Whoosh! Issue 33 - June 1999

Exclusive to Whoosh!
By Bret Ryan Rudnick
Content © 1999 by author
Edition © 1999 by Whoosh!
0000 words

That's not just any wood, mate, that's cultural wood!

Kevin Smith, by the gate to the Aotea cultural centre in Auckland, March 1999

Author's Note:

Every once in awhile you meet a person who is the quintessential epitome of both professional and all-around nice person. Kevin Smith definitely meets these criteria. Having seen him at work on the set as well as off the set in the real world, he continues to be the consummate professional as well as a genuinely nice, kind, grounded human being. He has a good word for everyone he meets, takes a genuine interest in his fans, and has a strong sense of community and family.

Unlike some actors who play a specific role for awhile, Kevin Smith shows absolutely no hint of disdain or dislike for his Ares character. Indeed, I have never met anyone so quick to know just off the cuff the names and details of episodes he has appeared in. His expository discussion is as detailed as my carefully researched notes. It's obvious he studies the character and thinks about it, which is yet more evidence of his professionalism and care.

In March of 1999, Kevin Smith graciously took some time to sit down and give an update on his doings since our last interview. This particular interview took place in an Auckland cafe, where, as he put it, we "did some damage" to the inventory of a local sushi restaurant.

THE FURIES (01-04)
Dahak and Ares (05-07)
Humor, Drama, and Ares (08-10)
Young Hercules (17-23)
Ares and the Other Olympians (24-29)
Music (30-31)
The Future (32-43)

An Interview With Kevin Smith

'I'm too sexy for my shirt.'

Would you pick up this man? Do we even have to ASK????


[01] When last we spoke you had done some work on HERCULES and XENA. That was a couple of years ago. Since then you've done more episodes and we've seen you in some other shows as well. Fans were also fortunate to see you in YOUNG HERCULES (1998-1999) as well. The last time we spoke THE FURIES (47/301) had not aired yet, andthere was the issue of that questionable relationship between Ares and Xena.

[02] They played with that for a little while and it seemed to jump one way and then another. We first saw hints of that in TIES THAT BIND (20/120) originally. At first it was "I'm your father". Then it got softened to "I'm like your father". Then we got that weird INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207) deal, and by the time we got to THE FURIES, I don't know how close we actually came to saying it, but I still think it's ambiguous.

[03] An earlier version of the script made it quite plain that Ares was Xena's father. That was changed to make it much more ambiguous.

[04] The line I had was something like "If I was your father I'd be very proud". I was told to say that with pride, as if it might be true. I suppose ambiguity is best to keep consciences clear with that INTIMATE STRANGER Callisto business. We kind of swept all that under the rug and forgot about it in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312). I hadn't done a XENA in about 10 months, I'd been on YOUNG HERCULES. So that whole area was left unexplored all that time.

Dahak and Ares

'Come on baby, trim a little off this beard.'

Little did Ares know that he'd be Dahak's son-in-law.

[05] We did see you in part of the Dahak arc, in THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN (49/303) and THE DELIVERER (50/304). It wasn't clear to me if they were having Ares conspire with Dahak or just going along with him to find his vulnerable spot to get rid of him.

[06] I asked them about that, actually. I felt that, even if just out of arrogance, Ares would say "Yeah, I'll play along with this guy until... ba-da-bing!" I think he glimpsed the power of Dahak, though, and said "Look, this is all going to turn to shit pretty quickly. I'll get on board, I'll survive this, then do something about it later on." I thought he'd be a cut-and-run sort of guerilla.

[07] I had a discussion with Rick Jacobson, who directed SACRIFICE II (68/322). We talked about the scene where I come to Xena's camp. We agreed that there wasn't going to be any bullshit -- he was really going there to save her. When Ares talks to Xena and tells her everything she knows is about to melt down he's serious. When he says goodbye to her, he really believes he's saying goodbye. Even when there has been times that Xena and Ares fight, I've always tried to keep a genuine element of affection between Xena and Ares going. It makes it more complex. I thought there would be more of an outrage when Ares went with Hope because it looked like he was besmirching Gabrielle.

Humor, Drama, and Ares

[08] It's always been interesting for me to play up some of the comedic elements along with the serious ones. It's interesting to have be humorous for one moment, and then scary. It's different on XENA than it is on HERCULES. On HERC, Ares is kind of an amoral evil character. He's the god of war, it's his job, what do you expect? On XENA it's more complex. Ares wants to win Xena back and that's always on his mind. He has a mission. Even though you need a chill from time to time I think the comedic side of Ares overtook that at some point.

[09] Perhaps a good example of that can be seen on the HERC side too. There's one episode I'm thinking of particularly, the one with Gina "Nebula" Torres and Tamara "Morrigan" Gorski [REDEMPTION (H92/511)]. They're fighting some townspeople and run into trouble. Just before Ares limps off he says "You're all on my list!" It's a very funny line, and delivered very well, but I couldn't help thinking at the time "You know, this is Ares. He probably means it."

