The Official Xena Magazine
Issue #2, December 1999


Kate Barker caught up with Renee O'Connor on the set of Animal Attraction, to talk about the latest changes in the show

For Renee O'Connor, Animal Attraction, came as light relief from the beginning of Xena: Warrior Princess season five. Broadly, the episode deals with issues surrounding relationships, both between new characters and the established cast. "The entire cast and crew needed a bit of a mental break," O'Connor explains, "so we decided to have an episode that's all about gossiping and relationships."

Animal Attraction
could best be described as an episode of truths, one significant focus being on O'Connor's Gabrielle as she deals with Joxer (Ted Raimi) and his eventual declaration of love. "Joxer has just told Gabrielle that he's been in love with her for four years, and they have now decided to deal with how this affects their friendship. That's what their storyline is in this episode."

Most followers of Xena will be aware that any episode containing the hapless Joxer will almost certainly involve comedy O'Connor reacts to this statement with an expression of mock horror. "What -- Joxer's funny? Don't tell Ted you said that..."

Yet is it possible to infuse this otherwise dramatic confrornation with enough humour to lighten Joxer's plight? O'Connor says yes -- Raimi is a comedian and will always find a way to make it fun. "Most scenes that involve Ted require a bit of humour. There's a hit of satire in trying to present yourself in a certain way so that the object of your affection finds you attractive. In doing that, you end up making yourself look like an idiot, and that seems to be what's happening to Joxer in this episode. Even though it deals with the very serious issue of being rejected by the one you love, it's done with the comedic edge between Ted and I, and our characters."

The beginning of season five of Xena sees the introduction of new characters, some of them destined to become recurring roles. O'Connor says this is a reflection of how the series is evolving and continuing to keep things interesting. For the first three years, the series focussed primarily on exploring and developing the character of Xena herself. Now, according to O'Connor, the show "requires a bit of an ensemble. Now we're getting into the fifth season and people want to see a change in the show so they'll stay interested. So we're bringing in new characters and creating relationships, to keep the audiencel emotionally attached."

One benefit of this widening ensemble is that the inclusion of additional actors and their scenes allow more opportunity for the established cast-- especially O'Connor and Lucy Lawless -- to get a little more break time during a shoot. "The more characters we have," says O'Connor, look ing almost relieved, "the easier it is schedule-wise for Lucy and I to work." This applies to everyone, she adds quickly. "It's been this wonderful
balance -- working schedules where every one just relaxes. It's created a different energy on set as well. There are more people to play off and more jokes to be told, so we're all enjoying ourselves a little more."

Enjoyment is certainly the key factor in this episode. Animal Attraction is reminiscent of one of O'Connor's favourite episodes, Been There, Done That, where events
continually repeat themselves, with hilarious effects. O'Connor enjoys these earlier episodes because "it was Lucy, Ted and I, having a ball. Nowadays, if the three of us are together, it does seem to revolve around serious issues... or it has in season four."

After an episode like Animal Attraction, however, O'Connor comments knowingly on the possible directions of the upcoming series. "I think," she says definitely, "it's going to start lightening up."

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