Casa Chakram

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Carpe's Corner

An Old, but interesting interview with Rob Tapert...Part 2...from AUSPIX Talking Xena

Posted by carpechakram on December 6, 2010 at 7:57 PM

86. I do hope you are well and happy? my question is are you planning to use any of the guest stars from xena warrior princess & hercules the legendary journeys in any of your up coming projects for example: Hudson Leick, Alexandra Tydings, Robert Trebor, Paris Jefferson etc.

 

Probably NOT. Not for any reason that I dont like or respect their work but, currently, most of what I do is youth driven. I cant even find a way to work with Lucy and Renee in a way that is satisfactory to their talents. If there is a role for any of these people, I would jump at the chance to work with them again.

 

87. In one of the behind the scenes interviews on the DVD for s5, you said that you were disappointed in how s5 turned out. What was it specifically that disappointed you and how would you have changed season 5 in terms of stories, shots, etc.?

 

I have answered this in part elsewhere. I also answered it in a Bret Rudnick interview at WHOOSH.. see below

TAPERT:

[66] You know what? Nobody was thinking. Nobody loved the show. And it takes everybody loving the show to make it happen, every single aspect. I lost an entire crew to Lord Of The Rings (Peter Jackson, 2001). My wife was totally distraught, in that people that she thought were her friends were leaving her in the middle of all this. That had a big impact. Steve [Sears] left and R.J. [Stewart] went over to Cleo [Cleopatra 2525 (TV, 2000-2001)].

[67] When people leave, their heart isn't in those last couple of scripts and I got some awful scripts. I'm not afraid to say this because Steve took his name off THEM BONES THEM BONES (95/505). Alex [Kurtzman] and Bob [Orci] gave it a little heart in the third and fourth act but it still didn't make much sense.

[68] The two China episodes [PURITY (96/506) and BACK IN THE BOTTLE (97/507)] were an absolute disaster. I kept on that chalkboard behind you, until I recently erased it, the whole reason for Xena's conflict in China. That was about how, as a pregnant mother, could she take 100,000 lives in order to save the lives of a few, but that whole concept got dropped out of the show. Alex and Bob added in Ming T'ien to give it some semblance of order but scriptwise, those were disasters because nobody was running the show. I had Cleo, Jack [Jack Of All Trades (TV, 2000), and a baby at the time.

[69] Alex and Bob watched all of Season Four and said we had shortchanged Xena in Season Four. Season Four was all about Gabrielle and her quest. We wanted to take the show back to Xena and her dramatic thing. They didn't realize that you can only go so far with an actress who's only able to be on set for seven or eight hours a day, and that's without makeup and transport to and from, so that's an eleven hour day as it is. The big dramatic things for Xena got pared back a little bit. It was hard on everybody.

[70] I still think some of SEEDS OF FAITH (99/509) is a great episode. It had one of the strongest scenes we've ever had with side characters, between Eli and Callisto. I liked that a lot. I liked GOD FEARING CHILD (102/512) and I liked AMPHIPOLIS UNDER SIEGE (104/514). I really shot myself in the foot with those two Amazon episodes, KINDRED SPIRITS (107/517) and LIFEBLOOD (106/516).

This is only some of the season 5 issues. We also tried new things -- a new musical and an Esther Williams swim episode. It was hard.

 

88.. According to FIN2, Xena is dead and Gabrielle is the warrior with the chakram. If you had a chance to do a movie/miniseries/TV show, would Xena stay dead and Gabrielle still travel the world fighting for the greater good or would you lead Gabrielle in a whole new direction?

 

Ok, this is a BIG IF and NOTHING is in the works. O

f course, Xena would need to be in whatever happened. You couldnt do a Xena show without Lucy. Thus, the real question is, how do you deal with Xena being Dead? Gabrielle gets her brought back to life? The show takes place 100 years in their future (180 AD/CE). The show takes place at an earlier time prior to Eve being born.

Then you would want to make it so that there are complications. Gabrielle can bring Xena back to life but only if she gives up her own life or Xena comes back but is not a warrior or evil but as a farm wife. (also see other comments on this same question)

 

89. In an interview, Lucy said that at the beginning of the series, ou asked the studio about making Xena gay and the studio said no. IS that true? Is that the reason subtext came about?

