Welcome to another Xena Thursday! Today, we’re continuing our chronological coverage of every single episode of Xena: Warrior Princess — both the episodes that I have previously highlighted AND the episodes I’ve yet to feature. Complementing my thoughts are the thoughts of those who worked on the series: mostly actors, writers, directors, and producers. I have done months of research for the acquisition of the quotes you’ll see over these next 67 weeks (as there are 134 episodes and I’ll be covering two episodes per week). They come from a variety of sources, including the original special feature-laden DVD releases, The Chakram Official Newsletters, both the Topps and Titans Official Xena Magazines, the fan kits, and other assorted print and video interviews. So in addition to sharing my thoughts, these posts will also contain information and musings from the Xenites that matter most — the ones who brought this exciting series to the small screen.
29. Season 2, Episode 5: “Return Of Callisto” (Aired: 10/28/96 | Filmed: 07/05 – 07/16/96)
Gabrielle’s consumed by hatred and a desire for vengeance after an escaped Callisto murders her beloved, Perdicus, in an attempt to punish Xena.
Written by R.J. Stewart | Directed by T.J. Scott | Production No. V0210
I featured this episode as #10 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “I loved [this] episode. We originally shot [the ending] differently. We shot it differently. We shot it where I do try to save [Callisto] and she dies anyway. I get the whip and try to throw it to her. I hesitate but I do it, so that [Xena] could have a little bit of a moral high ground in the next episode: you see, when [Callisto] comes back and accuses [Xena] of murdering her, I say, ‘No, I did try to save you, you hag,’ that sort of thing. But when I had my accident they just quickly reedited everything [to make the guilt look more justified].” (The Official Guide To The Xenaverse by Robert Weisbrot – 1998)
T.J. Scott (Director): “That [chariot] chase originally wasn’t in the script, but I pushed for it and said, ‘We need a big set piece in this episode. Why don’t we do a chariot chase because there hasn’t been one on Xena for a while?’ I’m always looking for something fun to do, some new action stuff, and I thought, ‘A chariot chase would be pretty cool!’… [As for Callisto’s death scene,] there were two schools of thought on whether or not Xena should try and save her, going right back to the very first writing of that episode, to the production meetings, to R.J. and Rob and I talking. It really wasn’t until we were on set filming it, and on the take where Xena was supposed to try and save her, that she didn’t. Lucy just stood there and watched her go, and then said, ‘That’s what Xena would do.’ So it was sort of made right then. In the editing, we still had two versions, and we decided right at the end how we were going to do it.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #8 – July 2000)
Hudson Leick (Actor, Callisto): “T.J…. goes, ‘All right, I want you to get hit and I want you to enjoy it. Because she would really enjoy it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that works!’ ‘Cause Xena’s engaging with me. Have you ever been around people that are really angry? Or you don’t even know them, and they’re angry and they take it out on you. You’re driving and they’re swearing at you and you respond back and then you’ve got this thing going. But if you don’t respond, the people get even more angry because there’s no where to go. You have nothing to connect to. So I think having Xena fight back and fight with [Callisto] is attention. It’s attention and she’s connecting with me. She’s feeding that part of me. My character is obsessed with Xena. She loves Xena and hates Xena and wants to be Xena! It was interesting… “(Whoosh! Interview – August 1997)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “It was alright [fighting one-on-one] with Hudson, because she was really good at keeping [distance]… She would be unlikely to hit you, whereas most actors would… [Renee] was the best though… on the couple of occasions when [we did fight] it was so easy… it was like I was fighting a stuntwoman…” (“Return Of Callisto” Commentary, Season Two DVD Set)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “…The one moment that stands out most in my mind [about this episode] is Lucy and I in front of the funeral pyre for Perdicus. We were on top of the hill at the beautiful black sand beach. I was remembering, as we were filming the funeral scene, being there in that exact spot about three years before when I was filming the Hercules TV Movie and had just found out that a dear friend of mine had died. It was just a bizarre twist of fate that I would be back in New Zealand at that location filming a funeral pyre for another dear friend. It was quite ironic…. [Also] I didn’t get to see the acting filming of Lucy and Hudson [Leick] in the chariot races or when Hudson was drowning the quicksand. So, watching that episode, I was mesmerized by those shots. They were so dynamic and epic looking. T.J. Scott directed that show, and he has become one of my mentors as a director; I just love his style.” (Starlog Magazine #268 – November 1999)
Steven L. Sears (Writer/Producer): “The Gabrielle/Perdicus marriage… didnt work out quite to [our] expectations. It was too quick. It should have been a two-hour episode at the least. I think even R.J. said that at one point. We tried to cover it and did a so-so job of it, in my opinion. Scott Garrison is quite a fun guy. A side story: after [this episode] had aired, there was much talk about what Xena was saying when she saw Callisto kill Perdicus (Lucy’s mouth was moving, but it was in silence). Many said she was saying to Callisto Thank you. I told Scott that and he just couldnt stop laughing, he thought it was hysterical.” (Xena Online Community Interview – May 2005
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “Xena slipped [Gabrielle] the tongue?! What’s going on there? I can’t imagine why people thought there was subtext in this… Good god, Xena’s recruiting!” (“Return Of Callisto” Commentary, Season Two DVD Set)
Here is an on-the-scene account of the casting for “Return Of Callisto” from Weisbrot’s The Official Guide To The Xenaverse.
