Many thanks to Shari for the transcript

LA Times Newspaper
15 January 2000

The Mother of All Warrior Princesses

As syndicated 'Xena' marks 100th show, the series is draped in big concepts and motherhood.

By LAURA ACCINELLI, Special To The Times

     AUCKLAND, New Zealand—As usual for the offbeat "sisterhood is powerful" show that overlays Greek mythology with a modern sensibility and computer-graphic imaging, the babes in bustiers are back busting heads. Expect an authentic "Xena: Warrior Princess" opener today when syndicated TV's highest rated first-run drama airs its 100th episode at 3 p.m. on KTLA.
     Weapons are drawn, Xena hurls her emblematic chakram, bodies flip and corkscrew cartoonishly through the air. Xena and best girlfriend Gabrielle have stumbled upon a squabble, this time in the North African desert. Yet, after the swordplay, Xena chastises her sister-in-arms: "You've become too violent," she warns. Gabrielle protests, reminding her that in days of old she had to haul Xena off anyone who so much as squinted at her.
     Something's amiss even in the ever-kooky Xena-verse conceived by Renaissance Pictures and brought to you by Studios USA. The sands of time seem to be shifting. The snarling, leather-clad, warbling warrior Xena was first introduced in 1995 as an unconscionable killer on "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys."
     Even after her conversion into a justice fighter for a "Xena" spinoff, the heroine still struggled with her dark side. For four TV seasons she belonged to the ancient world, despite scriptwriters' formulaic predilection for irreverently blending historical eras.
     Lately, though, she's been acting kinder, gentler, very AD. Why, she's even wearing that more forgiving fabric, Lycra, and a coat trimmed in sheared lamb over her Iron Age, never-say-die breastplate.
     "I guess," Xena explains to Gabrielle, "I'm starting to think like a mother."
     All this fifth season the fearsome, fearless woman warrior has battled the misanthropes of mythology along with the myths of motherhood--and morning sickness. As Xena's belly has swelled, so too has the stomach of the series' star, Lucy Lawless.
     Also growing ever more grandiose on "Xena" are moral dilemmas and archetypal portrayals. Recent episodes have been set more often in Christian hell than ancient Greece, with plot lines plundering more from Dante, John Milton and the New Testament than Homer, Edith Hamilton and Carl Jung. Xena and Gabrielle are championing a prophet named Eli, who sounds a lot like John the Baptist. God of war Ares is worried about his future and berates Xena that "the decisions you make don't affect just you anymore, Mom. They affect your child."
     "We are going into larger, conceptual, almost theological issues as backdrops for our characters," said co-executive producer Eric Gruendemann. "Successful shows have to grow and evolve and mature and you need to do something different. The fabric of our show is anything goes and the best dramas in history are within political or religious arenas."
     Soon, before the end of this TV season, the first pregnant superhero in television history will give birth, as Lawless herself did in October. Husband Rob Tapert, one of the creators and executive producers of "Xena" and "Hercules," is the boy's dad.
     The father of Xena's child, however, remains a mystery. Not even Xena knows, insisting that she's long dwelt in a "love-free zone." A woman who has never needed men in a man's world, Xena learns Saturday who impregnated her and why--all will be revealed in the 100th episode, "Seeds of Faith."
     "It is the adventure of heaven and hell where this baby comes from," hinted "Xena" executive producer and head writer R.J. Stewart. The 100th episode is "pivotal," he said, but certainly not "a cross-over."
     That distinction will belong to the baby's birth, airing Feb. 5 in Los Angeles and guest-starring Kevin Sorbo as Hercules. Who the baby is "will be very, very important, triggering cataclysmic change not only for Xena, but also for the entire world," Stewart said.
     Lawless is more down-to-earth. Her own pregnancy was an extenuating circumstance that "Xena" producers embraced for story lines. "Let's face it," Lawless said in August on the series set in New Zealand, "14-year-old boys don't want to hear about pregnancy, and I don't deny it detracts from the 'eye-candy factor.'
     "But at a certain point, I can't hide it anymore," she said. " 'Xena' is an action series and you can't shoot action with tight shots. It's about movement and choreography."

     Xena, Gabrielle Get Make-Overs
     The costumes department went to work, giving both Xena and sidekick Gabrielle make-overs. But Lawless' first maternity outfit of leather didn't expand with her stomach. Verboten on "Xena" are modern fabrics--along with glass and mirrors, if not contemporary dialogue and story anachronisms--but eventually the benefits of spandex beat out production integrity.
     "I've never been comfortable before. And no more iron underpants. The baby has been the greatest gimmick to get out of all the harness work," said Lawless, who normally performs her own flips. "I'm even warm. Usually I'm wearing just a corset and now I get a coat. It's been the cruisiest winter."
     It hasn't been the cruisiest winter for everyone, though. Hudson Leick is cuddling a hot-water bottle between takes as the winter sky showered the hills outside Auckland. Leick plays recurring character Callisto, Xena's longtime nemesis, recently redeemed by an act of forgiveness.
     "You saved me from an eternity in hell and for that I owe you my soul," Callisto, now an archangel, tells Xena. "I've been purified by the waters of heaven."
     Director Garth Maxwell stopped the action: "Keep the camera off the grass," he called. The Greens Department repositioned several potted cacti on swaths of sand, dressing the lush pastureland into a North African military camp.
     "The 100th episode," Maxwell explained, "is a meaty, quite trippy, psychological story about the clash of two mythologies, with the pagan gods fighting for survival against, presumably, the Christian era."
     The saga of monotheism versus polytheism, peace versus war, love over might will crescendo no doubt to the birth of Xena's miraculously conceived baby. Yet the show carries no message, Lawless insisted: It's entertainment and fun.
     "We may deal with big issues, but we want to make you feel something, not make you think, not change your mind," she said. "I realized some time ago that we have to deliver on our mandate, which is humor and action and stories with heart. Contrary to public opinion, we are not a vehicle for social change."

     * "Xena: Warrior Princess" can be seen today at 3 p.m. on KTLA-TV. The network has rated it TV-PG-V (may be unsuitable for young children with special advisories for violence).

Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times