Whoosh! Issue Eleven - August 1997


AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL LEVINE:
EPISODE REVIEW: SEASON ONE



EPISODE REVIEW



Cradle of Hope (#04)

Ms. Lawless is surrepticiously placing a pod behind Mr.
Levine.


Lucy Lawless and Michael Levine on the set
of CRADLE OF HOPE (#04).




RUDNICK:
[76] I wanted to go through episode by episode to discuss some things. We have already talked a lot about CRADLE OF HOPE (#04). Are there any other moments from that episode which stand out to you?

LEVINE:
[77] Yes. The fire-breathing. When I read in the script where that happened and I said to myself "Is Lucy really going to do that?" And we did it! I thought it was the coolest thing when she did it. It ended up in the main title.

RUDNICK:
[78] She did this herself?

LEVINE:
[79] There was no stunt person and no computer enhancement at all. We shot with a long lens when we cut to the guy she blew fire at so he was never in any danger. But it was all real. It was pretty cool. I enjoyed doing that. Also, we were still trying to figure out what the neck pinch was. I think Lucy had done it once, maybe twice, and we were trying to figure out what the rules were for the "Xena pinch". You do it and the nose starts to bleed. We still had to figure that out. By the time it got to me I thought "Is this the Spock grip? What are we doing here?" It was kind of funny. And they made that box to click and move. That was great. It was a real, working box. There was a hidden lever out of sight so they'd be able to work it particularly in the slow motion sequence of Xena getting it into Pandora's hands. The dance sequence was a kick to do as well. There's an out take of Lucy tripping. And then a fun scene for me, which I did all as a "oner", all at once, was Xena rising in the bed and the bad guy kneeling behind her.

RUDNICK:
[80] That made it to main title.

LEVINE:
[81] I had many scenes make it to main title. Shooting one of the first episodes helps you get in the main title. Although I found it ironic one of the shots in the main title was from "no show", the one with Poseidon, and in my last episode, it featured him.

RUDNICK:
[82] The effects at the time hadn't matured, I guess, as much as those actually used in ULYSSES (#43). That was something people actually complained about. They didn't like Poseidon in ULYSSES, they like the Poseidon in the main title better.

LEVINE:
[83] You mean the way it looked?

RUDNICK:
[84] Yes.

LEVINE:
[85] In the main title, you only see a second of him. In ULYSSES (#43), he has to talk. This is not ILM [Industrial Light and Magic] with four months to do it. You have got only a few days. You can only do so much. This is television. I don't mean that to sound like an excuse, but you've only got a certain amount of time and money. Kevin O'Neill and company do an outstanding job under the pressures.



Warrior...Princess (#15)



They're cousins, identical cousins.


Diana and Xena
in WARRIOR...PRINCESS (#15).


RUDNICK:
[86] WARRIOR...PRINCESS (#15), which we've just been able to see in a repeat [2nd release 05/19/97], looks like it was great fun.

LEVINE:
[87] I was determined to do two things in that episode.

[88] Somebody pointed out very astutely in the [WHOOSH! Episode Guide] synopsis, Lucy wasn't playing two roles, she was playing four roles. She was Lucy as Xena, Xena as Princess Diana, Princess Diana, and Princess Diana as Xena. That was very true and I talked to Lucy early on about that. We had to know how she was going to be in each role. We needed Diana to be as far from Xena as we could get with out it being a caricature. Lucy tried out a few voices. It took her a little bit of time to find Diana, but she found it, she got it, and it was good.

[89] The other thing I was determined to do was not to have the typical BEWITCHED/Serena/Samantha split screen. We had a couple of those, but I was focused on doing something better. There's a scene where Diana walks *around* Xena. That took a lot of different elements to do. There's another scene where I used a double. It's the scene where Xena's in the bedroom and she's giving Diana the costume. You see a hand take the costume away and she walks around the bed. Even though it's split screen and Lucy was doing both roles, that was a way of not just having the person on one side of the screen and then the other. Later on in that scene, Lucy's pulling off the bows and adjusting her costume. That's shot from far away. That's actually her double standing in front of her. You can't tell, so I was able to have both of them interacting and touching at the same time. They just finished the third installment of that episode, WARRIOR...PRIESTESS...TRAMP.

RUDNICK:
[90] Are there four Xena lookalikes in that one?

