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.
111. Season 5, Episode 21: “Eve” (Aired: 05/08/00 | Filmed: 03/07 – 03/16/00)
Xena must decide whether she can kill her own daughter, who continues her murderous campaign to eliminate Eli’s followers.
Written by George Strayton & Tom O’Neill | Teleplay by Chris Manheim | Directed by Mark Beesley | Production No. V0922
This is an incredibly powerful episode that takes the series into one of the darkest places its been since the Rift in Season Three, as Xena’s daughter kills the elderly Joxer. It’s a difficult episode to watch because of this particular loss, one of the series’ biggest. As I mentioned last week, this episode is stronger than “Livia,” particularly because of Xena, Gabrielle, and Livia/Eve, who go through even more emotional turmoil. Their intense melodrama is matched by some masterful action sequences directed by Mark Beesley, culminating in one of Season Five’s best fights, as Xena and Livia face off in the cathedral. Livia’s turnaround at the end of the fight is a bit of an “Eli ex machina,” but it’s beautifully done, and furthers the wonderful arc for her character. “Eve” is an excellently made episode (despite my previously mentioned distaste for Wilkinson), that simply isn’t the most enjoyable because of its heavy story.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Adrienne Wilkinson (Actor, Livia/Eve): “[This] was my favorite episode to play as Livia. Loved [this] episode. Loved the opening – just the over-the-top drama of pillaging the village. I loved that, and [this] particular episode was with [director] Mark Beesley, who loved the character of Livia too. We both just figured her out and loved her at that point. And we decided that there were no boundaries that she wouldn’t cross so we just pushed every one we could think of, and I loved it. It made her fantastic and powerful and manipulative and a bit crazy. She was just great and I loved her. [It] was also, by [this] point, not only had I fully embraced her, but I finally figured out how to fight in a way that I thought was appropriate for the character and that worked for me. And I just loved it. We do this incredible fight scene in the cathedral. I loved this fight. I thought it was so well choreographed. I thought it was beautiful. And it was just interesting; it was an interesting fight in the middle of this church with everybody unveiling themselves – the whole thing, I loved it. [So] I get in there and I was just into it and I do this fight, and Mark goes, ‘Wow. That was fantastic. Okay. Moving on.’ And I felt so empowered because that first week on [the previous episode] – poor Rick [Jacobson], who directed… he must have felt, ‘Oh, dear, God, how am I going to make this work?’ because the first few days, I’m sure my fighting was just horrible. But once I finally got it, I just loved it. And [this] was my last chance to really have a big fight, which I’m so glad that I was able to do what I wanted to. Just really get it. It was fantastic.” (“Eve” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
R.J. Stewart (Writer/Producer): “Joxer’s death came from two inspirations… First of all, they had gone away, they came back, he’s old Joxer now. He lived a good, full life. We really honestly didn’t know what we were going to do with Old Joxer for a long time. But also too, whenever we could take an opportunity to remind the audience that violence is really a dangerous thing to be around, we did. And this was one way we could take our little storybook violence and make it a little more real… One of the many things we wanted to explore is Livia is doing to Xena what Xena did to her own mother, the nightmare of having a daughter who’s so horrible. So there’s a little, ‘what goes around comes around,’ kind of thing. And also, going back to the cycle of violence that Gabrielle was trying to break by her pacifism in the fourth season, once again it’s being perpetuated by Livia. Livia would not have what you’d call good genes when it comes to living a well ordered life, since she’s kind of the combination of [Callisto] and Xena.” (“Eve” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “[Joxer’s death] was not what I thought it would be. It happened so fast. I just thought it was the strangest leadup to a death scene. He gets killed, he’s gone, we move on. I didn’t feel what I expected I would in doing the scene. I think it’s still hard for me to believe Ted’s not coming back… When something like that comes at you, it happens and you’re not expecting it. Suddently Joxer’s dying, everything changes, but we still have a mission to accomplish. We have to leave him and go on our way trying to find Xena’s daughter. I had thought about how I would play this scene, how Gabrielle would feel the shock of losing him. But it’s very hard to grasp the reality that he’s not going to be here any more. That’s what I was thinking in the scene.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #11)