 

No, we never asked for them to be gay. The studio was very concerned at the start that the women be perceived as gay. They reshuffled the opening title sequence so that the images did not play like Gabrielle and Xena were lovers. Truthfully, at that time, the staff had no idea about subtext. Nor had we any thought of making the characters lovers or soulmates. We had assumed that both the women were straight. Xena had male lovers and Gabrielle left a man to go on the road.

It was really only in ALTARED STATES that we visually pushed the boundaries and planted the seed that Gabrielle was hot for Xena. We also added, for those who might read something into it, the opening fishing sequence. Liz Friedman could not believe that we would have these erotic insinuations in the teaser. I also pushed Chris to write a very specific opening with fishing and innuendo.

The odd thing is if we had a Bible that was followed religiously, the subtext would never have evolved. The characters would have been fixed in a time and place that left little room for growth.

 

90. There are many arguments that still divide the fandom. No I'm not talking subtexter/maintexter vs shipper vs who cares.

 

I'm talking about Hope. Specifically, some fans feel that Xena wanted to kill Hope as a baby (in front of Gabrielle), yet when her daughter murdered hundreds, if not thousands (including Joxer), she did not bring her to justice, nor could she kill Eve/Livia.

Do you see that being hypocritical? Why or why not? When the story was written, did TPTB discuss the parallels between Hope and Eve/Livia and how the fandom might react? Did TPTB even realize that fans were making parallels between the two characters?

No, No and No.

The problem with Eve was she had to live and go on. Xena lost Solan and we did not want to kill both her kids. That simply was a no no in the writing staff. We committed to Eve living.

When we were dealing with Hope, there was no thought that Xena would ever have a kid on the show. Who would have thought that the producer would knock up the star? Thus Hope was the spawn of Dahak and Evil to the core. Only Gabrielle could not see that. Xena could or certainly deduced It . . . as a hero she had to act.

We once had an internal discussion about Hope and decided that most bad guys made the choice to go bad.

 

91. How exactly did Xena get the dark chakram from Ares?

 

You got me there. How??? That was one of the few episodes that we had to reshoot parts of and fix after we had wrapped principal on it. In fact, I think that there were only three episodes in total that we went back while in editing to do a day or two of reshooting. I cant remember.

 

92. Why was the fact that Eve is an amazon princess never brought up?

You might make me break out an episode to doublecheck that. It may have been mentioned in Path of Vengeance. I am not sure though. I love the fight and the goodbye to Eve at the end of that episode. I love the Xena moment saying a final goodbye to her daughter. I do not know why we never mentioned that. You would have thought we would have used the Amazon Princess connection in GURKHAN. I seem to faintly rememeber that we did discuss it and may have shot it but lots of things are left on the editing room floor. We routinely had to cut ten minutes of shot and edited material to fit into the time slot.

 

93. What's your favorite season and episode of Xena? What about least favorite?

 

Favorite Season 6 . . . it had the least bombs. We set out to make a season that had limited serialization. The stories stood alone and yet were connected. I never had a problem with the overtly sexual Xena. It was a card we didnt play for a long, long time and then we did play it.

I also really like season 3. Thought that it had some excellent episodes and I liked the growth in the series storytelling. I know that many think that the series went off the tracks then or even earlier with Destiny, but we had to evolve the series or it would have died from staleness.

As for favorite eps -- I go through phases. Overall episodes, one of the musicals, WARRIOR PRINCESS,TRAMP or some of the comedies like Old Ares Had a Farm. For awhile, I really liked Anthony and Cleo, The Quest and The Way. I went through a period where all of TJ Scotts episodes and then all of Michael Hursts episodes seemed golden to me.

There are also parts of episodes that I really love. I loved parts of the Sin Trades, When Fates Collide and IDES. I love the ending of Many Happy Returns. It makes me teary-eyed every time. I love the end of Tale of Two Muses.

As far as my least favorite. It falls into two categories. Those that were major failures when the expectations were really high and those that were stillborn in the script phase. PURITY and BACK IN THE BOTTLE were huge disappointments. I had high expectations. Episodes like THE PLAYS THE THING and VANISHING ACT were turds from the word go. The clock ran out of time and we had to shoot before we ever got close to what the episodes needed to be. Somewhere else in this I mention those episodes that I didnt like and would want back. But, alas, life goes on.

 

94. Are you proud of AFIN?

 

YES! It was hard work. It brings a tear to my eye every time Xena and Gabrielle talk at the end about her need to die. There are many cool moments.

