By SHERYL-LEE KERR
Sheryl-Lee Kerr talks to Greg Lee exclusively for
The Australian Xena Information Page
GREG Lee virtually has one foot out the door to head down to New Zealand for the second time in five weeks to play the leather-clad, hunky poet, Virgil on Xena.
Theres packing, chaos and heavy-duty shooting schedules all but a day away -- not that youd ever guess it to talk to him. The 27-year-old, who drawls in an American accent more laidback than a recliner chair, is relaxed and laughing constantly.
Hes looking forward to the experience ... even if he is playing the future son of the shows eternal clutzy underdog, Joxer. Thats gotta hurt...
Greg chuckles at the idea. "They make reference to that," he says. "Joxer actually introduces me to Xena and Gabrielle as thats our son. He grabs me by the cheek, pinches and says apple didnt fall far from the tree.
"Theyre like ... ahh... yes it did!"
Virgil does seem to have had a genetic boost from his mother, Megs, side of the family -- her fashion sense, for one (his blue vest is easier on the eye than his dads mashed hubcap chestgear and standard Chinese roofing hat). Virgil does not wear the "leather g-string" that Greg jokes he does - much to the disappointment of some of his fans who are running out of superlatives to describe his clean-cut, all-American-boy looks.
Unlike Joxer, Virgil is also a poet, which delights Gabrielle. And then theres his occasional swordwork...
"I would say that Virgil is a better fighter (than Joxer)," Greg confirms. "Whether hell wind up being a fighter, I dont know."
The actor did have a "very very small martial arts background" before taking the role. But he explains what helped most was "watching Lucy and Renee".
"They have been doing this for so long," he marvels. "Ive never actually done any action at all.
"Going over there with stunt coordinators, getting stunts down, it was definitely a change. They taught me how to use the sword in a proper way in a battle. Theyre just incredible."
Greg was most taken aback, in a good way, by meeting Lucy Lawless the first time.
"Lucy by far is THE most fun and I dont even gave words to describe her," he says. "Shes so great. Beautiful, beautiful. Shes like WOW! She truly has the physical appearance of a star. Shes friendly; makes you very comfortable on set.
"Renee (OConnor - Gabrielle) seems almost, at first ... shy," he says incredulously. "Almost ... compared to Lucy ... they seem like opposites. At first.
"But then she was like, if you have any questions just ask me.
"Ted Raimi (Joxer) -- he kept me in stitches. The whole entire time he is so funny, I cant even think of the specifics."
So, did Ted Raimi tell him that Virgils dad, Joxer, wasnt exactly welcomed wholeheartedly into the Xenaverse by some fans when he first arrived?
"What?" Greg asks in surprise. "No. No. He told me so many different things..."
What about the early Internet campaign to rid Joxer from Xena and the "Kill Joxer" sites? Did he hear about that?
Greg seems stunned.
"Really?" he asks a little worriedly, as if wondering whether the son of Joxer may be in for some vitriol, too. When assured he almost certainly wouldnt be, and that even the most ardent anti-Joxerites have been less full-on in their cause in recent years, he relaxes and jokes about travelling with his sword at the ready. Then he moves on to enthuse more about Ted Raimi and on-set antics.
"His comedic timing is brilliant -- they let him do a lot of ad-libbing. Youre laughing so hard before a take you cant stop. He is a handful.
"When I first got there I was shocked -- to see how close they are and how much fun they had. I am like is that allowed?! Wow.
"They really open up their arms and let me into their family. It was the most wonderful experience."
Greg wasnt sure exactly what he would find in New Zealand when he won the role.
His knowledge about the show was minimal, gleaning only information about its stars from the usual media stories.
"I didnt really have much of a knowledge of Xena beforehand. I knew about Lucy -- you just read a lot as an actor and know everything about these shows. As far as characters and storylines, no."
Then there was everyone elses responses on hearing what he was about to do...
"At first when everyone finds out youre going to shoot Xena, everyone goes WOW," Greg says.