Ted Raimi (Actor, Joxer): “We shot [my death scene] around 11 o`clock, not long before lunch, and it kind of went off very mechanically. By the end of the episode, everybody started to realize, ‘Oh my God, this is Ted`s last episode. He`ll never be back again, maybe.’ Towards the end of that week, it got a little teary-eyed for me and for everybody else, but the day we shot the death scene was pretty damn mechanical. Everybody was looking at his or her watch, going, ‘When`s lunch?’ But it was great to shoot it. I tried out a new thing for me as an actor. Initially in the script, when Joxer died, I had about two pages of death. I was on the ground and I`m saying, ‘Xena, Xena, you meant so much to me all these years. Gosh, all the things you`ve done and all the things I`ve tried to do. And Gabrielle, I really loved you and all the love I have… blah, blah, blah, etcetera, etcetera.’ It was really long. I just took a black pen and did something that most actors never do, which was to cut all my lines. I cut 90% of all my dialogue. I kept 10% and I asked the writers if I could put in another two or three lines. So it turned out to be very short. I did that for two reasons. One, I always find it personally a little phony when people have a lot to say when they`re dying. My brother Ivan is a doctor. I’d called him up and said, ‘When people don`t expect to die, what are they like?’ He said, ‘They don`t ever think they’re going to go. That’s what it’s like. If they`re young or old and get hit hard and fast, they don`t think they`re going to go.’ I thought that was a very interesting place to start. So when you see Joxer, he just says, ‘I don`t feel so good. I think I`m a little cold.’ And then he just dies. I also thought that was the most tragic way to go, and I wanted to go for maximum tragedy. That whole holding hands and stuff never really did it for me.” (Exposé #48 – August 2000)
Adrienne Wilkinson (Actor, Livia/Eve): “[Killing Joxer] was actually terribly funny!…That sounds awful, but Ted is such a cut-up…He had this awful make up on- and it was hot, so the make up was melting…anyway, he is supposed to come charging at me and basically run into me, but with the melting make-up he could barely see so he kept tripping and falling and not even making it to me. So we all kept cracking up and of course I wasn’t in the actual scene where he dies so I never dealt with the real emotions of it. My emotions were that of revenge and good riddance and a little bit of, ‘See, I told you so.’” (Xena Place Interview – July 2000)
William Gregory Lee (Actor, Virgil): “The day that Joxer was killed off, the mood on the set was rejoice. I mean, everybody was so glad… No, it was actually, I think, for the first time, you could see it… once they actually shot the scene, what the mood was like between [Lucy, Renee, and Ted], kind of like, ‘Wow. We’re going to lose a cast member. Ted’s no longer going to be with us, unless they bring him back… in a flashback or something along [those] lines.’ So you could definitely see more of a somber mood.” (“Eve” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Here are scans of an interview that writer George Strayton gave on “Eve” for The Chakram Newsletter: #14.
112. Season 5, Episode 22: “Motherhood” (Aired: 05/15/00 | Filmed: 03/17 – 03/29/00)
With the lives of Gabrielle and Eve hanging in the balance, Xena faces the gods in a final showdown.
Story by Robert Tapert | Teleplay by R.J. Stewart | Directed by Rick Jacobson | Production No. V0923
I featured this episode as #34 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Alexandra Tydings (Actor, Aphrodite): “[This] was my first really serious Xena episode. I was kind of floored by it, actually, because Aphrodite usually just does comedies. I had been in a few fight scenes, but nothing very serious. On my first day, we were shooting the end of Act Three, in which it’s raining, the house is burning, and Gabrielle is out cold, lying on the ground. Xena has to drag her, Eve is limping along, and Xena is kind of half carrying her as well. Xena and Aphrodite have this conversation in which Aphrodite agrees to take them to Olympus. I show up on the set – do the make-up, the hair, etc., and say hello to everybody – and then I’ve got to be quiet because they’re still doing this shot. And suddenly it starts, and they come dragging out of this house, and there’s all this blood. I was really touched, moved and saddened by it. It was pretty interesting and different… Aphrodite and Gabrielle had had so much story between the two of them through the season, so it was good that there was a continuity to that. That obviously gave Aphrodite a lot more depth than we usually get to see from her.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #17 – April 2001)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “[In this episode] Lucy was dragging me along a hall through smoke made of dry ice. That’s carbon dioxide and there’s no oxygen. I would be breathing one moment and the take would end after I’d been dragged a few feet. Then I’d need time to recover. Someone would say, ‘You can get up now, Renee.’ And the person near me would point out, ‘She can’t breathe!’ It was the funniest feeling. It surprised me how quickly it affected my head.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #12)
