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.
99. Season 5, Episode 9: “Seeds Of Faith” (Aired: 01/10/00 | Filmed: 08/17 – 08/25/99)
Eli takes on Ares in an effort to overthrow the gods and Xena finally learns the true identity of her baby’s father.
Written by George Strayton & Tom O’Neill | Directed by Garth Maxwell | Production No. V0912
I featured this episode as #25 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “I loved [this] episode. [Well] I loved aspects of it. I thought Renee and Kevin Smith were tremendous together. I thought Hudson [Leick] and Tim Omundson as Eli in our Garden of Gethsemane sequence was beautiful. It brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it. It’s one of my five favorite scenes maybe in all of Xena… [But] we did something with Xena that to this day curses me. And it was a script problem. We sent her on a mission that meant nothing in order to get her out of the way for Eli to get killed, cause it couldn’t really be on her watch. And man, oh, man I wish we had a better script solution to that that led her away than chasing some ridiculous little bad guys for nothing. So even though it was an episode with huge power and great things for all of the supporting cast, Xena’s role in and of itself was weak at times… We just needed to find something to have Xena do in [this episode] that, to this day I do not have, was big enough for Xena. Everybody else had great parts and her part in [the] episode was weak… One of the fun things about this episode, and I think certainly for Renee, was Ares went out of his way to try to win [Gabrielle] over, seduce her over to his side. And he had certainly never paid her any attention in the past except as an irritant. So he pushed as hard as he could to try and get her to become his new Warrior Princess, knowing Xena wasn’t going to be that. And whether he really was, or however it would have worked out, I don’t know. We never had to answer that question. But we got to play all the drama of him in the hunt for her.” (“Seeds Of Faith” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Kevin Smith (Actor, Ares): “The thing with bad guys is, never be afraid of evil. If you’re concerned about people liking you then ultimately you’re going to fail with the bad guy thing. It was like when I had to kill Eli. It was like a test. If I can have any kind of sympathy after I’ve effectively killed Jesus, it’s a bggie. That’s a long way to come back from. That happens quite early on in [this episode], and then he goes to Gabrielle and I thought, ‘My God! He’s getting away with it! He’s just run through the savior, and now he’s actually turning Gabrielle around.’ I just dug that, the fact that he’s so on his game that he could do something like that. He presents her with his own kind of logic, and the way he presents it makes it kind of irrefutable. It’s interesting, the number of times the show operates on different levels regarding the whole nature of faith and what it really is. The weird thing is there’s sympathy for [my] character because he’s done terrible, terrible things, and yet at the bottom of it all, the only way this works is if you believe he truly loves Xena. Rather than simply wanting to get an acquisition back that slipped through his fingers, he does actually deeply love her. I think that was a challenge. To say, ‘How can someone who is capable of such love be capable of such appalling acts as well?’ And that was the nice thing for me, trying to find a way to balance it.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #11 – October 2000)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “It was very rare that I had the opportunity to work with Kevin [Smith] alone with a scene that I wasn’t sort of a third party to. [The desert scene] was a good scene because [there’s] like this change in the [character] … [But the godlike moment] was so weird for me because I didn’t really know what they wanted and it wasn’t really specific, like how far to go with that… Garth [Maxwell, director] just [said], ‘You know, [it’s an] inner body experience.’ I don’t know; it was interesting. I think the idea was to have Gabrielle tempted… where she’s considering going with him and that path… [The scene with Gabrielle talking to Eli’s ashes] kept changing. I don’t think I ever really got it. Definitely didn’t get it. I think they were just trying to have Gabrielle’s conflict verbalized about whether she should join Ares or not. But I don’t think it was ever really clear what she was going to be [doing].” (“Seeds Of Faith” Commentary – Season Five DVD Set)
