SciFi Universe Magazine

September 1997

Women To Watch - Renee O'Connor


That inexplicable something. That certain quality that causes you to put down what you're doing and watch Xena for the first time. It's a specific sparkle that breathes life into the lines on a page, and suddenly you're glued to Deep Space Nine. Or maybe it's the grace that turns a kick in Mortal Kombat into something akin to a ballet. One more little girl leaves the movie theater blissfully ignorant of a time when women weren't afforded such roles of power. Now she wants to be a Soldier of Fortune or a Power Ranger. Because of a certain something she saw on screen.
Keep your eye on these five up-and-coming genre actresses. Whatever that ineffable quality of stardom is, they've got it in spades.

1. Renee O'Connor. Speculation abounds about the relationship between Xena: Warrior Princess and her plucky sidekick Gabrielle, played by Renee O'Connor. Fans write lengthy essays about the lesbian subtext, and O'Connor has developed an omnisexual following. The fresh, young actress has shown a remarkable comic timing coupled with the ability to carry off dramatic stories as well. Maybe the next incarnation for the spin-off-happy franchise will be Gabrielle: The Legendary Journeys!


Renee O'Connor  - ACTRESS. "How can you have a show about two strong woman with practically an all male executive group and have the women be so intelligent?" asks Renee O'Conner, who plays Gabrielle on the fantasy television series Xena: Warrior Princess. "I have a lot of respect for the men in our show, and it's very capable for us!" She laughs, "Oh, I'm sure there's the 'babe factor' there, but yet, they're intelligent women. They actually protect the heroes!"

O'Connor believes that as women take more active roles in the real world, the television audience demands stronger women on-screen. "There have to be plot lines and multidimensional characters to satisfy the public."

But, ultimately, television is about entertainment, and O'Connor loves creating something in which viewers can immerse themselves and suspend disbelief. "They can have a good time—laugh, cry, cheer along. That's the key to me. I'm always astounded by the sense of trying to create an illusion that's not really there. That's probably why I have an attraction to getting behind the camera.

"People are wondering if I might direct a Xena," she continues modestly, "but I don't feel qualified. I need to develop my skills first. I want to make sure that I have the respect of the crew."

In addition to playing the plucky and adventurous Gabrielle on TV, O'Connor leads a pretty adventurous life offscreen as well. "My mom and I spent six weeks in Africa," says O'Conner. "We went to Egypt and cruised down the Nile. We also went to Kenya and Tanzania. I loved Egypt! I really want to go back. There is so much there, so much history. I want to do the whole thing over again!

Lately, Renee has picked up a lot of physical hobbies, including indoor rock climbing
and boxing. While most boxers are there for the tension release, she says her motivation is different. "I learn to use my hand-eye coordination so I don't hurt anyone on set. That's the draw for me."

The active actress's life isn't always non-stop, though. Sometimes all she wants to do is curl up with a good book while her cat suns herself. She has two cats in Los Angeles being cat-sat by a friend until her return and one with her in New Zealand. O'Conner's mother found the cat during her sight-seeing in New Zealand and promptly named it Kia Ora, which is the Mauri word for welcome or good health. "The neighbors think I'm crazy," she laughs, "because I'll go outside yelling, 'Kia Ora! Kia Ora!'"

Laughter comes easily to O'Conner, especially when she shares some of her less successful attempts at the culinary arts. Being the daughter of successful restaurateurs, cooking skills are almost a requirement.

"I've got a picture of a chicken I tried to smoke out here in New Zealand. It ended up being half the size and burnt to a crisp. It was hilarious! I have to confess that I'm not following in the footsteps of the family very well."

When she can find the time, the co-star of the mythical Xena enjoys traveling the equally mythical world of the Internet. "I browse quite a bit." O'Conner says that she finds the whole thing fascinating, especially the fan fiction she's come across. "I've seen some wonderfully creative work. I like to browse the chat rooms the most and see what they are saying. It's an incredible device because you can be anonymous and get fan input." Sometimes she'll find out that fans love certain aspects of the character that she was considering dropping. "That is probably the closest to live theater that you can get! That instant response."

—Desiree Gonzalez

Return to the AUSXIP XenaMedia Archive
AUSXIP - Australian Xena Information Page
AUSXIP Renee O'Connor FilesAUSXIP Lucy Lawless Files