For The Love of Aphrodite:
Alexandra Tydings at the Slanted Fedora Con,
East Rutherford, New Jersey,
07 January 2001
by Hartriono B. Sastrowardoyo
Warning: Does contain Season 6 spoilers
I was here for the Irish dance championship back when I was 11 and I won. So, it's nice to be back here!
Does my expectation of what an actress is match the reality?
I never dreamed I would be here doing this. Not in a million years. It never matches your dreams. I expected by this age I'd have an Oscar, a baby, and a private plane. But that could still happen. It's very different. I mean, did you ever expect when you were a kid that being a grown-up would be the way it is now? It's not. And some things were different, not quite as cool as you'd thought it would be, and others were amazing. When I was kid, being an actress meant dreaming of stardom and fame and all this fabulous premieres and stuff, and what I found is that what's meant the most to me is the relationships I've made - the friends I've met along the way, and the opportunity to travel. And then there's the creative work itself, which is what it is. It's so gratifying.
What person made me say all that 'valley girl' stuff? That wasn't my idea. That was the writers. That was the very first script I ever got, when I went for my first audition. I went and picked up the script, and was walking down the hall, and some producer walked by and asked, "Oh, is that for Aphrodite? Have fun with it. She's a great character." I replied, "Oh, okay." That was for Hercules, and I expected it to be straight action, run of the mill action drama for an hour-long syndicated show, and I started reading it. I was like, "I'm really confused." Because it really was kind of funny, and kind of weird, and I called up my agent and asked, "Is this a half-hour sitcom, or something? Aphrodite is in this clam, windsurfs to shore, steps out and my first line is 'tubular'?!" And they're like, "Yeah, well, you know, just go with it, follow your instincts and they'll figure it out," and I did. It was a ball. And it's been a ball ever since. But yeah, that was not my idea, all the valley stuff. And since then it's become my character. But I get to put in my own little thing. If I hear some kid say something funny that I like, I'll try it. So I don't have to say 'awesome' 700 times every episode.
What was my first episode like?
Coming out of that clamshell was pretty much a trip. They actually put me in the water, and I'm crammed in there. There's a little crack in there, where the water is washing in and washing out, and I'm trying to not drown, and trying to keep my wig out of the water, and keep the pink fluffy things out of the water. They have a camera in front of the clam, and they have these guys behind it with ropes to lift up the shell. And we go, "Roll action ." And I'm sitting in there, and there's nothing happening. And I'm like, "Come on guys, let's open the clam." And they can't get the thing open. I thought, "I'm going to be one of those legends, the actress who floated out to sea and you never saw her again. Maybe I'll become a mermaid or something." That was pretty funny.
What was the audition like?
Well, I had done a TV show that I don't want to talk about. I had done another Universal action show. I did a guest spot. The show was fine, I was terrible, and that's why I don't want to talk about it. So I had already worked for Universal before, and the casting director brought me straight to the producers. I had never seen the show before, I just got the script, and I was due in that morning. My mother asked, "What are you going to wear?" and it said something like 'scantily clad outfit,' so I wore the shortest miniskirt and tight little midriff top which covers my tattoo. I get there - and I try not to look around at auditions because sometimes you can psych yourself out - but I can't help noticing that there's a room full of girls all wearing leather. And I was like, "Obviously, I'm missing something." But I tried not to think about that. The casting director came out, I was going to be next, and she said, "I just want to let you know, Aphrodite's not a bimbo. She's not stupid. A lot of girls have been playing her stupid and she's not." It was weird because that episode was "The Apple," and I had read the script, and she manipulates everybody in the script. She creates havoc because her ulterior motive is that she wants more temples. That might be stupid, but that's not the stupid they're talking about. She's manipulative, she creating wars pitting kingdoms against kingdoms, and how can a stupid person pull that off? Sometimes she plays stupid, there are moments where she acts like a dumb blonde, but she's just manipulating people. So I thought that was interesting. I went in and did the audition, and that afternoon I got the call, I got the job. It's so nice when you get it in one try.
How much of Aphrodite is me?
Well, I think my job as an actress - among other things - is to bring as much of myself as possible into this role. So even if I'm playing an ax murderer, you're seeing how close I could possibly get be to being an ax murderer. That's my job. That's why actors are so crazy. And also so sane. Sometimes it's like therapy. It's a way to get to know ourselves. So in some ways, Aphrodite is me. It's me on screen with a bad wig. I am joyful and loving and playful. And I think that's pretty much where it stops. Aphrodite is crazy, ridiculous, out there, bizarre, a little shallow, manipulative (which I try not to be), and really full of herself.
I also think my job as an actress is to do whatever the director tells me to, within reason. I'm an employee. At the same time, the director's job or at least, a really good piece of advice I would give to directors is "Any time an actor wants to do anything, say yes." Because, basically, it's a creative process. We have to be like children, and feel totally safe and supported, and if you say 'yes,' and just let us try it, we'll be more willing to do what you ask us to. If you have two totally different ideas, just say yes, let them do it, and say, "That was great, that was perfect, that was fabulous. I just want to try one other thing. Can we do this?"
Am I self-conscious in that outfit?
