1. Lawless Modeled Xena’s look on a Tennis Star
Xena was originally going to be blond, but the actor thought that an Amazon princess should look “big and bronze and dark-haired,” like, say, Argentinian tennis champ and US Open winner Gabriela Sabatini (below). Also, she got to save her hair, since her natural color is dark blond and she didn’t want to spend the next six years bleaching it.
2. Lawless Was the Second Person Cast for Xena
The first was Vanessa Angel, who you probably don’t remember as the genie-like “perfect woman” from the Weird Science TV show. Another near-miss in casting? The role of Joxer — played by Ted Raimi — almost went to Wallace Shawn, of Princess Bride fame. Of course, now, such casting would be inconceivable.
3. The Warrior Princess Costume Now Resides in the Smithsonian
In 2006, the outfit was donated to the Museum of Natural History. Lawless probably doesn’t mind — the actress once said the original constricted her ribs, so at first, she felt like she was having constant panic attacks on set.
4. Multiple Medical Situations Were Written Into the Show
What do you do when you have a show whose titular character can’t do her usual assortment of flips and kicks because she shattered her hip doing a spot for The Tonight Show? Shoot some body-swap episodes featuring Callisto (Hudson Leick) and maybe put her in some less physical situations, like the beauty pageant in “Here She Comes … Miss Amphipolis.” Or if your star gets pregnant? Create a “Twilight of the Gods” story line in which Xena’s child is catalyst for the destruction of the Greek gods.
5. Xena Has Two Simpsons Action Figures
If you’re the star of an action TV show, of course you’ll have an action figure. But how many people can say they’ve had an action figure made by a show they’re not even on, much less two? Lawless appeared on the tenth “Treehouse of Horror” — as herself, but dressed as Xena — and proved so popular, she made it into both a Treehouse playset and the 25 Greatest Celebrity Guest Stars line.
6. Dwarf Planet Eris Was Almost Called Xena
Well, never officially. But the team that discovered Eris called it Xena and the media used that name for a while until the International Astronomical Union handed down the final decision. The “Xena” nickname came about because it started with X (the tenth planet), it sounded mythological, and they were looking to add more female names to the night sky.
7. The Credits Had a Running Joke
It started as an occasional joke in season 1, but by season 2, every episode had a fake disclaimer reminiscent of the “no animals were harmed” message from the American Humane Association. These include, “Despite Gabrielle’s incessant hurling, Ulysses’ ship was not harmed during the making of this motion picture,” “No oversized Polynesian-style Bamboo Horses were harmed during the production of this motion picture. However many wicker lawn chairs gave their lives,” and, from the final episode where [SPOILER ALERT] Xena dies, “Xena was permanently harmed in the making of this motion picture, but kept her spirits up.”
8. The Accent is Southern California
The show was shot in New Zealand and features an international cast, so a dialect coach was hired to give the fictional world some uniformity. Rather than go for a Standard American English, though, the show opted for Southern California. Maybe in hopes that people would leave their TVs on after Baywatch and not notice the change?
9. The Theme Song is Sung in Bulgarian
The bagpipe-like instrument at the beginning also hails from Bulgaria; it’s called a gaida. Here are the lyrics in English:
The Warrior Princess rides alone.
Her past drives her from shame.
Against the forces of a dark world
She fights for good, not for fame.
Horns sound her coming, blare her name.
Make way the warrior! Cheer!
Drums beat a rhythm, let villains beware
The Warrior Princess is here!
11. The Chakram is Real…
…and was used as recently as WWI in France. An old issue of Popular Mechanics says that Sikh soldiers fighting for the Allies in France carried them and, when thrown, could cut a 2-inch thick stalk of bamboo. No mention of whether it could strike five men, then return to the owner, sadly.
12. Lawless Hated Doing Fight Scenes
How do you play a warrior princess when you don’t much care for the warrior part of the job? “My only defense was to get good at it,” she said in an interview for the Television Academy archives. “Get it over and done with ASAP.”
13. There Was Almost a Disco Episode
Xena had more than one musical episode, but this one would have put them all to shame. Alternately known as “The Sappho Episode”, it would have ended with Xena and Gabrielle kissing “with deep and sincere passion.” Whether producers chose not to resolve the “will they/won’t they” of the hinted at — but never explicitly stated — lesbian relationship or whether there were just too many rights issues with the music (which would have included Donna Summer classics like “Last Dance” and “Love to Love You Baby”) isn’t clear.
14. Karl Urban Played 4 Different Roles on the Show
Though you probably know him as “Bones” McCoy from the rebooted Star Trek movies, Urban’s first taste of international fame came from Xena, where he played two minor roles — Mael and Kor — and two major recurring roles — Julius Caesar and the god Cupid. Of course, that doesn’t hold a candle to Lawless, who played six separate characters (eight, if you include the two other roles she played in the originalHercules series).
Renèe O’Connor, Lawless, Kevin Sorbo, and Michael Hurst
15. Three Actors Played Their Own Children
Two human — Renèe O’Connor (who played Gabrielle and her daughter, Hope) Marton Csokas (who played Borias and his son, Belach) — and one horse — Tilly (who played Argo and Argo I).
16. Gabrielle Did Most of Her Own Stunts
Of course, the show’s stunt team were some of the best in the business. But perhaps since Gabrielle had fewer dangerous stunts, O’Connor handled the bulk of them — including the famous shot where she did a backflip while kicking a cannibal in the face from season 6’s “The Abyss,” which was done without any of the Hong Kong-style wirework that the show often employed.
17. The Show Won One Emmy — for Music
Despite its enduring popularity and legacy, Xena was never a critical darling. But the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences did honor the score: Composer Joseph LoDuca was nominated seven times and won once in 2000.
18. Xena’s Name and her Iconic Cry Are Both Bastardizations
“Xenos” means stranger in Greek, and “Xena” is a mutation of the word. Her battle cry comes from the funeral ululations of Iranian women. Lawless couldn’t get her tongue to mimic them, though, so she went with the “AYIYIYIYIYI!” we know today.
19. Xena Had 9 Lives (Well, 3 Really)
She was brought back in season 2 by ambrosia, and in season 5 by the prayers of Eli (Galavant’s Timothy Omundson), but there was no coming back from her death in the final episode of the series. Even in the fantasy world of Xena, cremation’s pretty tough to get around.
20. Xena Quickly Became More Popular than Hercules…
…and Hercules didn’t like it. “Xena took all my directors, they took half my writing staff, they took everybody to go and work for that show,” Kevin Sorbo told SFX Magazine in 2001. He also complained that the shows didn’t collaborate as much as they could have.
And one thing you probably did know:
Xena Was Gay
The producers and the studio both had their own reasons for not wanting Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship made explicit – and Lawless herself never made a definitive choice during the show’s run. But she told Lesbian News in 2003 that, in retrospect, Xena was “Gay. Gay, definitely.” She wouldn’t even say she’s bisexual; as far as she’s concerned, Xena and Gabrielle, “They’re married, ma