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.
117. Season 6, Episode 5: “Legacy” (Aired: 10/30/00 | Filmed: 06/12 – 06/22/00)
On their travels through the North African desert, Xena and Gabrielle intervene to help two tribes of warring nomads unite against their Roman enemies.
Written by Melissa Good | Directed by Chris Martin-Jones | Production No. V1405
I featured this episode as #59 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Melissa Good (Writer): “I happen to know Steve [Sears] through conventions and online chatting. He contacted me via email and said he needed to chat, so we played phone tag for half a day. Then I got hold of him at his production offices over at Sheena. He asked me if I was still a fan of Xena, and I said yes; he asked if I still watched the show, and I said yes; and then he said, ‘How’d you like to write an episode of it?’ It was pretty amazing. Rob Tapert had gotten an idea that he wanted a fan to be involved in one of the episodes, and Steve gave him my name. I think I was caught somewhere between stunned and hopping up and down in insane excitement, and I was at work when it happened. You can’t exactly start screaming in the middle of a large office full of little cubicles. I floated home, though, let me tell you!… [But then it] was kind of intimidating. I mean, what do you send Rob Tapert when he wants a sample of how you write his characters? What does he like? How do you know? I finally realized there’s no way I could know what he’d like, so I sent parts that I really liked, and hoped for the best. All the samples were Xena [i.e. not uber-Xena]. Rob didn’t give me any specific feedback other than to say he liked them. He also went to my website [at www.merwolf.com] and read some more, but he didn’t say which or how many… [Then] we had several phone meetings to decide on what the script would be about. Once we’d done the background, they asked me to do a one-page synopsis, which I did. Several changes were made, then they asked me to do a beat sheet, which is a scene-by-scene breakdown of the four acts. During this process, I was working with R.J. Stewart, Rob, [producer] Mike McDonald and several others in the writing group. They really didn’t give me instructions as to a ‘house style,’ although they did send me several scripts and beat sheets so I could see what they looked like. I turned in the first beat sheet and we had several more meetings and then I turned in a second beat sheet. That was all over the course of, I guess, two weeks or so. Then, after they gave me some additional notes, they told me to write the teleplay for the story. I had 10 days to two weeks to do that. I turned it in 10 days later, and we had another meeting. They gave me some changes and asked for several sections to be redone. I was asked to do major writing changes between the first and second drafts, having to do with pretty large plot points. They didn’t tell me how to write them, just what they wanted the outcome to be. Eventually I submitted a second, and for me, final draft of the script. It came out great. It came out better than I could ever have hoped it would. It’s a very powerful episode and I’m very proud of it.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #21 – September 2001)
Eric Gruendemann (Producer): “[This] was the last episode that I actually worked on from beginning to end. After the end of that shoot was when I actually left. So I remember [this] episode very fondly and very well, and it is one of my favorite episodes… We needed, obviously, the desert, and we don’t have, other than black sand, anything around Auckland. So we had to, travel, the entire company, about two and a half hours north to a coastal area that has these beautiful white sand dunes… and even though we were right next to the ocean, the dunes were such that we could go into a little valley and you would never see the ocean. It actually gave us the simulation of hundreds and hundreds of miles of desert. We built all our sets there with the exception of the interiors that were still shot back in Auckland. And the sand storm sequences, which I think we did with incredible flair, were actually done on a very large soundstage back in Auckland as well. So all of the times you’d have our characters fighting in the sand storm, you could never actually blow that much sand around on your actors. You’d kill them. So we created that on a stage with blowing very dark smoke around and using some very clever lens techniques to make it appear like it was blowing sand… This [location shoot] was a situation where we actually had an additional 45 minutes of travel time from the hotel into the middle of the sand dune, which we had to have four wheel drive vehicles to get to because there was not a road that led us right to there… We did get to bring Alison Bruce. One of the things I like about [this episode] is all of our supporting cast are New Zealanders. Rawiri Paratene, who was in Whale Rider, was the other veteran leader, and so it became a very sort of New Zealand centered cast. And we love working with Alison… Alison’s great and [she] really did some wonderful sword fighting too. We were pleasantly surprised at how well she did in the fight sequences. [For the opening bath scene], the line in the script. ‘Xena and Gabrielle wash off the sand,’ became a hot tub sequence. Well, it is a Renaissance production and we figured, ‘Why not?’ It definitely was gratuitous, but we’re proud of it… Our doubles were blurred in some cities, but both Lucy and Renee did a surprisingly ambitious run up to that point… At this time we were trying to be extreme, and to be sexy, and to be noticed, and I think it worked. How did we bury Renee in the sand? Just as you’d think we would. We dug a hole and said, ‘Get in the hole.’ And we filled it up. Renee never minds about these kinds of things… We got her out for lunch, so she didn’t actually have to stay there and [be fed] through… a tube or anything… Xena’s lie in this episode about Gabrielle not killing the boy and then Gabrielle deciding to actually make the decision and do the morally right thing because she didn’t want to see this Roman soldier killed was one of the high points of this show because it is an interesting conundrum. Xena wants her friend to live, and Gabrielle realizes that she has to take responsibility for her own actions, even if it wasn’t what she meant to be. One of the fun arcs about the series is that Gabrielle will and always does take the high road whenever she can, and it’s a great conundrum because if your best friend was going to be murdered, would you lie for them? I probably would, and I think it was a great moral dilemma that we were able to explore in this.” (“Legacy” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Six DVD Set)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “I know Rob [Tapert] wanted to have an arc that addressed Gabrielle’s trying to find a balance between knowing how to fight like a warrior and yet being a bard with a pacifist nature. I don’t personally believe she is more of a warrior than a bard, but there are some episodes where she is… [In this one], we wanted to show how Gabrielle would feel if she killed a complete innocent… Rob came up with [the] idea of putting Gabrielle in such a painful situation. I thought it was strong. She is trying to figure out who she is after all these seasons going back and forth.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #14)
Jane Holland (Costume Designer): “I think [this] must be one of my favorite episodes, partly because I love that part of the world. I love the expansive desert and the volume of clothes. I love the reference material you look at to deal with desert clothing and desert tribes and things. And so it was a really beautiful episode to make… There was a lot of fabric, a lot of fabric, and there was a lot of intricate turban tying that had to happen. It was quite challenging for the girls on set when they had a lot of people on horses and these turbans that are these great big long pieces of fabric that need to be tied the same way each time. But it’s so effective… There was a mixture between movement of fabrics and these quite structured costumes that Xena and Gabrielle wore, which had sort of a Moroccan feel to them. But they were very intricately hand painted, and there was beading involved as well. The other thing that I think I like about that is that the color thing that happens. There was the white – a bunch of people that were all in white – against the desert, and that is just beautiful. Different shades of white. And I like that. I like when you simplify your palette so it becomes quite subtle, the differences between different characters. And so there was the white lot and the red lot, the sort of burnt orange bunch as well. I liked the way they worked together and the intricacy of what we were able to do with them.” (“Legacy” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Six DVD Set)
Alison Bruce (Actor, Kahina): “It was such an extraordinary place to be and driving home along the beach at night was amazing! I’ve never seen that part of New Zealand, and I didn’t know we had landscape like that here. The sand was golden, and looked as if it went on forever. It really did go as far as the eye could see… On the first day that we were there it was really windy, so you were being stung by sand a lot. After that, the wind settled, and it made a big difference, but it wasn’t a comfortable environment to work in. The sand was moving all the time and sticking to your face. For the make-up, it was quite a lot of work just trying to keep you looking okay when you actually had thousands of grains of sand stuck to your face… [My costume] had so many floaty layers and these huge sleeves! I thought, ‘These are going to be a problem when we have to fight.’ The big pants and the shirt were silk, but over that was wrapped a synthetic organza wrap which touched the ground on both sides. And the hat wouldn’t stay on! It was a bit too small, so it wouldn’t fit over the wig. I thought it would be quite hard having that many clothes, because I always feel I’m kind of short and stocky anyway. So when somebody puts lots and lots of layers on me, I feel like a pudding! But it was a lot more comfortable than wearing leather amulets and things like that… In one scene, we were inside the tent and Kahina is talking to Xena, and suddenly a crew member leaped on me, started patting me down and pushed me to the ground. My costume had caught on fire because there were candles burning everywhere, and there were all these long floaty bits coming out. Everybody else got quite a shock, but because I had no idea what was happening, it was very funny. It was a bit of that organza wrap which caught fire, and it because it was synthetic it just went up. But they got it really quickly, only about a foot of it burned.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #23 – October 2001)
Here are scans of an interview that writer Melissa Good gave on “Legacy” for The Chakram Newsletter: #22.