"Im like, why wow? Is that a good wow or a bad wow?," he says, adopting the wary tone he used on his friends.
He found out soon enough for himself.
"Hey, its got sword fighting, got a seriousness about it but its lighthearted as well.
I think its wonderful. It has probably more an older fan base than I realised."
He mentions also hearing about the shows subtext, with Ted Raimi most memorable for his jokes about it. "They would joke about that from the very beginning -- one thing you hear from here, anywhere (to do) with the show -- you hear (about) that following. They joke about it. I think they get a real kick about it. I didnt really see any (subtext) but maybe I just had my eyes closed!"
But apart from the Xena episodes he caught while in NZ, he still hasnt managed to see much of the show, and hell miss his debut episode (Livia) in the US while hes away again.
"Ive only been back from New Zealand for five weeks and two weeks of those I was out of town," he explains. "Then Im back to Xena. I leave tomorrow to film two more (episodes)."
Theres some conjecture about what those new episodes contain. Rumors have abounded about a possible romance between Virgil and Xenas daughter, Livia, played by Gregs off-screen pal Adrienne Wilkinson. Ask him about it and Greg takes a long pause.
"Im not sure where theyre going with it," he says uncertainly. "Im not positive.
"She kills my father so Im not sure quite how hed go with that."
Waitacottonpickinminute... Joxer is killed by Livia?
Well, that would, indeed, make a tough icebreaker on that first date...
Greg laughs at the idea of, as he puts it, his character suddenly "being lovey dovey, oh I forgive you," towards Livia.
But he points out that he is not sure where his character or Livias is going and says anything is possible.
Acting was something Greg always wanted to do. He was born William Greg Lee -- the name "William G. Lee" he has had to adopt for screen credits due to another Greg Lee being in the business. "Before you know it, you have people starting to call you William."
Of his family, he says: "Ive got 8000 halves and steps. I come from a very divorced family!" He becomes serious and explains: "I have myself, an older sister, a half brother and four step sisters. But growing up there was just my sister."
He is the only actor in his family: "I am the oddball," he jokes. "But my sister loves movies and television."
Acting was "definitely" not his parents idea, he says. "Its something I always wanted to do. Actually telling your family, its like you have a secret...
"The thing I had was: my parents supported me. When I told them I wanted to move to New York, they almost packed my bags for me," he laughed. "They told me to go for it and dont look back. I cherish that support.
To date, his roles have included being in the 1998 series Wind in Water - where he could boast having Bo Derek as his mother ("she is so cool"). Hes been in TVs Kiss so Deadly, Brutally Normal, Mouth of Warm Roses, Clueless, Rude Awakening, Beverley Hills 90210, The Guiding Light and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.
A more exhaustive background search turns up that he also played a (straight) guy in a short gay film called Anything Once, but he laughs a little awkwardly when its mentioned. "Ill probably have to say this for my entire career: I have never done any porn," Greg jokes.
"Its a long story..." he adds, pausing. "Its a 20-minute thing. Probably still going around gay festivals."
When hes not working, Greg relaxes by reading and watching movies. He explains hes not on the Internet and doesnt even have an email address, because his girlfriend works with computers all day and likes to unwind without them at home.
When asked to contemplate his dreams and hopes he becomes thoughtful.
"Ideally I think I would love to star in the next Star Wars movie," he grins.
"I think eventually one day... sounds like a really weird answer... I think just be happy and, if Im just working all the time.
"I used to have so many dreams about what I wanted to do. You start out full speed ahead and hit brick wall after brick wall. Then you slow down.
"But Ive been very fortunate here than some people," he concedes.
"I hope that one day I will be able to take on features. I love dramas - Braveheartish sort of things. (Settings) almost similar to Xena but people like Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford.
"I am definitely a kid at heart. How lucky am I to be able to dress up in leather and run around with a sword?!"
So then, how would Greg Lee like to be remembered?
He replies adamantly: "As somebody who gave it his all -- who wouldnt quit.
"I think I definitely got that from my parents. Quitting has never been an option."
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