Equally, I hide my head at some of the bad choices I and others made in the episodes realization. The early fight to get Akime and all the stuff on the boat was perfunctory and heartless

 

95. Are you looking for any writers for any upcoming film projects you may have in mind?

 

Always, but there is a strike and feature writing is a chumps game like tv directing.

.

96. Im a huge fan of the late Kevin Smith, what was he like to work with and do you think ares and xena should of got together, I think they should of lol. Take care Rob

 

Denise, I was and am a huge Kevin Smith fan. He was such a treat to work with. Such a pro. And always on no matter what his schedule. He would often come to work with three or four hours sleep, but that was never an issue. He would pump sand bags to build his biceps and joke endlessly. Any visiting cast member will confirm how easy and approachable he was.

Should they have gotten together? Well, he did meaner and more awful things to her than she ever did to Gabrielle, so I would say that it wouldnt have been a relationship that encouraged growth and love.

And, ultimately, if Xena had chosen Ares where would the series be????

 

97. Lucy, Renee and Ted made such of great comedy trio, what would your thoughts be about teaming them up again in some kind of sitcom?

In a sit com it would be impossible. No network would see them as a reason to make a sit com and we would never be able to hold them in place as the cast. In fact, I could never get a sit com made. I am a horror monger and the maker of some crappy syndicated shows that were a blip on the Hollywood radar. As John Schulian recently said to me, HERCULES killed his career. Doing syndicated TV is looked at as the porno of tv. Real writers/network executives dont take it seriously at all. Thus we are some bastard show.

But they are great comic talents. That is a little secret only we know.

I had a real problem with Renee not being the comic lead in her movie. She is so funny, but never was given the lead and a chance to shine.

Thanks so much for your willingness to share some insight with your fans!

 

98. There have been a thousand rumors over the years which you can put to rest right now if you choose. Writers, directors and actors come and go on episodic tv, and it seems like you had very good fortune to keep many of the same ones for a fairly long time. Were there ever any staffers (or cast members) that left because of any conflict or difference of opinion on thematic content of the show, and/or because of audience perceptions of their work?

Nope

 

Lucy didnt get along with one director but he didnt come back because he went on to other things.

What were the rumors?

 

99. You and others have said that the Are they or arent they question was not what the show was about, and that you wanted to keep it ambiguous and open to anyones imagination. Yet there remain lingering rumors that behind closed doors, it was decided at some point that yes X and G were lovers, but that this should not be openly portrayed because of issues with the studio execs, advertisers, segments of the audience, etc. Was it a dont ask, dont tell decision, or do you still feel that the question was never answered, and still open to individual interpretation?

For the writers and for Lucy and Renee, it was not important to us to sexually define the characters. I understand for fans why this is important. Thus we tried to give everyone enough of what they wanted or needed to help the characters bring empowerment into their own life.

 

100. Question: How hard was it to choose which actors/actresses filled each of the different characters? IE: Alexandra Tydings as Aphrodite, Paris Jefferson as Athena, Ted Rami as Joxer, Kevin Smith as Ares, etc.

 

Very, very easy. Each of these people were that character immediately upon entering the room. When Hudson entered the room and forced us all to shake hands against our desire we nknew we found the right person. We wanted to stop then but had to look at all the actresses who showed up that day. All and all we pretty much knew when we got the right person in the role. Equally, we also knew when we settled for someone who just filled the shoes and not the role.

 

102. Many fans feel strongly that the show was enriched by the ladies storylines with male characters.

Lucy and Renees scenes with actors such as Kevin Smith, Marton Csokas, Ted Raimi, Scott Garrison, Bruce Campbell, Karl Urban, Tim Thomerson, Tim Omundson (and so on!)

were such an integral part of what made XWP so endlessly fascinating, genuinely humorous, genuinely erotic, and genuinely touching.

Convention Q&As and interviews have, to date, leaned heavily on the actresses dynamic with each other and use of subtext, so much so that there seems to be no tread left - while a relatively untapped avenue of great interest has yet to be discussed in detail. Therefore wed like to encourage guests to focus in future talks on developing those worthwhile, fond storylines and working with those fine actors. Celebrate the fellas! May we ask you to pass that along?

 

We wrote guys, hunks and alike into the XENA world because they brought just what you pointed out. I do take some pride in discovering so many NZ guys, and, correctly, finding the right LA mix.

