As you may recall, after I talked to RJ Stewart at the Burbank convention, he graciously agreed to answer questions from XOC'ers. Tonight, I received his replies. There were quite a few questions, some of them quite complex, and RJ very kindly answered them all (except for a few instances where he felt he had already answered the question, in response to an earlier question). Here's the Q & A now, with the answers in bold. Once again, a big round of applause and our heartfelt thanks to RJ for taking the time to do this! RJ, !
From: The Next Gabrielle:
Question: What advice or 'Words of Wisdom' would you give to those who dream of obtaining such jobs as
executive producer on a major television show?
The most direct way to become a T.V. producer is to be a valued writer. The best way to establish yourself as a
writer is to generate calling-card spec scripts. Simply put: write, write, write. And make sure you write about things you care about, things that can
stimulate passion in you - that will show on the page. Then, once you have material, the only way to learn if you have what it takes is to let a lot of
people read it. Ignore the reaction of your mother and that "friend" from high school who was always jealous of you, but listen to the others.
And when you get a break, meet it with the most ferocious work ethic you can muster.
From: Jenn/xwpweb (XOC founder):
RJ: First, thanks for doing this. I'm a huge fan "A Friend in Need" fan and the resident "A
Friend in Need" expert on the Xena Online Community. So I have a couple of finale questions.
I recall hearing around the time of the filming, that Ares and/or Eve were originally supposed to be in the series
finale. Was this case?
Not that I recall. I'm glad you liked it. I've met quite a few people through the years who agree with you.
And if so, what would their role had been in the finale?
Second question regarding "A Friend in Need." Rob said that there was an alternate ending idea with
everyone (Ares, Aphrodite, Eve and Gabrielle) back in Amphipolis, honoring Xena. Was this something that was seriously considered?
Not by me. Perhaps others
considered that option more seriously.
Third question: There was a report (later confirmed by Rob) that there was supposed to be a couple of TV movies
after the finale, but fate intervened in the end. If they had gone forward, how would the series had ended?
If we knew we were going directly into movies we would have approached the finale as if it were a launching pad rather
than an ending. So it wouldn't have ended. I remember those movie rumors. What ever happened to that?
Again, thanks for doing the Q and A.
From: Casual Fan
Great news - it's very decent of RJ to take the time to respond to us nutsos!
I have a question - Callisto was a wonderful villain who made a huge impact when she first appeared in late S1. She
was killed in her second appearance, then was resurrected as an immortal on Herc, then became a god in S2's A Necessary Evil. Hudson Leick has
expressed some frustration in interviews about her character's godhood and how it led to some ridiculous plot devices (burying the character under
repeated rockfalls, etc.). My question is - do you have any regrets about the character's so-sudden advance into divinity, and in hindsight, how would
you have preferred to handle her?
There is very little I would have changed with Callisto's character arch. I suppose the decision to make her "good" in the end is controversial but since I originally conceived of her as the personification of Xena's war criminal past, Callisto's redemption is in many ways beneficial for Xena's soul, too. As far as her expanding powers throughout the series, that was really a by-product of Hudson's brilliant portrayal. If Callisto hadn't been such a compelling character, we wouldn't have had to find new ways to bring her back in a more threatening way each time. Once Xena defeats Callisto a few times, we know she can be beaten. So each time she returned we need to make her more dangerous.
First Question: The Dahak arc started on Xena and ended on Hercules, was it always intended that way, or were there
plans to ever end it on Xena during season 4.
Originally, it was planned to end it on Xena but I think the decision to end it on Herc was a good one.
Second Question: Eve became an Amazon in Lifeblood, and it never was brought up in season 6, was there ever plans to
deal with that in season 6, especially in Path Of Vengence.
I remember talk about it but I don't remember why we didn't do it.
Third Question: The origins of Xena charkram, it was a letdown that we never saw a flashback of how she actually got
it, did you ever intend of dealing with it more in Charkram or any other episode.
We were all more interested in Xena's character development than the hardware. But looking back, maybe we should
have done more with the Chakram. It's a cool aspect of Xena.
Fourth Question: Was Joxer always intended to die in Eve, or did you ever consider leaving him alive.
We all loved Ted and the idea of killing his character was very controversial. I think we really missed him later. I
wish we hadn't done it. But I was totally into it at the time..
Fifth Question: Salmoneus was such a great character on both Xena and Hercules, it was such a shame we didn't
see enough of him on Xena. Did you ever consider featuring in more episodes after season 2.
No, but to be honest, I can't remember why.
First of all, RJ, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. It was a pleasure to meet you in Burbank -- not
for the last time, I hope!
