She Fights Off Bad Guys and the Pounds
Of course, those great fight scenes in TV’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” are staged--when Xena and Gabrielle knock the bejabbers out of the bad guys. The camaraderie, though, between the two actresses--Lucy Lawless as Xena and Renee O’Connor as Gabrielle--that just can’t be playacting.
That’s what O’Connor said when she joined us for lunch at The Times during a trip stateside (the syndicated show is shot in New Zealand). “I wouldn’t be there if we didn’t have a close relationship because how can you work with someone 12 hours a day--and it’s like a marriage--if you don’t get along and actually appreciate the person? Thank God it worked out that way, you know?”
Question: It certainly makes the show that much more fun to watch.
Answer: Yeah, I think it comes across. We’ve been together for so long. Sometimes we’re quiet one day and you don’t want to talk to the other, and I always know a day like that. We both do. We know each other so well. Other days, we’re just gossiping like schoolgirls.
Q: When do you find time to exercise?
A: It’s just difficult with a 12-hour day to find the time to work out, so I do it in the evening now. The first season I used to get up at 3:30 in the morning, run for an hour, go to work for 12 hours and then just die by 7 or 8 o’clock at night. Lucy said, “Renee, take it easy, you know. We’re here for the long haul.”
Q: So what are you doing after work now?
A: I exercise six days out of the week. Four times are cardio: either half-hour running or a two-hour walk or an aerobics class, high impact, for an hour at a gym in Auckland. And then a couple nights I go to an indoor rock-climbing gym. It’s exciting because you feel like you’ve accomplished something and you’ve overcome your fear of heights, which is true for me. And my boyfriend actually enjoys roller-blading, going to the gym, rock climbing, so we’ve been doing a lot of it together and he’s the only person I want to see after 12 hours with the crew, you know.
Q: How tall are you?
A: I’m 5-4. It’s actually harder for me to rock climb because I have a problem reaching everything because I’m vertically challenged. I’m always finding these bizarre maneuvers--another way up--where somebody 6 feet tall can just grab it.
Q: Everybody on the set probably towers over you.
A: Right. The crew, the actors--everybody’s tall. Ren and Stimpy--oh, they’ve given me the worst nicknames. They’re very humbling over there, so it’s quite good. Lucy calls me Ren.
Q: Before we talk about food, how much do you weigh?
A: 120. I might as well be honest. I mean, I know that my body shape is not the same as a lot of actresses on television who are very thin and model-like, but I’m grateful that I am playing a character who’s athletic, who runs around with a warrior princess, so I can do things where I might look bulkier, but I feel strong and healthy.
Q: What are you eating?
A: Breakfast, I usually have fruit and granola--we call it muesli over there--with skim milk and fruit. Then chicken and steamed spinach and vegetables for Lucy and me for the lunch break. Then everyone takes a break around 3 or 4 o’clock and has tea and sandwiches or cake. I love sweet things, but I get it from fruit. Lucy’ll tease me. She’ll say, “Oh, Renee, it’s so moist, this gorgeous chocolate cake.”
Q: I love the idea of a tea break, but I bet the directors don’t.
A: Oh, it drives the American directors crazy because they want to keep going. And dinner, if I’ve had a busy day and I’m hungry, chicken stir fry, maybe leftover chicken enchiladas. I try to have fruit and I love canned peas for some reason. I guess it’s quick, peas out of the can and in the microwave.
Q: Do you ever feed that sweet tooth?
A: I love sweets, so maybe on the weekend if I’m going to dinner with my boyfriend. Desserts are very good because they use full creams, so everything is very rich.
Q: One last thing. What do you normally drink?
A: Mostly coffee to stay awake and tea. They think I’m bizarre because I don’t drink the tap water there because apparently it’s one of the freshest in the world coming from the mountains. I’ve been on this kick, I guess from living in Los Angeles, of drinking water out of the bottle. I just carry it around with me because I’m always chugging.
Q: No beer or wine?
A: I like the wine. The wine’s beautiful. I don’t usually drink during the week. I would be out in 15 minutes if I had a glass of wine.
Guest Workout runs Mondays in Health.