Reuters News Wire
October 18, 2000
Warrior Xena to Finish TV Battle Against Evil
By James Gray WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Xena, the Warrior Princess, will soon swing her last sword against the forces of evil, the studio behind the hit television show said on Wednesday.
The show, made in New Zealand for American production house Studios USA and starring Auckland actress Lucy Lawless, will wrap up filming next April, the studio said. The series began as a low-budget fantasy drama in 1995 but mushroomed with the program shown in 115 countries and fan clubs for the leather-clad Xena sprouting on the Internet.
The series was based loosely on ancient mythology, with Xena just as likely to meet up with historical figures such as Julius Caesar or to do battle with Hydra, the multi-headed monster.
Lawless said in a statement issued through the studio that making Xena had been like "capturing lightning in a bottle."
"The show has changed my life in every way. Not only did I meet my husband Rob (producer Rob Tapert), the man of my dreams, I also had the privilege of working with the most gifted and hard-working crew imaginable," she said.
Studios USA said Xena: Warrior Princess was syndicated television's highest rated first-run action hour.
END OF GROUND-BREAKING SERIES
"Xena has been an outstanding performer for us since its September 1995 debut, finishing No.1 among all first-run syndicated dramas for the past four consecutive seasons, and we want to see it go out on top," Studios USA president Steve Rosenberg said.
"The series has been nothing short of ground-breaking in re-defining the female action hero on television and has inspired a host of imitators across the television landscape," he said.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright -- currently deeply involved in peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians -- is a fan of Xena, describing her during a visit to New Zealand in 1998 as "one of my role models."
Lawless's mother, Julie Ryan, said the family had enjoyed her success. "We've had a lot fun out of it," she told Reuters.
She had no idea what her daughter, a former Mrs. New Zealand (eds correct) would do next.
"That's another exciting adventure for Xena," she said.
Ryan said acting did not run in the family. "I had two great uncles who were on the vaudeville, but that's as close as it got," she said.
Ryan put her daughter's forthright nature down to being the first girl after four boys in a family of seven.
FROM TV SHOW TO INTERNET PHENOMENON
Following in the footsteps of other TV-inspired movements such as that based on science fiction program Star Trek, Xena is much more than a television show. It is also a phenomenon on the Internet with fans setting up dozens of fan club sites and chat rooms.
A group of fans has set up a charity movement based on the program after attending a Xena convention, New York City Xenafest, in 1997.
Sword and Staff (www.sword-and-staff.com) has raised thousands of dollars for charitable causes promoted by Lawless, such as an Auckland children's hospital.
"Many of us have formed friendships based on a mutual devotion to the characters of Xena and (sidekick) Gabrielle," according to the Sword and Staff Web site.
"We recognize the appeal of characters who fight for the greater good, the righteous and the week."
"Our primary role is to help others by channeling our Xena-inspired obsessiveness to charities and causes that need our talents."
Another Web site, Whoosh (www.whoosh.org), is billed as the journal of the International Association of Xena Studies.
It includes papers such as "The Mythic Triad: An examination of the Xena/Gabrielle/Joxer Dynamic" and "Views of Creation Entertainment."
New Zealand Xena fan Syliva Ovenall said she was first attracted by the strong lead roles given to women in the show but the Internet-based fan movement has overtaken the program for her.
"It was two strong women and it just made a nice change to watch them," Ovenall told Reuters.
"The story lines were excellent but I have to admit they've gone off a bit."
She has attended some of the Xena conventions in the United States.
"They're really good fun. Most people go to meet everybody and have a really good party time."