Kevin Smith (Actor, Ares): “It’s one of those things where – we’ve all had moments in life where we do things, we do what we think we want, we achieve it, and then we wonder, “What have I wrought?” I’ll tell you exactly – I just finished shooting an episode with Josh Becker, and we were talking about our favorite movies, and this one came up, and this is where that moment was from, and I thought if I could get a fraction of that [when Ares kills Eli], it would be a great moment. The moment in Bridge on the River Kwai where they’re trying to blow up the bridge, and Alec Guinness has been so obsessed with constructing this bridge, forgetting that he’s making it for the enemy, and that moment where all these allies come out trying to blow it up, and he goes, “What have I done?” The moment where the full weight, the full horror – you know, the light of knowledge can be the most terrible thing, and it was that. That was kind of that moment [in Xena], that moment of connection, when the sword is passing through [Eli] and suddenly [Ares] has opened up this thing, and he’s connected to Eli forever at that moment, physically and spiritually and everything… Renee in that scene [between us] was so gutted. It’s an interesting tact to take – the guy who just killed this man she so admired is the last person she wants to see right now. By the same token she is so ripe for the picking; she is so devastated on the inside; she is just at a total loss. It has turned everything she’s ever believed in upside down, and so in a weird kind of way it’s the perfect time to approach her. And Ren was just an open wound in that scene, so I really didn’t have to do that much. That’s what’s nice about working with Ren and Lucy. They’ve already made such a huge commitment to it. They bring so much to it, this torrent of baggage and emotion and that sort of thing, I often had to do very little. All I had to do was dance around what they were doing, and that’s what makes my job a lot of fun and a lot easier than it could be.” (Spectrum Magazine – June 2001)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “Eli’s death… there was so much leading up to it. [Gabrielle] knew he was going to sacrifice himself and that it was for the faith of the world… that’s what he was asking of her. To trust him and have faith that he was doing what he had to do. He was asking her to allow him to fulfill his destiny. And because she loved him so much, she let him go… It was an intense day. It was really hard for me. I was telling the director, Garth Maxwell, that it was probably the most difficult day of filming I’d ever had in my life. And the hours were so long. We started off first thing in the morning leading up to the initial conflict between Eli and Ares through the part where Eli turns Gabrielle around. We spent all day working on that up until the part where Xena comes in. And I was crying over him the whole time until about seven o’clock that night!… I still find it embarrassing to show such strong emotions in front of the crew. You really have to trust that you’re not making a complete idiot of yourself. And if you are, so what? You have to keep reminding yourself it doesn’t matter that you’re crying in front of all these people. So I had to keep working against that all day. And, at the end, you take a hot bath, walk away and it’s over. Go home to your family and hug and kiss them and be happy you’re alive and that your life is so good… But Garth really wanted Gabrielle to cry out loud and have that big shriek at the end that Xena hears when she’s on the bridge. I just didn’t want to do that. I hate it when Gabrielle lets go like that. Then I thought, the show’s so stylized, it’s not reality… Lucy and I enjoyed doing [our argument] scene because we could really get our teeth into it… From my point of view, the writers were having Gabrielle be tempted by the idea of the power and ambition [Ares] could stir in her. But I don’t think Gabrielle would ever follow his path… Xena saying we are the ones who create justice in the world make Gabrielle think, ‘Okay, if that’s the way it’s gonna be, then I have to stand on my own two feet and be as strong as you.’ Xena learned from Ares, so I think Gabrielle thought she should learn from the best. Ares knows Gabrielle’s weak in that way – especially in that moment. He came to her to try to seduce her and get Gabrielle on his side. That way he could get to Xena. He always wants Xena. The best way to do that is through her buddy… I think Ares just plays with Gabrielle. That’s the only way we could justify why she wasn’t killed immediately… Ares was just loving it. Toying with Gabrielle and making her even more furious is exactly what he would want… [W]hen I saw the final cut of the episode, that [funeral] scene where I walk up and then turn away, the camera doesn’t come close enough to really see what was going on. But I remember Garth had told me to hit my mark and stay there because the camera was going to zoom in slowly. Then I would turn and walk away. Obviously very uncomfortable about tearing up, I condensed it. I hit my mark and stayed there for about two seconds and then walked away. We could only do one take because I was damaging all the fresh sand. But when I saw [photographer] Geoff [Scott]’s photo, he had captured what we didn’t see in the episode – the sense of loss. I thought Geoff did such a great job catching that moment…” (The Chakram Newsletter: #11)