LEVINE:
[91] No, only three. Princess Diana is not in this one. She's off with the Prince, I guess. The director and I were talking about the difficulty of shooting shows where someone has to play two roles and I said it's all about time. I made up my mind that I'm going to get a certain shot. If I had to sacrifice four other scenes, I wanted that shot. There's a lot involved. You have to shoot against blue screen, there's the timing thing, and it took a little coordination to do it, but we did it.

[92] I just had a very similar thing with Kevin Sorbo in HERCULES where he was playing two different roles [in the upcoming STRANGER IN A STRANGE WORLD]. I was determined to have two Kevins on screen at the same time and that one was even a little more complicated because I had Kevin punch himself. I don't know how many XENA fans watch HERCULES, but if they want to see Lucy in a *totally* different role, like they've never seen her before, they've got to watch STRANGER IN A STRANGE WORLD.

RUDNICK:
[93] We've heard it's coming up, and I think virtually everyone who watches XENA will see this one because the hints we've gotten about it so far makes it look really intriguing.

LEVINE:
[94] Lucy had a blast in that episode. As she did in WARRIOR...PRINCESS. It was a comedy.

RUDNICK:
[95] In fact, I think it was the first truly comedic episode.

LEVINE:
[96] It was meant to be a comedy. I went for the jokes when I could in every scene.

If guys had to do this the concept would
never have been invented.


Xena riding sidesaddle -- a dead giveaway.


RUDNICK:
[97] Yes, before that, Lucy had to always play a very dour, very serious Xena. This episode lets her show her range.

LEVINE:
[98] I'm pretty sure it was Lucy's idea to ride sidesaddle down that road. It was hard because she had to go real slow. One of the things I liked, I'll give myself credit, I came up with the idea of Argo ducking when Diana threw the chakram. That to me was a lot of fun, when you can endow Argo with human characteristics. He becomes more of a character. So I enjoyed doing that.



Altared States (#19)



RUDNICK:
[99] As regards ALTARED STATES (#19), we've talked about that quite a bit already. It was interesting to note how different interpretations came out nothing like you intended. Was there anything in it that you didn't expect?

LEVINE:
[100] When I got the script for ALTARED STATES (#19) I read the first scene, and it called for Xena and Gabrielle to be in the water. They're doing the double entendre and they're fishing.

The scenic Lake Wobegone, located in
Minnesota


Hanua Falls, Xena and Gabrielle skinny-dipping, what more could you ask for?


RUDNICK:
[101] A classic subtext moment.

LEVINE:
[102] Yes, a classic subtext moment. They see the little boy run. Lucy gets out of the water. The guy is supposed to look at her in awe. The script says "she fights." It didn't say anything about putting on clothes, it just said "she fights." I called up Rob Tapert and I said "I need you in New Zealand when I do this shot, because I'm not good enough of a director to shoot this scene." In television, where you can't show nudity, how do you show someone doing a fight in the nude? In reality, the only things you can show are legs and a back. He says, "Well, that would be a problem, sir." So I said we've got to have her put on a tunic. And we did. It was shot at a place called Hanua Falls, a beautiful waterfall. We were only there for one day. It was freezing in the water. Lucy and Renee weren't wearing real wetsuits, they were wearing makeshift flesh-colored suits. Lucy and Renee were freezing. When she wasn't doing a take, Lucy's teeth would chatter but she didn't do that the second the camera was on her. At least she didn't have to go under the water, Renee went under the water. That scene, I'm sure, is numbered amongst the memorable scenes because the characters were naked. The one shot I wanted to get we couldn't get, because of the nature of the waterfall and I couldn't put a camera back there, was a back shot of her walking out of the water.

[103] Here's a little sidebar. We got back from New Zealand and we needed to loop the kid who played Icus for various reasons, mainly sound problems. I don't remember the particulars as to why we didn't do it in New Zealand. But the post-production people said we'd loop it here. They wanted to know if I knew anyone who could do it. I said "Sure," and brought in my son, Jason, who was the right age and who had done looping for me in another situation before just like this. He spent the whole day doing that kid's voice. As a father, you look at the final mix when the show airs and you realize that's your son's voice coming out of this totally different body. He didn't get a credit, though. And he was in another Xena too. I'll tell you about it when we get to it.



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