Kevin Smith was so hot and such a star!!! It is a shame, but also a reminder that life is fragile and precious.

 

103 Was Gabrielle's Blood Innocence theme in part a conscious metaphor for sexual innocence?

 

No, it was blood innocence. We assumed that Gabrielle lost her virginity to Perdicus or some village fella long ago. People tend to forget this, but she did have a wedding night.

104. Was the Soulmate theme in part a device consciously used to create and/or explain the level of devotion, commitment and unique intimacy we otherwise associate with Lovers?

 

Yes, devotion and commitment, and I dont know about intimacy. If you watch recent day male comedies (like Wedding Crashers), guys seem to be soulmates even though they are not gay. The lovers is but a part of that. One can be soulmates without being lovers. But, as I point out elsewhere, Xena was comfortable rubbing/washing Gabrielles feet. That implies more than just devotion..

 

105. If you had to pick one, would you say FIN was a Happy or Tragic ending for the character Xena? Why? Same question for Gabrielle.

 

The definitions are too narrow, but I guess Gabrielle and Xena would have been said to have a tragic ending at the end of FIN. Our culture portrays the end of life as tragic by its very nature. But King Lear was true tragedy and Xena ended more hopeful than Lear. Gabrielles end to that chapter was more tragic as Xena got the redemption she sought. As Marie Osmond said, Tragedy + Time = Comedy. Thus, what came next for Gabrielle was so glorious only Xena could have known that her exit would open the door for Gabrielles ascendancy.

As this was fiction, Gabrielle can do anything that could be conceived of. The Universe was her oyster. What the staff and I loved about XENA was that we could do anything as long as we honored the format. We took a simple little premise of two women on the road in Ancient Times and ran historical encounters, mythological encounters, religious encounters, theological paradigms and debates. We investigated reincarnation, the Tarot, Chakra points, Shamanism, quantum forces. We went to Heaven and Hell, seduced Lucifer into taking his mantle in Hell, and still left room for comedy. The soul of the show was a heroic journey with heart, humility and humor. As part of the Xenaverse, whatever Gabrielle encountered after FINS had all these qualities mixed with kickass action.

Thus in a long-winded way, the end of FINS was but another door opening to all these possibilities. There was no King Lear ending to this story. But one can take away what they want.

 

106. Answering as a Story Teller/Creative Artist - In an 'ideal world' with no outside influences or constraints, would you have liked to have made the Xena/Gabrielle romantic relationship completely 'out' by the end? I'm getting at what was the truth of the characters to you by the end, rather than any of the other stuff.

 

No, we wouldnt have. I might have, but not out of any reason than to please the vocal fans. RJ would have battled me on that issue and prevailed. To his great credit, he did not want to alienate those people who were Ares/Xena fans or his grandkids who NEVER saw the subtext.

No one should be alone in the world and everyone should have someone like a Xena or Gabrielle as their friend/lover/wife/husband/partner/companion -- whether that person is of the same sex or not is unimportant. I would say that they were lovers, but after FIN, Gabrielle could have fallen for a guy or another woman. Or she could have remained celibate.

They had not isolated themselves from the other sex. They had, in fact, found that they preferred each others company more than any one elses. Thus, this was not an exclusionary relationship because they did not like the opposite sex. Xena and Gabrielle both had known men and neither ever said that they didnt enjoy male companionship. They found that they were as a unit a whole.

 

107. A major theme of the show was Redemption - no-one is beyond redemption no matter who they are or what they did in their past. Do you think you missed an opportunity to explore that more with the character of Hope? And how does she fit in with that ethos?

 

Hopes sole function was to create a

wedge between Xena and Gabrielle. She was one note. That was perhaps a shortcoming by the writers, but her arc was to attack Gabrielles heart and then trap her into doing something that would hurt Xena. We could have used Hope to explore redemption and forgiveness in greater detail, but we didnt. Really Callisto filled the no one is beyond redemption role much better than Hope. Hope was inhuman. The really bad part of half god.

 

108. Do you think Gabrielle would have become a Warrior if she had never met Xena?

 

No, Gabrielle would have died trying to stand up against some warlord or speaking the truth at some inappropriate moment. There was a tragic story a few years ago of a young American woman who was killed in Palestine by Israeli bulldozers razing a Palestinian home. She was protesting and staked her ground. When I heard that on the news I thought of Gabrielle.