Donald Duncan (Director of Photography): “The centerpiece of [this episode] was the big fight on the suspension bridge, which involved a lot of second unit elements. And there were lots of top shots on the suspension bridge where we put blue screen underneath so they could then put in the ravine and the river down below. And I think those are actually pretty realistic. They worked pretty well on that. So I think that was a good two or three days working on those sequences just to make that a nice dramatic centerpiece of the show.” (“Seeds Of Faith” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “I think when [Xena’s] confronted with Good Callisto, she has trouble believing it and refuses to relate to her as a good spirit. She can’t trust her… Because of [my] pregnancy stupidity, I couldn’t even manage to lip-synch [the Burial song] properly and I’d sung this a million times… [Callisto being Xena’s baby daddy] sounded like a good idea on paper, [but] now that I’m looking at it, it’s just yucky.” (“Seeds Of Faith” Commentary – Season Five DVD Set)
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “We wanted to make it Callisto [who] was responsible for [Xena’s] pregnancy because we thought that [would be] the greatest challenge to Xena and we never bothered to play [it]. We thought we would get mileage at a later date with the daughter of Callisto, but that beat never was played. It never seemed important after that.” (Best Buy Exclusive – Season Five DVD Set)
Hudson Leick (Actor, Callisto): “I think it’s really weird. I think it’s really, really weird. I think it’s weird that… Callisto becomes the father of Xena’s child. And not only does she become the father, but the child itself. The idea is very strange. I think on an esoteric level, it’s fascinating that we all affect each other so much… how much are we truly ourselves? And how much are we little bits of all of us – like everyone you ever encountered?” (“Seeds Of Faith” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “When I first read that [Callisto was the father], I just laughed like a drain. That was the funniest thing I ever heard… It was such a cool idea though.” (Best Buy Exclusive – Season Five DVD Set)
Here are scans of an interview that writer George Strayton gave on “Seeds Of Faith” for The Chakram Newsletter: #11.
Here is an on-set report of the production of “Seeds Of Faith” from Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #4.
Here is a download of a feature included on the fifth season DVD set on the making of “Seeds Of Faith,” which was produced (although not aired) as the series’ 100th episode.
100. Season 5, Episode 10: “Lyre, Lyre, Hearts On Fire” (Aired: 01/17/00 | Filmed: 08/02 – 08/16/99)
To avoid a war over who gets possession of Terpsichore’s lyre, Xena organizes a battle of the bands in this musical episode that reunites Xena with her mother, Joxer with his twin brother Jace, and Gabrielle with a lovesick Draco.
Written by Adam Armus & Nora Kay Foster | Directed by Mark Beesley | Production No. V0911
I featured this episode as one of the 18 honorable mentions that narrowly missed inclusion on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “I loved the idea of doing another musical. I did – I loved the idea of it. The reality… the problem with musicals is that you’ve got to do a lot of dance numbers and I was very pregnant at the time. I was like eight months pregnant… Ted [Raimi] and I were just at our wits end. I mean, Ted is a great dancer, but he and I during that ‘War, what is it good for?’ The director was just tearing his hair out because we were so hopeless. And Ted and I were just starting to laugh, because there was nothing we could do.” (“Lyre, Lyre, Hearts On Fire” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “I had to audition for my own singing voice in [this] episode. And it was the most humbling experience… I brought it up that I’d like to try and do some of the singing myself. I knew they had brought in the same girl who dubbed me in ‘The Bitter Suite.’ So I went in and sang for Joe [LoDuca]. He was very kind, but it was the most bizarre experience. I started off completely embarrassed and then ended up just singing as loud as I could have having a good time… [I sang] the bit in the marketplace during the ‘Telephone Song.’ And the backup during ‘War.’ Susan Wood sang the final song, ‘Peace In The Valley.’ And another number that didn’t make it into the show, ‘We Can Work It Out.’ That was a duet with Xena… [The go-go outfit] was a great costume. Everyone wanted to have their own version of it for Halloween. Did you see Lucy in it at the end?