time, the co-star of the mythical Xena enjoys traveling the equally mythical world of the Internet. "I browse quite a bit." O'Connor says that she finds the whole thing fascinating, especially the fan fiction she's come across. "I've seen some wonderfully creative work. I like to browse the chat rooms the most and see what they are saying. It's an incredible device because you can be anonymous and get fan input." Sometimes she'll find out that fans love certain aspects of the character that she was considering dropping. "That is probably the closest to live theater that you can get! That instant response."
—Desiree Gonzalez SCI-FI UNIVERSE