One of my favorite episodes from Season 4 is Crusader, but I was wondering if my interpretation of it gibes with
your own. To me, there was a lot of fascinating moral ambiguity in the episode. Najara does genuine good, and even after we find out about her peculiar
method of conversion, she makes a fairly persuasive case that her approach to crime control is no worse than Xena's. Xena, on the other hand, is quite
"dark" here: her determination to "get" Najara seemed motivated at least as much by jealousy and resentment of her defeat as by the
desire to neutralize a "dangerous" person. At the end she uses an arguably low trick to distract Najara. (I'm not sure whether she kills all
of Najara's men or merely knocks them out.) Najara even has the last word in the episode. My question: In your mind, was there some ambiguity or gray
area as to who was "right," and whether Xena did the right thing in stopping Najara? Along the same lines, were you satisfied by the treatment of
Najara's character in The Convert, particularly in the final five minutes where Najara was no longer a morally ambivalent opponent but a raving
lunatic? Do you think the character should have been handled differently, and perhaps taken Callisto's place as a semi-sympathetic recurring adversary
Excellent questions. First let me deal with the moral ambiguity issue. I pretty much agree with your take on
Xena's motivation and psychology. However, Najara is a villain no matter how she justifies her action. Perhaps she's a tragic villain in that
she comes so close to being good and then steps over the line. There's a certain sympathy I felt for her character in writing her. But in the end,
she's an intolerant fanatic and must be stopped by our hero. As far as the Convert goes, we tried to figure out how to keep her
"semi-sympathetic" but she just kept gravitating toward lunacy.
Thank you Mr. Stewart to give us the opportunity to us fans, to ask you some questions.
I just have a question to ask, and it is about FIN.
If you had to redo the Finale,would you change it now that you know the fans were not happy about it, or would you
leave it the same way? I mean would you still let Xena dying?
No. I love that ending. It was very Greek and tragic and totally keeping with the theme of Xena's arch - the
villain turned hero who can't forget the dark deeds of her past. All my life I've been fascinated with the Greek myths. I lived in Greece for
three years when I was a teenager and for years I loved reading Robert Graves' retelling of the myths. One of the coolest things about starting work
on Xena back in 1995 was to find out that Rob Tapert was also into Robert Graves. So redoing the myths and inserting Xena into them as if she was a lost
mythological character was one of the main underpinnings of the whole show as far as I was concerned. Lucy clearly was an actress capable of real dramatic
depth so there was no reason to steer clear of the tragic element in the myths. As we began to explore her dark past, I more and more embraced the idea
that the series should end as it began, focusing on Xena's overwhelming desire to redeem herself. And I thought it should end in a way consistent with
the Greek myths. Those stories didn't usually end real well. Whether it was Oedipus gouging his eyes out or the horrific cycle of revenge and
retribution played out in the House of Atreus or the remarkable sacrifice made by Antigone for a principle, the myths are full of examples of consequences
for actions and self sacrifice. It's sometimes lost in the romance of Hercules, but his labors were a penance for murdering his wife and children. So
even though some in the Xenaverse were disappointed with the decision we made in that final ep, I still very much believe in it.
From: Drawing Blood
1.) A question about 'Adventures in the Sin Trade': How come Xena couldn't perform the ritual to travel
to the Land of the Dead in Greece? Why the trip to Siberia?
Wow. Can't remember. Sorry.
2.) In 'The Rheingold' Evil Xena is seen carrying the chakram as she rides through the woods. . . even
though in other episodes about her past, she's never seen with the weapon. Was this a mistake or did she have it the whole time and just preferred to
use other weapons?
She had it the whole time.
First of all thanks for taking the time to answer questions.. My question: In season five we saw a considerable
change in Gabrielle's character, moving from her pacifist stage (ending partly in IOM) to being a warrior. Some people have suggested this is to do
with her having to take on the role of being the protector as Xena is in a somewhat "delicate" state. Another idea that was suggested recently on
the forum is that Gabrielle was changed by her experience in 'Fallen Angel' when she saw that violence could be used for good by the Archangles.
For example, at the end of the episode Gabrielle fights Xena because she knows that she is fighting to save the greater cause, even if it means killing her
friend. Do you think that either of these ideas ring true for Gabrielle's change? Or was it a combination of influences?
Both of those rationales were used to justify that character turn in story sessions. I personally believe it was
Gabrielle's inability to watch her friend suffer that caused her to resume the Way of the Warrior.
Hi, RJ! I have so much love & respect for your work. Now on to my questions:
1. How do you feel about the way season 5 of Xena was handled in your abscene, in particular I was curious on your
feeling about the two China eps, as I know you had a big hand in penning The Debts?
I was disappointed in those later China eps but I worked on them in the story stage so I get some of the blame.
2. Do you see Xena as a mortal or a demigoddess, with Ares as her father?
I always thought of her as a mortal.
3. I was wondering what was your stance on baby Hope as you were writing Gabrielle's Hope. Did you see her as
simply a vessel for evil or a being who was capable of being good with a little help, divine or otherwise?
I totally embraced the "bad seed" concept. That kid was evil.
4. How difficult was it for you to break into the busin
Well, after I wrote a script that was a good sample of my writing, I started to get work. Talent will get your foot in the door. After that you need work like a dog and never
5. Did Xena really beat Odin with her fighting skills alone in YAT or did she trick him somehow with one of her
That's another one I don't remember. Sorry.