Here is an on-the-scene account of the costume design for “Return Of Callisto” from Weisbrot’s The Official Guide To The Xenaverse.
Here are scans of an interview that writer R.J. Stewart gave on “Return Of Callisto” for The Chakram Newsletter: #5.
30. Season 2, Episode 6: “Warrior… Princess… Tramp” (Aired: 11/04/96 | Filmed: 04/15 – 04/24/96)
The Warrior Princess tries to protect a look-alike friend, Princess Diana, from the machinations of yet another Xena look-alike, a trollop named Meg.
Written by R.J. Stewart | Directed by Josh Becker | Production No. V0205
I featured this episode as #41 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Josh Becker (Director): “I directed [this,] the first [filmed] episode of the second season… and this was my first episode with Ted Raimi as Joxer. He and I would eventually do seven episodes of Xena together. I love working with Ted, and he truly slaughters me. He and I laugh all day long when we work together, and in my opinion, that’s as good as work gets. I think Lucy, Renee, Ted, [and] myself, with a clever, funny script by Xena’s head writer/co-executive producer, R.J. Stewart, made this an extremely funny episode. (Lucy once said it was her favorite episode, but I’m not sure she was being serious.) Lucy play[ed] three parts: Xena, the princeess, and the tramp, all exact doubles, of course. There are many scenes where it’s Xena dressed as the princess, pretending to be the tramp, or Xena dressed as Xena, but pretending to be the princess, etc. and Lucy kept it all straight, and made it all work, too. It’s a helluva piece of comedic acting, I think. The DP (Director of Photography) on this episode, Allan Guilford, a heavyset man in his early ‘60s, was just wonderful – smart, fast, funny, and a joy to talk to, everything I look for in a DP.” (Rushes by Josh Becker)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “Josh Becker, who directed, set up the perfect creative environment. It was really stimulating and we ad-libbed some of those scenes fiercely. One of my favorite jokes is when Meg comes out holding the chakram and calls it, ‘my trusty… shamrock!’ That was Josh’s joke, but it did work beautifully… I had ad-libs for other people. And some of the more physical things – for example, [Meg] torturing Gabrielle in the prison. We all did a bit of ad-libbing. One of my ad-ins [as Meg] was putting a hickey on Joxer. And [Ted] ad-libbed, ‘And that ain’t all,’ [when Joxer is boasting to Gabrielle about Xena’s supposed advances toward him], and he was about to show Gabrielle his… who knows what!…” (The Official Guide To The Xenaverse by Robert Weisbrot – 1998)
Josh Becker (Director): “In many instances I add what seems to me like an obvious punch-line that just isn’t there. One I’m particularly proud of is in [this episode] when Meg gets Joxer out of prison and he asks, ‘What’s the plan?’ and she kisses him. That’s what’s scripted. I added, after the kiss, Joxer asks, ‘That’s the plan?’ Meg says, ‘What’dya think?’ [then] Joxer grins, ‘Good plan,’ and they kiss again. The whole schtick of Meg stealing silverware and it falling out of her dress at the end I added [as well].” (Josh Becker Online Q&A – March 2000)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “… [T]here aren’t that many physical [or costume] differences between [the three characters] because I would have to go in one shot from playing Meg to playing Diana to playing Xena all in the same half an hour. It took a bit of mental gymnastics but I loved that. I can’t tell you how pleasurable that is. [But] I had to method it out a little beforehand. Okay, I’m playing me dressed as the princess who is pretending to be Xena. It’s pretty complex. But it’s real fun. I’m the sort of actress who can’t over-prepare. It just steals all my spontaneity. So I set my mind on this character pretending to be this character dressed as this character. I’m playing Meg and at this stage of the episode I only know so much of the plot where another character would be further ahead in their understanding of the world. I map these things out loosely before hand and then I just go and be it. For me that’s the most pleasurable and best way to work and seems to get the most laughs.” (Cinefantastique Magazine – May 1999)
Here is an on-the-scene account in the writers’ room during “Warrior… Princess… Tramp” from Weisbrot’s The Official Guide To The Xenaverse.
Come back next Thursday for the following two Xena episodes! And tune in tomorrow for an all new Film Friday!