[10] [laughs] After I did that I came to believe that "When this is over, he's coming back, and this town's not going to be here." He might let one hideously disfigured person survive to spread the word, but that's it. I remember back to the first XENA episode I did, THE RECKONING (06/106). Charlie Siebert had me play that perfectly straight. Of course there's always a bit of arch- campiness playing the god of war, but that was all serious back then. Ares was a real baddie. There's been much more comedy lately. In fact, I saw the sequel to YES VIRGINIA (H74/415) just the other day for the first time.


[11] I've had a number of people tell me they liked FOR THOSE OF YOU JUST JOINING US (H90/509) even better than YES VIRGINIA. Not only did you get to play Ares but you also got to reprise your role as Jerry Brown.

[12] I love playing Jerry Brown. I was worried what he'd think about it but apparently he liked it. I met his daughter at the Burbank convention and thought "Oh, no, he's gonna kill me." But she said "No, dad loves it!" We just seized on even the slightest personality quirk and warped it beyond recognition. I had heard he was a bit conservative, so I said "Great, turn him into a crazed loony!"


UberElvis looks for his UberHunka Hunka Burning Love

Ares, God of Lounge Lizards

[13] It was also quite interesting to see your "bizzaro Ares" character from the alternate universe again.

[14] I remember in a meeting about the show before we began shooting someone said [switches to American "studio suit" accent] "We do *not* want this guy gay, OK? NOT gay!" Afterwards, Bruce Campbell, who was the director said "I want you to play this guy so fucking queer." I said "Well, he wasn't like that in the first one." Bruce said "Well in this one, he is!" My favourite line in it, we came up with this in rehearsal, was when I was standing in front of the mirror and said "Does this make my butt look big?" Well in the end we decided not to play him gay but just sort of "Restoration Fop." That's what we went for in the end.

[15] A "Scarlet Pimpernel" kind of thing.

[16] Yes, yes.

Young Hercules

God's Gift to Women [urp]

Kevin Smith at the Young Hercules wrap party in December 1998.

[17] Speaking of unusual looks, I know a lot of people appreciated you as Bacchus in YOUNG HERCULES, when you did the LYRE trilogy. A lot of people didn't know that was you under all that makeup.

[18] I originally asked them not to give me a credit for that one. Keep people guessing. I have to say Ryan's work in LYRE LIAR (Y21/121) is absolutely lovely, especially in that last bit where Eurydice sacrifices herself. There's some lovely work there. Again, one of the great underlying things about that role was that Bacchus really loved Eurydice. He thinks he's justified in what he's doing. When someone thinks they have right on their side that's a powerful thing. It makes it scarier when you can say about a character "He's not doing a bad thing, he's doing what he thinks is the right thing."

[19] Anthony Ray Parker was originally supposed to play Bacchus in YOUNG HERC as well but he couldn't do it. I had never done a prosthetic role before, and the costume and makeup people did a good job on it to keep down the time spent getting into the costume. Still, if you can avoid spending 14 hours a day under heavy rubber and horns, I'd recommend it. [both laugh]

[20] I've heard nothing but good things about that set of YOUNG HERC episodes.

[21] Cool. We're pretty proud of that one. Actually all of the production values on YOUNG HERC are quite high, even though they have to make those episodes in less time with less resources. Even though it's ostensibly a kid's show, the writing was never "down" to that level.

[22] YOUNG HERC also had to deal a lot more with the Standards and Practices people, and had to reshoot or reedit accordingly.

[23] Here's a funny S&P story. There was one scene in an episode where Amazons were being held prisoner. They were tossed slabs of meat to feed them. "No!" the S&P people said. "Well, what about fish?" "Yeah, fish is good." So meat is obscene but fish is not. [both laugh] There's also a lot more swinging and ducking in fight scenes. Because things are more restrictive, it forces people to be more creative.

Ares and the Other Olympians

You think you have problems, what about my hemmorhoids?

If you had family like that, wouldn't you be sour too?

[24] Regardless of the series, whether it's YOUNG HERC, or HERC or XENA, my impression of Ares as a character is that he at least does *something* while almost all the other gods do nothing. That was especially evident during the Dahak arc. You may not always like Ares' motives, but at least he's active.

[25] Yes! He's really the most proactive god. {thinks,laughs) I'm drawing a parallel with the Royal Family -- Princess Anne is out there in the trenches too! A strong Protestant work ethic, he says, alienating all the Catholics. [both laugh] Take Aphrodite for example. She gets people to fall in love. Kind of a cruisy gig. Ares has to organise whole bunches of people, nations! It's not easy.

[26] Everyone wants the weekend off.