Here is an on-set report of the production of “Legacy” from Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #14.
*Check out extended/deleted scenes from “Legacy” on the Season Six DVD Set!
118. Season 6, Episode 6: “The Abyss” (Aired: 11/06/00 | Filmed: 06/28 – 07/07/00)
Xena and Gabrielle are forced into a deadly confrontation with cannibals when they go in search of Virgil.
Written by James Kahn | Directed by Rick Jacobson | Production No. V1406
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): “Oh my God! [Filming this] was horrendous, just horrendous! The first three years, all our outdoor sets were at Sturges Road. We went back there just to shoot the river stuff in their pool. To create the effect of a moving river, they had outboard motors, which meant that every single word we said had to be looped afterwards. That is not ideal simply because you can’t easily recreate the mood and the character of your voice and make it carry the same energy and import that it had on the day.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #14)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “[This episode] was [filmed] in a man-made lagoon built on one of our outdoor sets. They turned fire hoses on us. They added a cliff wall and we pretended that was part of the river… That was mud, mud [they smeared on me]! It’s very good for the complexion, or so they told me. That was cold… It’s that balance of being a professional and having to tell the story when you’re in a situation that you can’t get out of. Absolutely feeling every single emotion the character would go through and knowing Gabrielle would fight to get out of it. But I couldn’t because it wouldn’t benefit the plot. That was just absolute cruelty and having to endure it was pretty profound… I don’t know where [the Hope discussion] came from actually. They wanted to address in some way how Gabrielle felt about her own daughter after all the episodes we’d done with Xena’s daughter. I think that’s why they brought up Hope again. We wanted to show Xena learning how much this hurt Gabrielle. It came about because of the fan comments, I believe. Their questions about not having Hope mentioned at all throughout the Eve storyline… It was a beautiful scene, wasn’t it? We were quite cold and that just breaks you down to be completely present in the scene. Under those circumstances, you either fight against the physical difficulties and you can’t concentrate because your body’s shaking or you are completely thrown into it and believe every moment quite easily. I think that was one of those moments where it was quite comforting for Lucy and I to be next to each other… It was so sweet, very sweet actually. What I loved about that’s scene is that it shows the love between the characters.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #14)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “We ad libbed [some of the cave scene], because it was written a certain way and it was too [many] words for the environment and the time… Yeah, we workshopped it quickly before and cameras [were rolling], and then you just go and be real in that situation. And I did see that in looping, and I never tear up about things, but that was really sad.” (The 2001 Pasadena Xena Convention).
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “You can’t do anything [in situations like these]. You just kind of sit there as they’re bathing you in mud. And then they tie your feet together, and then they tie your hands together. So then you feel like an animal. And then they take your mouth and they open it and they stick this thing in it. I’ve never felt so violated… It really threw me. And it’s funny, cause I think I was supposed to act like I’m trying to struggle or something, but I couldn’t do it, because if I started to really struggle, I would have been out of there. So all I could do, I felt so shut down, I just sat there and kind of stared. But it was the only time I ever felt like a victim before and it was really weird… It was just one of those things. You never know when that’s going to happen to you.” (The 2003 Pasadena Xena Convention).
William Gregory Lee (Actor, Virgil): “[This] was my last episode of the show and I had no clue it was going to be my last. What had actually happened was… there was a possibility that I was going to come back and do more, but I had finished up [this episode], had auditioned for something else – another series – and wound up getting the other series. And it started almost immediately. So I couldn’t go back and do Xena again because I was locked under contract for this other series. And it made me sad because I never got a chance to go back and say goodbye… Here I thought, ‘I’ll be back here in about a month.’ And it never happened. They tried, they checked my availability two or three different times and it just never could work out because I was up in Vancouver filming sometimes six to eight weeks straight, and I could not get back over to New Zealand. And it really bummed me out, because I would have liked to tie up all the loose ends with Virgil, put some sort of ending to the character…” (Best Buy Exclusive – Season Six DVD Set)
Come back next Thursday for more Xena! And tune in tomorrow for another Pre-Code Film Friday!