New Weekly Magazine
(Australia)

June 1, 1998

Leaner And Meaner on Xena

Since wowing fans with her athletic physique, Rene O'Connor's even
giving TV's Xena a run for her money

 

thm_newweekly.jpg (34983 bytes)It’s not surprising to find out those spectacular fight scenes where Xena and Gabrielle kick and wrestle the living daylights out of the baddies on TV’s Xena: Warrior rincess aren’t actually for real.

But sometimes even just pretending to combat the strong forces of evil for hours on end is more strenuous than a true battle.

That’s why Rene O’Connor, 27, who plays Xena’s diminutive but faithful sidekick, Gabrielle, exercises six days a week.

"It’s difficult with a 12-hour day to find the time to workout," says Texas native Rene. "Four times a week I do a cardio workout - either half an hour of running or a two-hour walk or hour-long high-impact aerobics."

She’s also recently started boxing and martial arts so that even though she has stunt doubles, she can do more and more of her own action sequences.

"And then a couple of nights I go to an indoor rock-climbing gym, which is exciting because you feel like you’ve accomplished something and you’ve overcome your fear of heights, which is true for me." Gabrielle, afraid of heights? Never! Does Xena know?

Actually, Rene admits that if it weren’t for her dose relationship Lucy Lawless, she wouldn’t still be fighting alongside Xena on the small screen.

"You can’t work with someone 12 hours a day if you don’t get along and actually appreciate a person - it’s like a marriage," says Rene.

"We know each other so well - sometimes we’re quiet, other days we gossip like schoolgirls, but we both know what kind of day each day’s going to be.

"I’ve actually learnt a lot through Lucy - I’ve never worked with a woman before who’s so strong, so beautiful as a person."

But they don’t go as far as exercising together. That’s something Rene does with her boyfriend, who she’ll only describe as "a wonderful man in New Zealand".

"My boyfriend actually enjoys rollerblading, going to the gym and rock climbing, so we’ve been doing a lot of it together," she says.

The rock climbing is quite a challenge for 163cm Renee, who’s also the shortest person on the set. The crew have even nicknamed Rene and Lucy "Ren and Stimpy".

"It’s actually harder for me because 1 have a problem reaching everything because I’m vertically challenged," she quips. At 54 kilos, though, Rene’s physique is more strong and healthy than willowy and waif-like.

"I know my body shape isn’t the same as a lot of actresses on television who are very thin and model-like, but I’m grateful that I’m playing a character who’s athletic. It’s great running around with a warrior princess," she says.

"For breakfast I usually have muesli with skim milk and fruit. Then it’s chicken and steamed spinach and other vegetables for lunch for Lucy and me."

But on weekends, Renes plurges a little on the sugar when she goes out for dinner with her boyfriend.

"Desserts are great here in New Zealand," she says. "They use full creams, so everything’s rich."

Another weekend treat is a glass or two of wine. "The New Zealand wines are absolutely beautiful, but I don’t usually drink during the week," she says. "I’d be out in five minutes if I did."

But in reality it would take more than a tipple to topple Rene, who admits she really gets into the fight scenes now.

"I love it," she says, obviously surprised that she ever could. "Even though I’m nervous, I still love the adrenaline rush of fighting. Especially being a woman and being short and small. I love the fact you can be tough and staunch and men go flipping across the room!"


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