[27] They won't fight on Sundays. "Yer killin' me!" [both laugh] That reminds me about ARES ON TRIAL. You'd think that a god of war could pretty much do whatever he likes. But when people are fighting, Ares is doing his job. That's what I cling to when I portray evil characters -- no real baddie thinks he's doing bad things. He thinks he's doing what he's supposed to do. He'll think "Yes, I'm going to do this. There will be casualties. There will be fallout."

[28] But it's gotta be done.

[29] Exactly. I had someone ask me recently what's the difference between playing good guys and bad guys. Bad guys smile and laugh a lot more. As you fade to break, you have the Ares laugh.


'And Xena thinks she looks so hot in her breastplate'

Ares as Ares, the Big Cheese, in THE BITTER SUITE

[30] At least you got to take your musical skills out for a turn in THE BITTER SUITE. That was you singing in the episode, that was cool. I know you have an interest in music anywise. Do you see that expanding for you in future?

[31] Not really. Music was a passion for me earlier that led me into acting. I've been able to do some musical things both in XENA and YOUNG HERCULES. In a recent fan questionnaire someone asked if Ares was an Elvis wannabe. I suggested that really Elvis was an Ares wannabe. [both laugh] I was playing with a group back in the 1980's, and we were in the process of making an album but had to part company for awhile. We've only recently planned to get back together to finish the album. The first half of it we're at the age of 24, the last half we'll be at the age of 36. It's interesting to hear how voices are different over that space of time. We're excited by it. We have another two or three tracks to do. We may release it next year. It'll be a hoot for us, I really dig it. We were quite experimental back then, we'd use almost everything for musical instruments. Nowadays everything sounds so good with all the technology available. Back then it was just a four-track recording machine.

The Future

[32] What's coming up for you in future as regards acting? I know there's a XENA or HERC episode on the horizon, but that's all since YOUNG HERC is no longer in production.

[33] SMITH: I'd like to do a film or two. I've done a couple of them recently. I'm still under contract to Pacific Renaissance to appear as Ares, but they've let me do other projects. There comes a point, though, where I don't want to keep intruding on their good nature. You know what it is? Every time I feel "up" on something it's always like an alarm bell, like I've got to move on. With everything I've been involved with, the moment I stop to say "Wow, cool!" and feel comfort, I know I have to leave. It's got nothing to do with the show at all, I still like it, and I've said to Eric [Gruendemann] I'd still like to do the odd one-off HERC or XENA but more like the early days.

[34] As they need you, as you're available.

[35] Exactly. And I'm not in my dotage or ready for a zimmer frame or anything like that, but I feel I'm moving into a new phase of life personally and professionally. To me, rather than hunkering down, I should be stretching out at this time. So I want to do that. Do I sound like Shelley Long or David Caruso? [both laugh]

[36] You do have Cannes to look forward to. I believe you're taking CHANNELING BABY to Cannes, with Danielle Cormack.

[37] We saw a final print of that just the other day, at a screening. I've never been so nervous. I've never been so involved heart and soul in something like this. I sweated blood. I thought I'd be like Alec Guiness at the end of BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI -- "What have I done?" [both laugh] I watched it, and to my great relief, I really liked it. When you watch yourself you tend to be very self-critical, but on the whole I really liked it. So Danielle and I will be at Cannes, and then we come to Orlando for a convention, and that'll be way, way cool.

[38] Orlando is a popular holiday spot in the States. Lots of theme parks and such.

[39] I'm looking forward to it. We have only one roller coaster in all of Auckland. One.

[40] You could always take a cab up and down Queen Street, especially in the rain.

[41] [laughs a lot] Yeah, and when you get out your palms are sweaty!

[42] Well I know you have to get back, so I'll say thanks for your time and sharing some of your experiences.

[43] No worries, mate. Good to catch up.

'I'm too sexy for my hair.'

That bad-boy look that many women love!


Bret Rudnick Bret Rudnick
Whoosh! Staff
IAXS Executive Committee
"You can never have too much money or too many Amazons"
When he's not working for a big Science/Engineering company that (amongst other things) designs, builds, launches, and operates exploratory spacecraft, Bret writes fantasy novels and short stories. Bret is a man of many skills, having also previously been an Olympic-qualified archer, a drummer in the Butch Grinder Band, a news reader for Public Television Station KVCR, and a Deputy Sheriff for the County of San Bernardino, California. He also collects Japanese swords, armor, and art. He and his dog hunt down stray Bacchae in New England.
Favorite episode: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206), and THE QUEST (37/213)
Favorite line: Xena: "What's this?" Gabrielle: "I'm... an amazon princess?" Xena (rolls eyes): "Great." HOOVES AND HARLOTS, 10/110; Xena after being goosed by Joxer: "Are you suicidal?" WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP, 30/206; Joxer: "Ha. Ha." A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222); Autolycus: "I'm not just leering at scantily clad women, you know, I'm working!" THE QUEST (37/213)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)

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