A Land In Turmoil cried out for . . . Gabrielle would have fought the turmoil. She just didnt have the skills.

 

109. How do you see Gabrielle's future after FIN?

 

I believe that she went back to the Amazons. She took the Amazon mantle that she had dodged for so long -- running them. She built a strong tribe and stopped the stupid petty stuff that plagued the Amazons like bad dancing and howling at the moon. She never took another lover. That she got better with a chakram than Xena ever was. With her weapons proficiency, she eliminated the enemies of the Amazons and later in life became a dedicated public servant and did good in the way that she now could as a powerful, intelligent, experienced woman.

I think that she grew from the death of Xena and the birth of Gabrielle the Warrior Princess in ways that justified the death and thus separation from Xena. She never would have truly been able to shine as brightly while standing in Xenas shadow.

Or she went to the British Isles to seek druid help and discovered a land of faeries and little people. There, seated on her throne like a Titania figure as the leader of the faerie realm, was a character that looked every bit like Xena. Yes, right down to the scar on her breast. Gabrielle now was faced with the conflicted position of does she find a way to make this person big and fit the role of Xena (for certainly the Druids needed a hero to help some issue of the moment) or does she make herself into a faerie and become Xenas #1 friend and live in this benign paradise or ????

Once again the adventure continues.

 

110. What's the difference between a Redeemed Xena who's finished atoning and found peace, and any other War Criminal who has served their sentence?

 

NONE!!! That is the beauty of XENA. She would have been found guilty at Nuremburg and hung. However, we got to show that the death penalty is not always the answer.

Truly, RJ, Steve and I laughed about this all the time. She was a war criminal!! She did horrible things and yet people rooted for her. We spun her back story more devious as time went on so that we could have her life time arc greater. And we liked that crazy Evil Xena. Or at least I did. We also loved that people fell in love with this person who from scene one in the pilot had a bad past.

 

111. It seems like XWP didn't really attempt to construct a consistent, linear narrative for the Xena/Gabrielle romance, more that it evolved organically. And you were happy to portray them as lovers in one episode, and 'just friends' in the next, as suited the particular story you were telling at the time. In effect, having two parallel versions of their relationship running along side by side. Is this correct? And if so, did that change by the end, as Season 6 seems much more weighted towards the Lovers version?

 

You are right . . . the story dictated how the relationship unfolded in that episode. To his credit, RJ never pandered to what the people in chat rooms wrote, wanted, or thought. I was not as strong. However, I think that story took precedence in the process. What worked for the story. In fact, story (and the story within the commercial breaks) at times took precedence over character.

By season 6 . . . well only the true fans were left and Xena and Gab had traveled for 6 years together. They eventually got naked when they went to bed. When I saw Xena washing Gabrielles foot in LEGACY (it was not scripted), I thought Lucy and Renee had outed themselves to some degree. It suggested that they were having sex or maybe that is just me. I know PULP FICTION debated what a foot rub meant. I guess I sided with throwing the guy out the window.

___________________________________

I want to thank Lucy, Renee, Kevin, Michael, and all of the cast for bringing to life the stories that often didnt quite hang together. There is also a person that is never given proper due, Eric Gruendemann. Eric supervised the series on the ground in NZ. He was responsible not just for production and budget but for fixing stories that arrived on his desk broken. He worked through the details of how, where, and why with every director. He worked with them on answering questions and fixing motivations and building action set pieces where the script said a fight. He was at every read-through with the cast working until late at night fixing scenes that directors and actors (Lucy and Renee included) didnt understand or worse really hated. He set the friendly tone that visiting actors, directors and executives never experienced on any other production. Lastly, amongst his many unsung talents, was costuming and production design. He, in many ways, established the look of the series. Although he is seldom mentioned, his presence is felt in really every frame. His initials were the sign off on every set and costume choice on all the shows shot in NZ by Renaissance Pictures. Truly someone who helped make Hercules and Xena (also Cleo and Jack) a success.

Then there is my dear friend Chloe but that is a story for another chapter of my life.

Lastly but certainly not leastly, I want to thank fandom for keeping this silly fantasy action show alive in pop culture and for recognizing that sometimes there were dramatic and comic moments that transcended simple battle cries and fights. Yes, we could have done it without you, but ultimately we did it for you.

 

Fondly,

Rob

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