According to Alexandra Tydings, playing Aphrodite, the goddess of love, in
Hercules and Xena really is as fun as it looks. John Peel sought her inner beauty.
It's not difficult to see why Universal Television cast actress Alexandra Tydings as the goddess of love, Aphrodite, on their Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess shows. Alexandra is at her first ever convention - a small one by American standards at 300 or so people - and in keeping with her role she has the whole audience loving her. She commands attention, and a great deal of happy laughter.
Her roles have ranged from playing Woody Harrelson's wife in the movie Sunchaser to guest spots on shows such as Party of Five, but it is as the goddess of love she is best known. And, oddly enough, as Catherine the pig-turned-woman in an episode of Hercules. What's it like to play a pig?
She laughs. "It's so much fun. They had me wallowing in mud! I called someone in the production office - I think it was Liz Friedman - to see if I could get some dailies, because there was an episode just before it where Hercules is a pig, and I wanted to see what kind of pigs they had, and what their mannerisms were, and stuff like that. But they were shooting it right before my episode, so by the time they shot it, developed it and flew it back, I was already on the plane out there (to New Zealand). So I just had to do it all in my imagination."
"That mud scene was so hysterical and so fun. It was like a bathtub full of mud, basically, in the ground. I really had to get it right the first time, otherwise it was going to be such a disaster with the wig and the costume and everything. And it was kind of neat. It felt cool, and shortly after that I went to a hot springs and took a mud bath! People pay to do this, and I go to do it for free!"
It is quite clear that acting is what Alexandra loves more than anything in the world. Even just talking about it lights up her face, and she becomes very animated. "I wanted to be an actress ever since I knew what an actress was. But I wanted to be President, and a veterinarian, and all kinds of other things too. I performed a lot as a child. I was a dancer, if you can believe it. This was before I really have memories, but my mother told me that I went to Wolftrap, which is an amphitheater outside of Washington DC and saw some Irish dancers when I was little, little, little. And I became obsessed! 'I want to do that!' So, finally, she took me to lessons. It was like other kids started violin; I started Irish dancing."
"I got into Brown (an Ivy League college in Providence, Rhode Island) because it seemed like the place where I could do the most amount of things that I liked to do. So I could figure out whether I wanted to be a veterinarian, or President, or an actress or whatever. I thought also I might want to be a filmmaker, so I ended up majoring in Modern Culture in Media, which is where the film department was. And that's how I started acting again, because we would put each other in our films, because it was fun and easy, and we were always available. And that's how I started to love acting again."
One of the earliest roles she went up for was that of Aphrodite. "I had never seen Hercules before," she admits. "At the time, I had an agent and a manager. Managers are more in charge of sculpting your career, whereas agents are more interested in getting you a part and doing the deal. So my agent called and said, 'You have this audition for Hercules.' And my manager called and said, 'I don't think you should take it.'"
"Because I had just done this Woody Harrelson movie, and that was my first feature, and I was still really young. I had only been in Hollywood about two years. So she really wanted me to have this feature film career. It had been a huge part when I had gotten it, and the feeling was that I was going to be the next Gwyneth Paltrow. So that was really tempting to listen to. And then my agent called back and said, 'It shoots in New Zealand.' And I decided that I was going to go and do it!"
"So then I went and auditioned, and got the part, which was great. It is so much fun! I love it! The show, and the character... She is so great, and so funny. The wig and the costume...well, they sort of force me to be her. I mean, who the hell else would wear that thing?"
Alexandra has short-cropped blonde hair, and she was hoping at first that the producers would opt for a short-haired Aphrodite - but no such luck!
"The hair is a little heavy, but what's harder is the combs. The first couple of days it's okay, but the fourth or fifth day at five o'clock in the morning, you're still sitting in the make-up chair going, 'Oh, pu-lease, can't you just have her cut her hair?'"
As for wearing that costume..."In the summertime it's fine. But in between takes I like to wear a robe. And in the wintertime, it's harder. If you see a close-up of me, you don't know that I'm wearing sweat pants! And big furry boots underneath! But Aphrodite is so much fun. She's so funny, and so ridiculous. to actually believe that people should have all these temples to 'me', and that's how it should be. And therefore if it's not happening, I'm going to wreak havoc on someone's life! It's just so absurd. To just try and get into the body of a person who believes that is a trip!"
Alexandra had a large role in the Hercules episode Loved Takes A Holiday, in which Aphrodite decides to change her image, much to poor Iolaus' distress. She really enjoyed working with Michael Hurst.
"He's a doll," she declares. "He's such a generous actor, too. He's so thoughtful and perceptive and kind. And he's also just brilliantly smart. He's got a mind that must remember everything he's ever read, because the stuff he quotes off the top of his head, it just blows you away. Shakespeare, Keats, Yeats, Blake...He's very professional and just very skilled. And in that episode, Kevin wasn't there so he got to break out of his usual part and strut and do the action role. Also, I got to have an archery lesson, because I got to shoot those arrows when I was trying to take over Artemis's job. I love that kind of thing. It's my ideal job because it's where I can do the one thing I'm able to do, and do as many things as possible that are different!"
But what about the main star of the show? "Kevin's adorable. He called when I booked The Apple, to congratulate me and welcome me aboard. He was going to be back in L.A. for a few days, and he suggested we get together and have a drink."
"We met in front of my agent's office, and I had never seen the show before, so he said, 'Well, I'm tall and I have long hair.' And my agent is a fan, and she was, like, 'You have to let me see him! You have to tell me when he's here!' So when I walked in, I saw her receptionist, and she's, 'You're meeting Kevin Sorbo!' And I said, 'Yes. He's not here yet?' And she said no. So I went in to see my agent, and then we decided to walk outside. And there's Kevin, sitting on a bench in front of the building. He had been in, but he had his hair in a pony-tail, and he had his glasses on, so she hadn't realized it. She died, you know! But he was so kind, and so welcoming. We were shooting at the beach, and it was just lovely."
Working on Xena is a little different from Hercules. "I haven't really worked with Lucy Lawless that much," Alexandra explains. "In fact, most of the ones I've been in, she's only been in one or two scenes. It's different for me because I haven't done as many Xenas. The first three I did were Hercules, so I felt right at home on that set very quickly. But Lucy and Renee are so funny and so sweet and just really sort of mellow."
And what's in her future? "Well, I know I'm going back to New Zealand this fall," she says. "More Aphrodite! I assume! More Xena, anyway. I would love to do more Catherine, but we turned her back into a pig. I'd love doing more different characters. And I did a pilot for UPN, which we shot in the Caribbean this spring, which was really fun. They're not going to go ahead with the pilot, but they're talking about reworking it, also with me and also in the Caribbean. Which I have no complaints about at all! And a friend of mine has written and is producing an independent film this fall, which I'm slated to be in as soon as their financing gets set."
And how about writing or directing? "Yes!" she says emphatically. "I'm starting my own production company with a friend of mine. We're actually in pre-production for our first short film. My friend Debbie is already working on one of the special effects for it. She's going to be mailing me this decapitated head! When she was here, we had our actor in, and she was doing the prosthetics in my living room. And we'll be shooting that this fall. It's a little, little, tiny short film, just to get our feet wet. And I have a script idea, and I've had it for a year and a half. At school, I had a deadline. So maybe I just need to give myself one!"
from XPOSE July, 1999.
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