From: absinthe angel777
Question: If you had to end the show in the sixth season, knowing what you know now about the fan base, their
reactions and the actors would you have:
1.) changed the ending
2.) brought out the Xena and Gabrielle relationship further
3.) kept the show truer to pagan gods and the myths of ancient Greece
No to all of those. I'm unrepentant.
Love your larger than life, comic book style characters. Your villians rock.
From: Xenite Marine:
Thank you very much RJ for taking the time to answer our questions. Question: Is there any specific storylines of
the show you would've like to have done differently?
Yeah. All the ones that didn't work.
Question: What is your favourite episode?
again thanks so much!!
From: abbaspice1 (Paully)
Hello Mr. Stewart:
On various boards of online fandom, you have been celebrated as writing some of the best Gabrielle-centric episodes
and highly criticized for writing some of the worst Gabrielle-centric episodes. How did you see Gabrielle and how did you understand the character?
I always felt that the relationship we established in the Sins of the Past was ripe with opportunities for heart. To
make that heart resonate, Gabrielle had to work as a character. Rene was wonderful in the part. So it made sense to keep exploring her character, putting
her in the most difficult situations, and hearing her express feelings that would be out of character for Xena to express. And always, from day one, I saw
that Gabrielle's character could grow and evolve, change if you will, in a way our hero's character couldn't. Xena had already had the great
epiphany when she went from villain to hero. She now had to remain steady. Gabrielle could fluctuate. Of course, with Xena we went the other way,
flashbacks to when she was evil. And wasn't Lucy brilliant as the evil Xena!
What she just a side-kick, plot device, Xena's consciousness, the light, or something else entirely?
I saw Gabrielle as Everywoman. I know that was Rob's original vision of her, too. She was the one the audience
could relate to. We were seeing Xena's experience through Gabrielle's eyes. I took the Xena scrolls concept very seriously. Xena's heroic
exploits had been suppressed by sexist academics for centuries. The discovery of the Xena Scrolls, written by her beloved companion, Gabrielle, the Bard
of Potidea, has restored her to her proper place in ancient history and myth. We were simply dramatizing those scrolls.
Chris Mannheim talked about there being some parallels between Hope and Eve. Did you see any parallels between the
Sure. But Eve was redeemable. Hope was not.
Do you think the parallels could or should have been addressed more in the show?
Probably but you can't do everything.
Third Question: By the end of FIN2, Gabrielle was the 'girl with the chakram'. In your opinion, did
Gabrielle become a mini-Xena, someone to replace Xena? Is that an accurate interpretation? What do you see happening to Gabrielle after FIN2?
After Xena's death, Gabrielle went on to become a formidable force for good. She was different from Xena though.
She traveled the world looking to help people in trouble, as Xena had done, but she also brought with her that spiritual healing side that Xena loved in
her. And of course she always had the spirit of her departed friend in her heart.
4th Question: Do you think the show became too overtly sexual (or too adult)in seasons 5 and/or season 6 with the
nipple biting, fantasy scenes, dancing, barely clothed moments, etc?
Not that I minded such things (especially s6)
5th and final question from me.
Redemption seems to be a reoccurring theme throughout the show. How does the redemption theme in FIN play out in
your opinion? Was Xena truly redeemed? Many fans (myself included) point to Ides of March or Fallen Angel as the moments when she was redeemed. Was it
something thrown into FIN?
One of the most fascinating things about Xena is that she was a villain in another series. We infer that she was
responsible for the death of innocent people. What redeems that? It was a question that drove the character for the entire series and an excellent
theme to continue to explore in the final episode of the series.
If someone else wants to word my question better, feel free.
Thanks again for answering our questions.
Hey RJ, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! I know it means a lot to the fans! I have 2 questions in mind for you. I hope that isn't asking for too much!
Out of curiosity, what is your favorite TV show out there today?
LOST. 30 ROCK.
Also, seeing how TV shows today have become heavily serialized and less stand-alone in terms of storytelling and
linking episodes together (ie: Lost, 24, Desperate Housewives, etc), do you think Xena as a show could've worked out that way?
Sure. Once upon a time, the wisdom was that serialization in prime time programming would hurt the ratings in second
run syndication. And in fact, that seemed to be true. Quincy, a show with stand-alone episodes, did better in syndication than St. Elsewhere, which had
some serialized elements. It was thought that since people didn't catch every episode, particularly in 2nd run, that the stand-alone eps
were more accessible. Three things changed that. 1. Tivo like devices allow people to catch every ep if they want. 2. The explosion of box season dvd
sets as a real source of income makes serialization a real plus. People buy the box sets to see all the eps in the proper order. 3. There's just
not as much money is 2nd run as there once was. So designing your show to be more accessible in 2nd run doesn't pay anymore.
I'm quite sure if we did Xena today, it would be more serialized.
Okay here is my question:
As a young writer, I really admire your work on Xena. Did you always want to be a writer or did it just happen?
Also, what advice would you give to aspiring writers wanting to go professional (for TV, movie, or otherwise)?
