Author's Note: This is a transcript of a round-table conversation with Michael Hurst (Iolaus, Xena director, et al) organized by Cindy McBain of Hurst News (email@example.com) - a UK-based newsletter on Michael Hurst's work and career. The full transcript of the conversations will be published in current and future issues of Hurst News. Cindy has kindly allowed me to share the Xena-related parts of the conversation with you via the Web. Many thanks to Michael Hurst, who so kindly made time in his busy schedule to see us, and to Cindy for making it all possible. The contributors/question-askers in this piece were myself, Jo Robins, Jo Rodgers and Cindy McBain.
Jennifer Ward-Leland (01-08)
Injuries on the Set (09-18)
A TALE OF TWO MUSES (19-26)
A DAY IN THE LIFE (27-35)
Michael Hurst and Jennifer Ward-Leland.
Jennifer Ward-Leland INTERVIEWER:
Xena's apparently starting again at the end of this week, are you involved?
 MICHAEL HURST:
In fact, Jennifer [Ward-Lealand, Michael's wife, has] been in that first episode [after the Christmas break], not as Boadicea unfortunately, but she's playing a villain - a corrupt theatre producer, so go figure. [This is THE PLAY'S THE THING (85/417); Ward-Lealand played Boadicea in THE DELIVERER (50/304)]
Why does she always get to play villains?
I don't know - a certain vampy quality I suppose. She's also a great comic actress.
Lots of people are interested in Jennifer's career.
Yes, a lot of people liked her performance as Boadicea and Voluptua especially.
She looked great as Boadicea. I just couldn't believe it. I took little Jack [their son] in to see her one day. Jack was amazed - with all this hair, and I just thought she was great and because she's so tall. She's very striking.
Injuries on the Set INTERVIEWER:
One of the things that is always mentioned in terms of injuries on the set is the one where you hurt Kevin Sorbo.
Oh yeah, yeah yeah [laughs].
He mentions that a lot.
[amused]: Of course he does!
Was it really bad, or did he just get slightly offended that you whacked him over the head with a sword?
No, it was nine stitches, it was nine stitches. I've seen the shot, well it's actually been edited. I'm doing a reverse spin with the sword, and in those days they gave us real metal swords - idiots. You know but anyway, he didn't duck quite far enough, and my aim was off.
He goes on about that. I just look at him, and I say [pointing to his previously damaged wrist] `broken wrist Kevin, you know what I mean?`
It looked pretty painful. We can't spot it on the program.
Michael Hurst as Iolaus in PROMETHEUS.
In Xena? It was Xena I did it on. You can't spot it because in PROMETHEUS (08/108), there's a fight we do in a barn, and there's a move I do on this guy. It's the end of the fight where I fall on my back, and I'm pulling him over, and he has to go over the top, and he ends up upside of that. Then I reverse-flip back onto him, his chest, and do that [indicates a hit]. The take they're using is the one that worked. The second take is the one where I went over like that [indicates how]. My arm got stuck on the floor like that, and his whole weight came down on it, and it broke across there. You can see, its a whole different shape, and it snapped across here. And then in the one that works, I punch him and then flip up into a close-up and do something like "errrr" [makes a face]. And in the one that doesn't work, I flip up into a close-up, its all perfectly in focus, I've seen it, but my face is like white, and I'm screaming without making a sound, and I'd broken it. And on the take that the break is happening, you can hear it go [snap].
A TALE OF TWO MUSES INTERVIEWER:
Since you mentioned Bruce [Campbell]. You did an episode with him in Xena - A TALE OF TWO MUSES (74/406)
Yeah, have you seen that?
Yes. I wasn't quite sure of it.
It was an odd piece, but, again, I made a decision not to shoot any of it outside.
I was wondering why it was a bottle-show. [TV-speak for an episode made entirely inside in the Studio.]
Well, I just wanted to...it was like a kind of a musical. It wasn't a musical, but it was like one, and I wanted to get that feeling, which is why I had them just paint this huge backdrop.
Almost slightly surreal?
Surreal. I call it "super-real", like so real it's not real. And then we shot all those things of them walking across the desert, you know, we had trays of lighted methylated spirits in front of the camera to get the haze, and we could only shoot in one direction, so the actors come in and go "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah", and then we turn them around and put the other actor in there and move the camera an inch and shoot again and stuff like that. But again, I think it fulfills what it's meant to fulfill, but it's an odd little episode, very strange. I think when I did the Xena, you know the other one, A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215), that held it together quite well.
A DAY IN THE LIFE INTERVIEWER:
That was a superb episode.
Everybody says that, you know, and it's great because we shot it in like five days. I used [a] hand-held camera most of the time, except for the bath scene, which I really like. I kept getting calls from the editors, "Can you please give us something to cut away to?" - "Nah!" It's one shot; it's nearly three minutes long. It's never dull, and, you know, these two women in the bath together... So, I just said to Lucy and Renee, "Don't play sexy, don't do anything. If you do anything, it'll be too much. It's two women in a bath. It's you two in a bath. You don't have to do anything". And they didn't. They just played it. You watch it, and there's pieces like Xena scrubbing Gabrielle's ear and getting in there, and it's all so real. I just love it. It's my favorite, favorite shot.
Another hard day in the hot tub.
Did they ad lib lots in that?
No, not really. That was all written, but some of the other stuff was ad libbed. We shot it like hand-held, threw it around. We kept finishing our days early and I kept thinking, "God, there's something wrong here," but no, it was really good. It worked really well. I get a lot of positive feedback about that.
I think that one of the things was that the whole episode just has a sort of a moving, bouncy feel.
Yeah, it does.
You don't know quite where it's going next.
I kept saying, "Look, you've got to think like a BBC camera crew -- fly on the wall, and just go in and do it." And, also, Alison Wall, plays Minya - well she's fantastic. She's an old, old friend of mine. I actually taught her at drama school and all that sort of stuff, and that's what happens quite a lot with the actors here. Some of them, you know, I can remember from ten or fifteen years ago. You know, we've all worked together, or I've taught them or directed them. It's great in that respect
 [Michael also confessed to adding the soap gag himself!]
I am the Senior Software Engineer/System Administrator for the Surrey Centre for Research in Ion Beam Applications. My work includes maintaining and developing software of Ion implanters and visualisation software, as well supporting UNIX fileservers and workstations. I've been a UNIX system administrator now for 15 years. My hobbies include video and home cinema, cult tv, and traveling the World.
Bevis also maintains a detailed Xena: Warrior Princess web site which includes a lot of unique material. It is mirrored at two locations, one in the UK and one in the USA.
UK link: http://www.ee.surrey.ac.uk/Contrib/Xena/
US link: http://www.vidiot.com/Contrib/Xena/
Favorite episode: THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN (49/303); closely followed by A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "Won't you miss being waited on hand and foot?" Xena: "No, that's what you're there for!" WARRIOR...PRINCESS (15/115). I love this quote because, for me, it's the first time Xena really lets down her guard and accepts that Gabrielle is part of her life and that she's happy and relaxed about it.
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Least favorite episode: BLIND FAITH (42/218)