Yes. It's always pretty funny when I come to a convention and people go (staring at her chest), "You're smaller. No offense, but you look a lot bigger on TV." And I go, "Yeah, that's the miracle of a Wonderbra." You get on a flight at like, 10 o'clock at night, you fly overnight for 14 hours, and you arrive at like 6 in the morning. You have a couple of hours to get to the hotel, unpack, take a shower, have a cup of coffee, and they bring you straight into wardrobe. And you're dazed and confused, they have these Kiwi accents, every word is different, and then they bring you this little thing to try on. And you try it on, and ask, "Are you okay with that? Cool. We'll see you tomorrow." You get to the set the next day and they bring in your costume, and you go, "Where's the rest of it?" "This is what you tried on yesterday." "I did? This is okay?!"
It's funny because of course, it's freezing in the wintertime and in the summer it's hot, so when you're off screen, you're not right in the middle of shooting, you're wearing a robe. You're wearing four robes if it's wintertime and you're wearing one in summer. The sun is beating down on you and you're sweating, everyone else is wearing tank tops and I'm wearing this ugly robe. "Is it sweating or embarrassment? Is it sweating or embarrassment? Which one do I want to deal with?" But it's like being at the beach - except that everyone else gets to wear more clothes. But it's okay. It's a beautiful job, it's a great place to go to work every day.
Are there any differences between Hercules and Xena?
I started on Hercules; I guess I did three episodes before I went on to Xena. It was a little bit like going from junior high school to high school. It's sort of the same people, and sort of the same costumes, and sort of the same scripts, but just a bit different. On Hercules, it's so charming, and so fabulous, and so friendly, everybody's flirting all the time, and we're being silly and ridiculous, and it's really cool. The Xena set is really different, not in a bad way, but in a really interesting way. There was one Xena episode where the New Zealand producer, director, first A.D., the head of nearly every department were all women. And I've never worked with a female director before, in seven years of acting professionally. So that was pretty amazing. Here you had all these women in positions of power, it's just a different vibe. But you don't have Kevin Sorbo putting his arm around you and asking, "How's it hanging?"
What was it like working with all those hot men, and who was my favorite?
Hmmmm . That's a good question. They're all so yummy; it's hard to choose! I'm pretty fickle, I like whom I'm working with at the time. But since Kevin Smith was the last one, I'll say he's just so yummy, he's so cool. He's married, by the way. He's got like a million little baby kids. But he's so funny and he's so pretty. He looks like a soap opera star; he's just so beautiful. But he opens his mouth and he's got the heaviest, niftiest Kiwi accent. He's such a bloke and he's such a beer drinker - a rugby player, dad kind of guy, which I love. Pretty boys make me crazy. So he's fun. We have this ongoing thing where he's educating me in Kiwi lingo. Everywhere we go I bring my pad. We're sitting in the makeup trailer together, getting our makeup put on, and I'm writing down stuff. "Whoa, what did you do last night? You went for a what? A 'roada'?" "That's one for the road." I write that down. "And then what did you do?" "Well then we went out of the bar and had a nosey around a couple of other places." "A 'nosey'?" "Yeah, that's a look around a couple of other places. And then we had two quiet ones." "'Quiet ones'?" "Yeah, that's a couple of drinks." "Oh, so that's kind of like being mellow." "No, that's not mellow at all. We just call it 'quiet ones.'" So Kevin's lovely, and cool.
Am I gonna be back in future episodes?
You better believe it, baby! You can't kill love! I just did two episodes at the end of last year and I'm about to go back next month to do another one, which I heard is a musical. I heard I have two numbers, so I'm trying to get in shape - starting to sing again, starting to dance again. I'm really excited about it. I don't know anything about the story, or the music. I heard it might be a disco? I'm hoping it might be something like Olivia Newton John's "Xanadu," because I would love to do that. But that's my fantasy. I don't know what they're going to do.
You know how it goes. I can't tell you about the upcoming stories, because they'd kill me! But I can tell you it was really fun. One of them had lots of "old-timers," people who had been on forever - me, Kevin Smith, Lucy, Renee, and Michael Hurst - lots of fun. It was like some sort of alumni club, which was great. The other one, Garth Maxwell directed, and Alexis Arquette - the other Arquette brother, he was the Boy George character in "The Wedding Singer," he does a lot of drag queen stuff - and he plays Caligula, the twisted sadomasochistic Roman emperor. And I was really in love with him. It's a great episode. It's my favorite episode ever. It's actually my favorite action one ever. It's great. I get to scream and cry, and kiss Gabrielle. It is. It's decadent and beautiful and we have an amazing experience with it. The director, Alexis, me, and the regular cast just clicked in a really cool way, particularly me, Alexis and Garsh. The three of us would get a drink after work and look at the dailies, and just get all excited together. It was really fun. It was the most creative collaboration that I've been a part of. It was exciting.
What would my dream job be?
It's hard to say because I want to have a lifetime of amazing roles. Some parts I would have loved to have play are Mary Ann from "Sense and Sensibility," Brandon Teena from "Boys Don't Cry." I tend to gravitate towards the small independent stuff, or foreign stuff. And I would love to do some more theater. It's such a different experience. If you get a take that lasts for five minutes, it's a really big deal. Whereas, you do a play, you're on stage for forty-five minutes at a time.
What are my other projects?
There's an audiotape called "Liza Cat" done by Claudia Christian and Pat Tallman. Claudia, Pat and I did a sequel to it, called "Anne Manx and the Ring of Minotaur," which is coming out soon. It's pretty exciting. It's my first journey into science fiction, and my first time working with Claudia. She's fabulous. I also did a movie called "Maid." I have a tiny part in it. Really fun, really cool. I did with Woody Harrelson a movie called "The Sunchaser," which was in theaters a while ago, now it's on video.
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