Many thanks to Kym Masera Taborn from XMR for the transcript
The Official Magazine Xena Warrior Princess
DÉJÀ VU FOR THE FIRST TIME
RENEE O'CONNOR'S directorial debut was one of Xena's occasional clip shows. Set in the present day, it starred familiar actors in unfamiliar roles - sort of... Here's a brief reminder of the episode, after which O'Connor shares her thoughts on directing Dèjá Vu All Over Again.
DÉJÀ VU FOR THE FIRST TIME
When Annie Day (Lucy Lawless) starts dreaming that she was Xena, television's warrior princess, in a past life, her boyfriend Harry O'Casey (Ted Raimi) decides it's time for her obsession with the show to stop.
The only thing is, there's an unidentified vigilante walking the streets, fighting crime in a Xena costume - and Annie's convinced it's her. Finally, she persuades Harry that the only thing to do is see a past lives counselor to find out if she really is the reincarnated spirit of Xena.
The counselor, Mattie Morgan (Reneé O'Connor), hypnotizes Annie and begins to dig around for clues to her past lives. It isn't long before Annie gets a heck of a shock - in the time of ancient gods, she wasn't Xena... she was Joxer. ("He's the comedy relief," Annie whispers in terror to herself. "He doesn't even really belong...")
Mattie's investigations lead to more startling revelations: she herself is Gabrielle, while the spirit of Xena is now inhabiting the body of Harry But none of them are aware, until it's almost too late, that Xena's age-old foe Ares is still around, and in the most unexpected body...
XENA MAGAZINE: Dèjá Vu All Over Again was a clip show. Was that an easier way to go than to jump in with a full-blown episode?
RENEE O'CONNOR: A clip show is a good place to start. It's easier, but I wouldn't call it easy - especially on this particular episode. We usually film a clip show in five days, but there was only a window of four days to do this one. Little did I know that this was a huge task that probably a more experienced director should have taken on board. Directing was the most terrifying experience I've ever had in my life, and the most exciting. What I enjoyed most was going to each department. I'd go to the art department, the costume department and so on, and watch them create ideas based on what the writer had written on a piece of paper and on my ideas as well. We just created this whole new world. I really enjoyed that whole creative input process and watching everybody brainstorm and work out problems. It was just an incredible experience to direct. Basically, a director has to have a vision, then guide all of these different creative people - who offer input of their own - in one direction.
Did you find yourself becoming more confident as the days went on?
I did. Every day I became more confident in being able to run a set. The first day I was kind of the benevolent dictator trying to run a set and to learn at the same time. That took a lot of patience on my part, as well as on everyone else's part. Then, after that first day, I started to enjoy it a bit more - even though I had the incredible challenge ahead of me, which was being a day behind schedule before we even started.
The adrenaline I would feel from having this mountain of work in front of me really challenged me and charged me enough to take over the ship, to really gun ahead and push everyone to do all they could. One thing that really helped was that I had a family atmosphere around me the whole time, because the cast and crew know me so well. They all probably worked a little harder than usual to help me.
Families tend to tease each other. Were there any jokes at your expense?
Lucy and Ted teased me on the first day. It was quite funny. They pulled the classic stereotypes of being an actor. I would tell them to play a scene in a certain way and they'd say, "Oh, I'm not quite sure that's what my true motivation would be."
By the third day, I was much more comfortable in the shoes of a director, so w hen Ted would honestly have a question about my direction, I would just say, "Ted, trust me on this. Just go with it." So, the tables sort of turned, and I was able to guide everyone. The crew was pretty good the whole time, actually.
Actors-turned-director often complain about the agony of directing themselves. Is it all that bad?
When we just had a draft of the script I had all of these great ideas about how Gabrielle could be completely unneeded as a character in the episode. Rob laughed. He said, "Reneé, you're trying to get out of this, aren't you?"
And I said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." It turns out that I had to be an actor in the episode, that Gabrielle was a pivotal part of the characters [regressing to their past lives].
I actually wasn't afraid of directing myself as an actor, which was probably very stupid on my behalf. I didn't put as much time into the acting aspect of it all as I did into the directing. When we came to [acting] opportunities while I was on camera, I was very hard on myself. I'd give myself one take and then move on. I found it very hard to switch hats. My performance was not great, for sure. It sort of humbled me to realize that I'm not a good enough actor to just wing it on the day we shoot, that I need preparation.
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