… I had no idea [she would do that]. We had both wrapped for the day and I had already left. The next morning, I heard Lucy put on my stunt double’s outfit and did a bit of her own go-go dancing. She was trying to scare Ted [Raimi] and apparently it worked… Jay [Laga’aia, Draco is] such a kook. He’s just a funny man. He’s always singing and dancing and cracking jokes. We were both doing Solid Gold dancing behind the scenes. Teaching each other our latest eighties flashback moves. It was such a good time and I really enjoyed working with him… We weren’t in [the hot tub] for very long, actually. I remember Jay pushing me down into the water as he turned his back to the camera so I would disappear. I couldn’t get down. I just kept floating! It was hilarious. You can just see that if you watch the number carefully. You see my elbow come up and go back down… Shona, the choreographer was amazing. She was very supportive because we’re not dancers. She would say, ‘That’s great, Renee, now if you make this turn sharper and hold it for a beat and then let it lift you.’ She’s so descriptive in her words. I enjoyed working with her [as well]… [Ted sang] both Jace and Joxer. He took dancing lessons beforehand. Every night he would go home and work with a video of the dance rehearsals so that he would feel comfortable with Jace’s numbers. He worked so hard on [this episode]… I don’t know if you’d call me a good dancer, but I like to have fun. Ted and Lucy and I were discussing high school and how we enjoyed different classes. Ted and Lucy enjoyed biology and I enjoyed chemistry. When it came down to Lucy and Ted having to dance in ‘War’ and the other numbers and my having to sing, we were back again in high school – laughing about how some people just click on to certain subjects and don’t have a clue with the others. Ted said dancing for him is like taking a chemistry class. And singing for me is like biology… [But] Shona [gave us] moves most everyone can feel comfortable doing. They’re very relaxed and free with the body. And I had that great costume that I just had to shake. It didn’t look right standing still.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #11)
Ted Raimi (Actor, Joxer/Jace): “When I found out we were doing a musical episode, my first instinct was naturally to be panicked because there’s so much stuff to do. I think that once we got underway, it was more fascinating just to see if it could be done… They gave me two weeks of intensive training to learn how to dance for my one big number, and I still just sort of scraped by the skin of my teeth. It was tough, but it was cool, and it was really the reason why I got into this business in the first place. I’m not here to be a file clerk; I’m here to do things I’ve never done before… As good as the script was, Jace was an afterthought, because, though I can’t say for sure, I think what the writers thought was, ‘He’ll be gay and that’ll be funny enough.’ I didn’t feel I could sustain that humor for a whole hour. I thought the audience would get bored with it, because they’ve seen that before. I was at the voice-over stage, laying down the vocal track for ‘Dancing in the Moonlight,’ and [composer] Joe LoDuca had done this kind of Latin-themed song, when I thought, ‘This lends itself well to a Latino accent.’ I did it and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s just really good!’ So I came up with this whole personality that, not only was he gay, but he’s form Spain, he loves music, he loves to get dressed up and he likes parties. Usually when I sit down at the read-throughs, I’ll ask [Co-Executive Producer] Eric Gruendemann, ‘Is it okay if I change this line or that line?’ And that episode I said, ‘Can I completely change my character to something new?’ He said yes after I had given a little demonstration. I got up and did the walk I had come up with and the accent and the whole thing with the boa, so I think they really liked it. The writers [Adam Armus and Nora Kay Foster] were very nice about letting me rewrite some of my dialogue… [Then, during shooting] it occurred to me that this character might be very offensive to both gays and/or Latinos. Here I am in the middle of New Zealand, and there’s maybe two Latino people down here. So I was very concerned [and] I called up Marco Sanchez, who’s my best buddy. He used to be in SeaQuest with me. I said, ‘Marco, I’m going to do my accent for you. If it sounds offensive to you, I’m going to cut this thing out and reshoot everything.’ So over the phone I did my whole thing… He just howled with laughter. He thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. And you know, he’s about as proud a Cuban as you can get. And of all the nice letters I got, I never received one telling me that they thought my character was offensive to them as gay or Latino, and that’s something that’s tough to get away with on TV.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #12 – November 2000)