My 7th grade teacher said one week that if we wrote a short story, he'd give us extra credit. He meant
that to apply to that one week only. I wrote a short story every week for the next 22 weeks, long after he told me I wasn't getting extra credit any
more. So I guess I always wanted to be a writer. I also always wanted to be a center fielder, and a cowboy, and an actor, and the world's greatest
lover. I'm glad one of those worked out. As far as advice, I answered that earlier but I'll add this: When you're breaking into the
business, you need to take every job that's available to you. Later, when you establish yourself, you can afford to be picky (maybe).
From: Casual Fan
Just thought of another question -
RJ, you've always been very clear in your interviews that you considered Xena a "war criminal," and
that she ultimately had to pay for the horrific things she did as the Destroyer of Nations. In S4, however, the gist of the India Arc seemed to be that
Xena was given philosophical/theological sanction for following the "Way of the Warrior," and that she had to follow her way to serve the Greater
Good. Did you ever see any "disconnect" between the notions of Xena paying for her crimes and Krishna sanctioning her path, and if not, what was
The Way of the Warrior has no ethical content. If people use the Way of the Warrior to do bad things, then they are
bad people. If they use the Way of the Warrior to do good things, then they are good people. What Krishna gave her was a reassurance that the Way of the
Warrior can be used for good, not that it's good in and of itself.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and I have to say I liked FIN 1 and 2, just sorry that the show had to end.
Question: Which episode, from Xena, are you most proud of writing and why?
Callisto. I feel it illustrated an essential truth about Xena and her past that influenced dozens of later
From: Nittany Lioness
The Debt two-parter is what I reach for without hesitation when trying to turn people onto XWP. I'll point out the amazing cinematography, the fabrics, the brilliant use of NZ landscapes, and most of all I try to emphasize how layered Lucy's and Marton's, (and Jacqueline's) performances are. It had an epic feel yet still served as an intimate revelation into what built Xena's emotional constitution, so it's regarded by many as the show's most impressive arc. I'm not alone in brazenly proclaiming The Debts superior to much feature film making today.
Do you share that pride, that high opinion?
Oh, yes. My favorite eps.
Rob humorously noted during commentary on ADITL that the character of Minya was "R.J. embracing fandom at the
time." You have been both lauded and criticized over the years for your episodes, your handling of certain characters, and your overall take on
aspects of the show. More recently you've been a guest at cons and here today you're again reaching out (thank you!). May I ask if there was ever a
period where unwarranted fan ugliness (directed at you, the show itself, or others) kept you at bay from interacting with the fandom?
As far as "fan ugliness" directed towards me, I wasn't aware of it until I read your question just now.
I guess every Minya needs a villain to fight - if I've been that villain to some of the Minyas in our Xena community, that's O.K. with me. As far
as the conventions go, I didn't realize how much fun they were. I loved meeting so many wonderful fans at this last convention as well as seeing old
friends, Liz Friedman in particular. The Xenaverse if full of good souls. I was very moved by some of the stories I heard from fans concerning how
meaningful Xena was in their lives.
I do recognize your terrific Whoosh interviews and your DVD commentaries; they were much appreciated.
Many of us lament together that as fans talking about our love for XWP, we have to contend with those cliché
reactions. They boil down to either: "Meh, that chop sockey crap" or "Oh, that lesbian show". We sometimes admit to being hesitant to
defend the show, if only because it's such an uphill battle to explain there's so much more than it's reputation. I suspect you experience
those tired dismissals as well, having spoofed such comments on, for example, the uber eps. Have you encountered these attitudes within the industry, and
does it ever deflate you too? If only RJ himself would give us a sterling comeback to shut 'em down!
Give a resounding Xena yell and slice the villain's head off. It's the only sane response. I do sympathize.
Once, when Xena was becoming an international phenomena, I lunched with a writer I'd worked with before but hadn't seen for a while. As I drove
to the restaurant, I was sure he would be congratulatory and maybe a little jealous. Instead, he treated me as if something had gone terribly wrong with
my career. How could I fall into such desperate straits that I would stoop to write Xena? When I explained to him I loved writing for the show and was
very proud of it, he thought I was lying. I realized then that Xena was not going to be widely perceived as the quality show we Xenites know it is. I
think the best revenge against the mockers is just to be secure in your love of the show. I've noticed how easy it is to silence people by just being
I found the story of Xena and Borias to be one of the most beautiful stories in XWP. I think it hit the perfect
notes of tragedy, dark romance, and irony, all nestled into the exotic, lush confusion that surrounded Evil-Xena. While the wild ambition and violence was
engrossing, it's likely not a surprise the doomed love-story captivated me the most. Xena's look of fear upon hearing his confession of love,
crying out his name during childbirth, her devastating reflection when strangling Satrina: "The man who could have changed everything for me if only
I'd let him"… thank you for your hand in creating all that. Yet I have to confess to being a bit let down with the later revision of Xena and
Borias' backstory in Last Of The Centaurs, in which Xena is portrayed as a more clearcut man-eater, sleeping her way to the top. Borias appeared less
the "noble savage" (who would never abandon a son!), more the oogling superior and piggish mate to Natasha. Before that ep, for all their brutal
pillaging they never seemed mere thugs. And, under your care, Xena seemed to be, well, a colleague (at least behind closed yurt flaps). I'm not
suggesting she wasn't a schemer or that she didn't have conflicting motivations, but it seemed clear deep down she slept with Borias not for
expediency, but because she desired to. How do you feel about how that narrative played out in LOTC?