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “My beat sheet said the following: ‘Xena hears a noise and sees a shadow on the wall of someone raising a hand, about to stab Eve. She throws her chakram through the window, it hits the wall. Xena comes running in, Gabrielle is lying on the floor.’ Well, they couldn’t get that quite right. The set designer said, ‘The window isn’t in the right place.’ R.J. [Stewart] made a change, he did put it in the script, in the final draft. At the read-through I turned to Rick [Jacobson] and said, ‘You know, Xena has to be outside to throw that chakram.’ Rick said, ‘Okay, yeah.’ Well he didn’t to that, the set wasn’t built that way, they couldn’t get it right. It would have saved me so much grief if Xena had not seen Gabrielle when she threw that chakram. I called Rob Field [editor] and said, ‘Don’t you think this is too mean, too cruel?’ He said, ‘Not really, no. I can turn the chakram sideways with the effect and make it look like it was not meant to be a killing blow so that it does something else.’ I knew when I saw the editor’s output there had to be a way to make that more palatable. As far as killing the gods and every other aspect of the episode, I had no problem with it. I thought Rick Jacobson did a great job with it. I give Lucy and Renee and all those people credit for once again being cold and wet. But Rick is a really good director and [this] was also an episode that was 15 minutes over and I had to cut some scenes.” (Whoosh! Interview – January 2001)
Rick Jacobson (Director): “Xena chakraming Gabrielle – that was one of those moments in the script that when I read, I went, ‘Wow. This is great because this is something we haven’t seen before.’ And I love every time we can [do] something new with the characters totally out of character, and this was it. So I remember thinking, ‘Wow. This is going to be great. And I had this neat shot planned for it, and when I was blocking it, I had Xena outside with Ares, and Renee was inside with Eve and… Xena’s supposed to turn and see Gabrielle stabbing her through the window. Well the way I had it blocked, you couldn’t see where they were through this window, so in pre-production I said, ‘Is it okay if she gets the sense, she runs in, she sees it.’ They said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ I said, ‘Okay. Great. That’s how I’m going to do it.’… I loved the way it came out. I loved doing the shot in one. Usually [it would be] Xena throws the chakram, cut to the chakram spinning, close-up of Renee hit in the head. But I wanted it to be one shot, so it kind of had like a holy s**t factor. And it worked out great. So we put the two of them in the same shot and had a CGI chrakram go through the shot, and then I just wanted this stunned look from Renee as she just kind of stood there, and we had this little tube of blood so that as she stood there, the reveal was this single line of blood [that] came down her face. And it worked out great. It was perfect. Shoot it. Moving on. Everyone saw the dailies, great. So all of a sudden, I’m back in the States and we’re cutting it and I’m hearing all this rumor of ‘What have you done?’ And I remember going, ‘Huh? Huh? Huh?’ And I guess it ruffled a lot of feathers and maybe everyone had a different take on it or the way it was supposed to be, but I read and it’s in the script, ‘Xena sees Gabrielle stabbing Eve and she throws her chakram, splitting Gabrielle’s head.’ Perfect. Well, I don’t know what part of that people interpreted a different way. But all of a sudden, ‘You can’t do that! Xena would never do that!’ And I felt, ‘Well, of course Xena wouldn’t do it.’ I always interpreted it that it was the work of the Furies. They’re in Gabrielle’s head making her do her thing, [they could] possibly have some influence on Xena. [She’s] not thinking clearly. She’s seeing her daughter being killed. It’s… one of those things that you do and as soon as you do, you regret. I do remember having a tough decision on the set and that was, ‘Okay. You throw the chakram. Gabrielle falls. Who [does Xena] go to first?’… Finally people said, ‘Well, let’s just go with it.’ Because nothing was ever reshot. But it’s still in the show, so they eventually got over it. [Meanwhile] the big battle in Joxer’s tavern was the big challenge because we had this pretty small set and we had [like] five gods in there. And one of the biggest problems I had in that whole fight scene… was… the way it was scripted, Xena dealt with each one individually. I added in stuff like Xena throws her chakram, and… it’ll kind of keep one god busy while another god’s doing this. And I think we kind of succeeded pretty well. You didn’t sit there watching the scene going, ‘Well, why didn’t he do this?’ I think everybody is being kept busy… The whole [tavern] fight scene was pretty loosely scripted at best.” (“Motherhood” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Josephine Davison (Actor, Artemis): “[Playing Artemis] was fantastic, actually, because I had to use a real bow and arrow. So for a few days I had proper training… and they gave me instead of a fake bow and arrow, I had the real deal. [And] it was actually really quite heavy. You’ve sort of got to support with your actual hand the bow. But he taught me the whole proper action of pulling back… to your ear… And when it came to shooting it, it’s always a different story, because you’ve got the light, you’ve got the hustle [and] bustle, you’ve got the pressure of you know the whole scene happening… In the showdown in the barn… there was so much happening and I had to be able to get the arrows out of the quiver. And it’s actually so much harder than it looks to be able to pull an arrow out really quickly from there and then line it up… on this huge bow. It took me all my strength to be able to pull it back and then release. But it was a fantastic feeling releasing it and watching the arrow flying over.” (“Motherhood” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Adrienne Wilkinson (Actor, Eve/Livia): “[This] episode was incredible to film. Anything you can think of, we had: rain machines and wind machines, we were in the desert, we had explosions, we had fire, spiders. We had everything you could think of. It was truly like filming a movie… Visually I think [Gabrielle stabbing Eve] looked great. I think it looked incredible. But it was difficult to film, because she’s right behind me, has to be close enough so that it looks real, but of course I can’t see what she’s doing [yet] I have to be screaming at the appropriate time. So the funny thing was, they arranged the lighting so I could see her shadow. So I could see her coming down with the knife, and I would just time of time it to my peripheral vision to figure out when it is that I’m supposed to scream and make it look realistic… I have endless stories about the spider… I knew that it was going to be an issue first of all when the production team calls and asks me if I’m allergic to any spiders [or] if I’m scared of spiders, and I’m not. I don’t like them, but I don’t have any particular phobias or anything. Lucy tells me, when she finds out I’m going to have to deal with this spider, she says, ‘You watch. When you bring out that spider, half of the crew will just scatter.’ And I thought, ‘Seriously?’ And she said, ‘Oh, yeah. I’ve had to deal with spiders on the show. You can’t believe how many people have phobias.’ And it’s absolutely true. People throughout the day are asking about it. ‘When’s the spider coming out? What’s the deal with that?’ So finally it’s the end of the day and it’s time to shoot the scene, and they bring the spider out – like six people in the immediate camera crew can’t be anywhere near it. They can’t look at it, it’s just too much. And the poor girl who was the focus puller, she has to get the tape measure as close as she possibly can. She can’t do it. She tries, [but] she just can’t do it. It’s too much.” (“Motherhood” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “[The opening desert fight] had wind machines blasting sand… [and] nobody could hear anything. It was quite a tense day too… [And] there was a fight at the end of this [episode] that had to be done in like three minutes before wrap… [It] was one of Pete Bell’s last fights.” (“Motherhood” Commentary – Season Five DVD Set)
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “So this [episode] was the culmination of about 500 different storylines that we laid all season… Alex [Kurtzman] and Bob [Orci], when they briefly came in [for] Season Five and did like eight episodes, they were the ones who convinced me at that time to jump 25 years ahead [to] make the baby grow up quick. And once we decided that, at least in my mind, I knew exactly what to do, which was set her up as Xena’s adversary and it kind of jump started us into Christian times, for lack of anything else. And gave us a whole new bed of stories to play with at the end of this year… When we were working on this story, R.J. [Stewart] and I spent a lot of time concerned [whether or not] Xena was in control of [the power] and ultimately it made us spin out other stories in Season Six that dealt with that issue… Was Xena a pawn in this?” (“Motherhood” Commentary – Season Five DVD Set)
Here are scans of an interview that writer R.J. Stewart gave on “Motherhood” for The Chakram Newsletter: #13.
Here is an on-set report of the production of “Motherhood” from Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #8.
Here is an on-set report of the production of “Motherhood” from Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #11.
*You can check out extended and deleted scenes from “Motherhood” on the Season Five DVD Set!
Come back next Thursday for more Xena! And tune in tomorrow for another Pre-Code Film Friday!