Adam Armus (Writer): “We, I think, came up with the concept of Terpsichore’s lyre, which was something in mythology that was an object of desire. So we said, ‘How about Terpsichore’s lyre being the thing that everybody wants and setting the whole thing in a village where it would be a big battle of the bands talent show?’ And it turned out actually to be a precursor to American Idol… Joe LoDuca… had notions of things that he wanted to do, but at the same time we were trying to tell a story and we really couldn’t lead the other. Which was the dog, which was the tail? So it was very much a collaborative effort… and [he] came up with a wonderful rap for Lucy to do at the end, which was just great. I mean, we actually took a stab at it. And they were like, ‘You guys are not rap writers.’ And we said, ‘You know what? You’re absolutely right.’ And so Joe did it and he did a great job… This was a show about tolerance for all different kinds of things. Tolerance for people; tolerance for different kinds of situations. And one of them is a family – tolerance for different kinds of families. And so Cyrene came in with the attitude that, ‘No, a baby has to have a father. That’s just the way it’s gotta be.’… [But] it was a fun episode and that’s what it was designed to be. ‘Let’s have some fun here, let’s stretch creative muscles, let’s let people sing and dance and have fun.’ And I think the closing credits sort of summarized all that.” (“Lyre, Lyre, Hearts On Fire” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “There was definitely a love between Gabrielle and Joxer, and just [her] seeing him move on… I thought it was sweet, actually. I liked to see Gabrielle suffer a bit [and] see him moving on. It was fun to play… [But] it was the last episode for quite a few of our key crewmembers before they moved on to Lord Of The Rings and it was a really emotional adjustment for us. I mean these were family members who’d been with us since the beginning and were very difficult to say goodbye to.” (“Lyre, Lyre, Hearts On Fire” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “I had been wrapped… I was hanging around because it was the last day for John Cavill, the director of photography on [this] show. I wanted to give a little speech and say goodbye to a few people who were leaving. With about ten minutes to go, I said, ‘Oh, I really want to be in that scene!’ I loved Renee in the go-go outfit. I ran into the costume bus, eight months pregnant, and said, ‘Give me Renee’s double’s costume.’ Her double is bigger and taller. I squeezed into the suit, they put the shiny boots on me and I went and surprised them coming out as they were filming the number… I think I winked at the camera operator so he could pull focus, but nobody else knew I was coming. Ted didn’t know why everyone was laughing and cheering as this enormous balloon of a woman burst through his dancers in her go-go outfit… We were just having a good time. I wasn’t trying to make a statement. Just feeling really good about myself and not being ashamed… We’d been working with the dancers. We had a week off where we rehearsed the dances every day. It was extremely difficult for Ted and I in particular… Renee’s a killer. But for Ted and I, we found it really hard to be acting, dancing and hitting marks all at the same time. Thinking about technically where the camera needs you to be and remembering the words to the songs. Being pregnant, I was also tired and a bit spacey. On the first day, when we were filming the ‘War’ piece, you can see Ted and I sometimes a bit out of step. We were on the sides laughing in despair and dismay at how hopeless we were. Just really screwing up a lot of takes. It was truly a humbling experience. Ted was over last night and we were telling people about how bad we were. It’s been a long time since I completely stunk at something.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #11)
Ted Raimi (Actor, Joxer/Jace): “It was the first day of shooting of [this] episode and Lucy and I had to dance and sing, and she was a lead in that song, and I remember looking at Lucy and she at me, and her saying to me something I’d never heard her say in any other episode, ‘This is really hard. I’m having a really hard time.’… I remember going to rehearsals thinking when it first started, ‘Oh a musical. I can sing. Dance, I can do a couple of steps. Big deal.’ Well, I can tell you it was really hard and everyday after you get done on the set, I would dance with the Auckland Dance Company, who were also all the background extras for Jace’s stuff… He had a big bunch of splashy Vegas stuff to do. So everyday after work I’d go to the Auckland Dance Company and I would be humbled and humiliated for two hours as these guys would fly and flip and I was stumbling to get my steps down. The singing was a little easier. But it was still tough.” (“Lyre, Lyre, Hearts On Fire” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Here are scans of an interview that actor Lucy Lawless gave on “Seeds Of Faith” for Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #19.
Here is an on-set report of the production of “Lyre, Lyre, Hearts On Fire” from Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #3.
Come back next Thursday for more Xena! And tune in tomorrow for another Pre-Code Film Friday!