Another one I can barely remember. Sorry. Glad you liked Borias. An underrated character in my opinion.
(By the way- bless you for including a bit of that backstory in the finale, it was so bittersweet seeing another
peek of them- what was that look Xena flashed when Borias said: "Xena loves no one"! Her Sin Trade words coming back on her?)
Peter Berg was on Dinner For Five discussing re-writing dialogue for The Rundown while shooting. He says it was too
tempting to have the chance to write for the wonderfully weird Christopher Walken, so they'd hand Walken new pages some days to learn on the spot and
he'd blow a gasket, then apologize. That was a funny story, but I have to wonder how much that messing with your script frustrated you.
Bottom line, the movie was pretty good. So whatever Peter did, it worked.
Also, I liked that The Rundown reflected a similar dynamic that I see in certain seasons of Xena and Gabrielle; the
reluctant hero and wisecracking sidekick who needs rescuing. Are you aware of being tapped to write the script based at least partly on your work on
I wrote the script in 1989.
From: cobalt snow
Hello Mr Stewart,
Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. Mine are business related:
1) What kind of business skills should one have a good grasp of before attempting to be a producer?
Economy, economy, economy - in everything.
2) What do you like the least about writing/producing?
3) Is there anything up-and-coming film-makers/screenwriters should really make an effort to learn-in particular,
something important that is not taught in film schools, and should be?
Yes. What is not taught in film school is that you should ignore most of what you learn in film school.
Thanks for your time.
- RJ, I see that you revised the episode Antony and Cleopatra. Why was it neccessary to make Xena appear to be emotionally attached to Antony, as far as crying over him, etc? I found it unrealistic that she would get so attached, fall so deep for someone that quickly, especially someone who she knows is probably an enemy. Also was it intentional to have Gabrielle act so jealous? It seemed very apparent to me but maybe I'm a bit biased. Also there seemed to be some sort of bond or connection between Gabrielle and Cleopatra's slave girl Shiana, what was that all about?
I revised many of the scripts and I never understood why my work on that particular script was put on the title page.
That was inappropriate. It was the result of some confused guideline from the studio. We followed it for only two eps. Anyway, I agree with you on Xena
getting too involved emotionally with Antony too quickly. It was us giving in to the temptation to have the hottest guy in ancient history have a fling
with Xena. As far as Gabrielle and Shiana, they were just friendly.
Also: in Adventures of the Sin Trade, what was the deal with Anokin, the girl Alti brought along with her when she
first approached Xena? Was she a "gift?" a bribe? was she in essence a slave or...just an apprentice? Xena was very upset whe she died and went
to the afterlife to see her again, so I assume she really cared about this girl. Was she as Xena said a "friend", or something more? edited: to
add a question
We were definitely thinking of Anokin as being a emotional complication for Xena beyond mere friendship but I fear we
didn't develop in enough to make that clear. Those Sin Trade eps were crowded enough as it is.
Another question to RJ:
At the end of Return of Callisto, Callisto pleads with Xena to save her -- whereas at the end of Callisto, she
wanted to die. What is Callisto's motivation for begging for help? Sheer animal terror as she sinks into the quicksand? The desire to make Xena feel
guilty about letting her die? Or does she, as some have suggested, hope for an opportunity to drag Xena down with her?
Number 3 for sure.
From: elsie austin
Mr. Stewart, it was great to meet you at the convention, and like everyone else, I appreciate and enjoy the chance
to talk more in depth about your work on Xena.
1. When I first discovered X:WP, one of my friends commented that Callisto was one of the most fascinating villains
ever created. I agreed--because of the way that even though I couldn't like her after all the things she did, I could never quite hate her. Did you
have sympathy for Callisto, and if so, how much and why?
The deeper I got into the series the more I started to look on the characters as real. And in some ways, I related to
the characters I was writing virtually every day of my life as if I were them. (This sort of madness is not unusual in writers.) So one day, when
thinking like Xena, I was haunted by all the innocent people who were hurt by her. I decided one of them should show up so that Xena could see how her
actions turned a potentially beautiful human being into a monster. So my mission was to create a sympathetic monster. So yes I did have sympathy for
2. At the end of FIN, did you consider that Xena's ghost had objective reality, or was she only present to
Gabrielle (but still actually Xena talking), or was Gabrielle making the ghost up?
Objective reality for sure.
3. Why did Xena ask Gabrielle to take her all the way up the mountain in Destiny? Was she simply delirious, or did
she know all along that there was a way back for her?
4. We've had so much discussion on what, exactly, Gabrielle meant by the Way of Friendship. Could you elaborate
on what you think the Way of Friendship is?
"Friends have all things in common." Plato was a wise man and when he made that quote he didn't really
think that friends truly have the same interests in common, or the same feelings, or the same point of view or the same experiences. I believe he meant
that our duty as a friend is to make our friends interests our interest, to empathize, to love what he or she loves not because it happens to be what we
naturally love too but because we're making that a gift to our friend. Xena and Gabrielle did this. They overcame the duality of their relationship
and became one and thus they "have all things in common." That's the Way of Friendship.
5. There's a moment in one of The Debt flashbacks when Xena says that she could have given up her hatred and won
the battle against herself. What do you think would have happened if she had actually given up her hatred--what would it have looked like, and what would
have happened then?
Interesting question. Your guess is as good as mine. I know it wouldn't have made as good a tv show.
Finally, this isn't a question, but I just wanted to compliment you on your work on The Furies. It's one of
my favorite episodes. I can't decide whether it's funny or heartbreaking, and I seem to see something new every time.
From: Casual Fan
Question #3 -
In S6, a principal theme was "The Death of the Xenaverse." We start the season with the Olympians largely
dead and gone, and over the next few months, Xena's and Gab's families were killed, the Amazons were reduced to a pathetic remnant, the Centaurs
were the victims of genocide, etc. I was wondering - was this theme consciously planned from the beginning of the season, or did it arise more or less
spontaneously as writers, directors and producers were looking for dramatic elements to build episodes around?
I guess we did become a creative death squad but there was no organized plan.
Hello Mr. Stewart,
My questions are about the Rundown. As a writer, do you have a specific actor or actress in mind when you write? Or
do you just write the story as it comes out?
When I wrote the script in 1989, I had Mel Gibson and Kevin Cosner in mind (might as well think big.) Kevin loved the
script by the way. That's how I became the third writer from the left on Waterworld.
As a whole were you happy with the Rundown movie?
Absolutely. Pete Berg has a touch of genius in him.
Was there anything that you would have changed if given the chance in regards to this project?
Sure. In my script the Rosario Dawson character was an equal partner in the adventure and both men were in love with
her. I think reducing her role and taking out all the romance hurt the movie. However, they had to make room for all the action and, man, that was great
As a wrestling fan, I knew about the Rock's involvement sooner then I did anything or anyone else. I thought it
was a great story, had comedy moments in it, and action. So I'm a fan of the movie, and I was happy to find out that it involved someone (You) from
Xena. Thank you so much for your time.
From: Jenn (xwpweb)
if this has been asked, my apologies: "Coming Home" (the sixth season opener) was written by Missy Good.
How much involvement did you and Rob have on the script, since it was a last moment thing?? Were there any story ideas discussed that sounded good, but as
it progressed along in the writing process, didn't work out? Thanks again! Jenn
Of course there was input from the staff, but Rob and Missy had a close relationship so his input was considerable.
Missy did a terrific job by the way.
First Question -
Mr. Stewart, thank you so much for your willingness to reach out to your fans this way!
Cleopatra 2525 may not have broken any Nielsen records, but it's still loved and admired by genre buffs for its
revisionist take on traditional scifi themes, and the elaborate backstory that we really began to see unfold in the 2nd season. How much of that had you
planned out from the beginning (like Creegan being a thaw, his creation of the Baileys as environmental cleanup drones, his past with Voice and Hel's
father, the apocalyptic massing of the Baileys in the finale, etc.)
Rob really had that back story worked out very well. However, some of the things you just mentioned developed as we
and how much was developed later by Carl Ellsworth and Chris Black (as I gather you went back to focusing primarily
on Xena at some point?)
Chris and Carl were pretty much writing the whole show there at the end. Rob was always involved creatively. A funny
story - Carl Ellsworth has gone on to write features (Red Eye, Disturbia) and he's a smokin' hot feature writer right now. But without a doubt,
the thing he's most proud of is Cleopatra 2525. He can remember every ep like he saw it yesterday (and maybe he did.)
And what might we have seen in a third season?
2nd question (this really is just one big question, I swear) :
As Exec. Producer of XWP, what sort of viewership data did you have access to, beyond the basic ratings - for
example, results from focus groups, surveys, feedback via cards and letters, message board input, etc. - how closely did Studios USA follow and analyze
this? And what did you learn? Were there 5-6 million people watching every episode every week, or 25-30 million people watching every few weeks, 5-6
million people at a time? Were most adults? Children? High school and college students? And how much credence did you - and Studios USA - give to the
various types of viewer feedback?
I was very disciplined in the sense I never paid attention to the details. I only cared about the bottom line. Was
Universal/Tribune/USA happy with the numbers? Everything else was sound and fury signifying nothing.
Question # 3:
Along those same lines, did Studios USA ever indicate to you any cause-and-effect data related to ratings? For
example, was the steady rise in ratings for the first year and a half due to anything thematic, or was it just more and more people discovering the show?
And can anyone legitimately attribute the subsequent gradual decline in ratings to, say, too much comedy, not enough comedy, too much subtext, not enough
subtext, the India arc, the Eve/God of Light arc, the Rift/Dahak arc, the 25-year jump, particular writers or directors, particular guest stars (too much
Amazons or not enough, too much Ares or not enough, too much Joxer or not enough, etc.) Or were the rising and falling ratings due to external factors more
than what episodes people happened to like?
Honestly, I haven't a clue. You must understand that in a business as tough as ours, if you get good enough
ratings to get a next season, you've done your job.
Question # 4:
I think you answered this one pretty clearly back in 1997, but rumors persist that things may have changed later.
So, at any time during the run of the show was there ever a behind-the-scenes consensus that Xena and Gabrielle were lovers in a literal sense, but that
this had to be somehow disguised in scripts or veiled in euphamisms (you're my family, you're my soulmate, etc.) so as to get past the Studios USA
There was no consensus but as the show went on we explored that possibility more freely.
If so, were the actors ever made aware of this, and/or told to incorporate this into their characters (in the same
way that, say, Lucy had to relate to the kid being raised by the centaurs as her son, since the script had her confess he was in fact her son) and/or were
writers told that this was part of the backstory?
By the middle of the second season everyone was hip to the subtext rumors and anyone who wanted to squeeze a little
subtext into the show was welcome to do so up to a point. The first time I did it consciously was A Day in the Life. I was thinking of having them take
baths in separate bath tubs like the movie cowboys used to do after the cattle drives. Then, as I was writing it, I put them in the tub together. It
seemed so right.
Or was this intentionally left unanswered, leaving any and all interpretations open to...well...
Question # 5:
As a writer, how do you measure the success of your work, especially on a show like XWP where you created much of
it, and were able to revisit and develop the same characters and themes repeatedly? If you loved a script that you wrote and felt very proud of it, would
you care whether 4 million people watched it, or 7 million, or 50 million? Would you change your view of it if, say, hundreds of viewers didn't like
it? Or if hundreds didn't like it, but millions watched anyway? Is there ever a time that external factors contribute to your own assessment of the
merit of your own work?
With Xena I gauged the success on how I answered the following three questions 1. Did I like it? 2. Did the people I
was working with and the people who were paying me like it? 3. Did the ratings and other forms of feedback suggest it was well received by the audience?
In the original script of "The Furies," Ares was definitively confirmed as Xena's father. My
understanding is that this was changed at the studio's suggestion, to an ambiguous ending that seemed to lean toward Ares not being the father. Was the
question of Ares as Xena's possible father considered prior to "The Furies," or was this something that only came up in connection with this
It was kicked around a bit before but the discussion got real serious in the note sessions for the Furies.
Was there any concern about the incest motif, given the sexually charged nature of their dynamic?
Finally, in your mind, after this episode, was there still a possibility that Ares was Xena's father?
In retrospect - he wasn't her father. I've gone back and forth on that, however.
I can't wait to here RJ's responses to these questions.
Here are a couple of mine:
Question 1: Whose idea was it to have Ares give up his godhood to heal Gabrielle and Eve in "Motherhood",
and how far back in the season did they come up with that idea?
Pretty sure it was Rob's but that was a long time ago.
And also was it the original plan to have Ares give up his life and not just his godhood to bring back Gab and
I don't think so.
Question 2: In your opinion was this a completely unselfish act on Ares' part?
No. He never did an unselfish act.
Also, what was his motive for reviving Gabrielle as well as Eve?
We needed those characters.
Question 4: Why did Gabrielle marry Perdicus? Did she love him? If he hadn't been killed, would he and
Gabrielle, in your mind, have had a happy life together?
Yes she loved him. But I think if he weren't killed she would not have live happily ever after because she would
have come to realize that her destiny was unfulfilled. Her destiny was to be Xena's friend and ultimately carry on Xena's mission after she was
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this!
hello mr. stewart,
my two questions:
1. do you think xena ever became reconciled to gabrielle becoming a warrior?
Yes and no. No in the sense that she hated that the world was so cruel that it could turn a person as pure and
innocent as Gabriel into a warrior. She always was sad about that and in some ways felt it was a personal failure. Yes in that it gave Gabrielle meaning
and some peace which good friends always hope for one another.
- was it the intention at the outset of s5 to make michael and his fellow archangels out to be the bad guys in s6 or did that just develop as s6 was being written?
Definitely just developed that way.
thanks so much for your time:-).
1) In your episode "Ulysses" Xena says that she loves Ulysses, was she in love with him? Because this
seems like a very quick leap for Xena due to the fact that she never fell so fast or was never shown to be the "love at first sight" type. My
friend thinks it was just a "lets see how badly we can torment Gabrielle" episode. Thoughts?
I agree that Xena fell in love too quickly there. Perhaps, she was just ready for a passionate fling and talked
herself into it. I don't think she was torturing Gabrielle. She was never subtle when she did that.
2) In the DVD interview for your Season 3 episode "Forgiven" you said that when Xena walks away in the
last scene because she didn't want to be forgiven that she "still has to redeem herself...she has much more to do", do you think that Xena
feels that she does deserve forgiveness at the end of the series with "A Friend in Need" I & II? By that time does she think she has done
enough to redeem herself or was it just a single selfless act that she really didn't consider that much, she just knew she had to die to save those
The great awakening that Xena had in "Sins of the Past" can be stated thus: "I've lived a life of a
death maker. Now, I've had an epiphany, a revelation, a vision. I see what I've done, the consequences, the suffering I've caused. Perhaps,
I'll destroy myself so I can hurt no one else. Wait, people are in trouble. I'll help them. That's it! I'll give my life to protecting
innocent people against people like me. And will that redeem me? Maybe, if I do it long enough, but really it's up to someone else to decide that. I
must keep working to help people. I don't want to be "forgiven" in a ceremonial way so I feel better about myself. Did the people I killed
for greed and revenge ever get a chance to feel better about themselves? I must continue to protect the innocent and any time I see a way to make up for
the Sins of the Past, I must embrace it. How it all ends, a higher power will decide, but I know my mission and I will give my life to it."
With that in mind, I would answer your question by saying that whether she deserves forgiveness is irrelevant to Xena.
She knows her role in the universe and she's going to play that role no matter what the consequences.
3) My favorite episode of the entire series is "A Day in the Life". I thought that Lucy and Renee were
hilarious. Was the episode realized as you imagined it as you were writing?
Almost exactly. The most perfect realization of any of my work.
Was there anything that you expected to be done differently?
Not really. Lucy and Renee gave wonderful, understated comedy performances, Michael Hurst kicked butt as director,
the guest casting was great. It was perfect.
Were there any other funny moments that were in the original script that didn't make it into the final
Not that I can remember.
4) In "The Rheingold" Xena leaves Gabrielle behind to handle the task alone. A friend of mine complained
that it took the characters' relationship backward and that Xena was treating Gabrielle like a kid again. Is that what you intended or was it just a
device to get Gabrielle to track her down and learn the story of Xena as a Valkyrie?
I plead guilty to choosing plot device over character. There are deadlines, you know.
5) "Adventures in the Sin Trade" I & II are great examples of how lost Xena is without Gabrielle. Do
you think Gabrielle is stronger than Xena in that way, that she could go on without Xena? If the roles had been reversed in "A Friend in Need" do
you think that Xena would have just poured the ashes in the fountain to get Gabrielle back?
Fabulous question. Yes, in that way, Xena needed Gabrielle more than Gabrielle needed Xena. Xena would have poured
those ashes. Her view of herself as savior of the innocent rather than a slayer was very dependent on the love and admiration she got from Gabrielle.
Thanks in advance if you choose to answer any of these,
From: Aurora Goddess
Hi RJ, thanks for taking the time to do this for us!
So, my question. I know you were involved with revising Looking Death In the Eye. When Xena and Ares are on the
beach and Xena takes what Ares thinks is poison, what is your opinion on why he stepped back and let her "kill" herself? He stopped her initially
when she was going to stab herself with her sword but when she went further to tell him that it had to end, and drank Death's tears, he was willing to
let her die. What changed? What do you think was going through Ares' mind and why didn't he stop her a second time?
If ever there was a love-hate relationship between two characters, it was between Ares and Xena. That's not to simplify it to the point that in the first instance Ares stopped her
because he was in love with her at that moment or that he let go in the second instance because he was angry with her. But it is the key to Ares
conflicted actions toward the great love of his eternal life.
From: Casual Fan
Question #4 -
The evolution of Gabrielle from peacenik to warrior was perhaps the most important piece of character development in
the later X:WP seasons. My question - how far back was this development planned? Was it always inherent in the character's path, or was it driven more
by wanting a sea change from the pacifist India Arc Gab and the fact of Lucy Lawless's pregnancy?
That arc was planned pretty early on. Certainly, it was not a development forced by necessity. We chose to do it
because we knew it would make great T.V.
A final question from me to Mr. Stewart. In The Way, Eli was identified as an avatar, a deity in human form, and at
least the way the episode came across to me, it was suggested that his possession of "The Truth" was not just a matter of his personal opinion
but an objective fact. In Season 5 (starting with "Fallen Angel"), Eli seemed less like the earthly incarnation of a deity than a fallible human
being who didn't quite understand the special powers he had been granted by God, and who realized that he had been wrong about the true "way"
for Gabrielle. Did your vision of Eli change after The Way, or was it your idea that even in that episode, he was not quite as divine as he believed he
I've always been fascinated with avatars. I was introduced to the idea of the avatar years ago reading the great
sufi mystic, Hazrat Inayat Khan. I've always asked myself the question, Who were these guys, really? So when Rob suggested the Eli character, I was
excited about exploring this question. Other people weighed in on it in meetings and in their writing (Steve Sears, Chris Manheim, and of course Rob.)
And I think what we came up with was a consistent arc of a mortal confronted with the divine in his own being and the conflicts and fears that generated in
And if I may take advantage of my prerogative as a mod and host of this Q & A and throw in another question that
came up just as this thread was closed...
Did you have a hand in the rewrites on The God You Know? If so, I'd be curious to know why the story was
changed from the original script version in which Xena killed Caligula and then gave up her power to kill gods to revive Aphrodite, to the version in which
Eli took away Xena's power to kill gods after she tried to kill the Archangel Michael and she then tricked Caligula into suicide.
I don't remember.