INTERVIEW WITH TSIANINA JOELSON
Tsianina Joelson speaking at a convention
How have you changed since you were a teenager and how are you the same?
(laughs) I think the most that I've changed about myself from being a teenager is that I was so active all the time, I was always in sports or doing school activities, I was never home, always busy, busy busy, and now I'm home because I have a baby. And, I guess my life has kind of calmed down in one essence, not always running around doing different activities, but it's more at home being a mom.
In your opinion what's the one word that best describes you?
I think happy (laughs).
In 1997, you were the Fitness America Champ. What are your secrets or advice to staying in good shape?
I think my best advice is to always find an activity that you enjoy doing, because if you enjoy it then you'll stick with it and find your best results. A lot of times people get on these kicks where they're gonna lose all this weight or work out really hard and then they don't enjoy it so they end up quitting and you don't get the results that you want. So if you find an activity that you love then you'll stick with it.
Do you speak any other languages? If not, is there one you would like to learn and why?
I do not speak any other languages. There's a couple. I'd love to be able to speak Spanish because so many people in the Los Angeles area speak Spanish, and I feel like I'm around these people all the time and I can't communicate with them, which can be frustrating, you know? And the other language I'd probably like to speak is probably French. I was in France last year. I absolutely love it there and it's beautiful, and I just think the language sounds really beautiful. And I'd love for my son to learn a second language while he's young because it'll be so much easier. So hopefully, we can get him started on a second language when he's like two or something. Where as, it'll take me years and he'll learn really quickly.
If you could be a character, real or fictional, who would you be and why?
(laughs) Oh god, that's funny. I would probably want to be Goofy, because I'm very goofy and silly and I think it would be fun just to make kids laugh and he makes me laugh, so I'd be Goofy.
So far in your acting career what has been your greatest challenge?
Hmm... that's a good one. I did this small independent film, and it was called Girl's Best Friend, and my character was very, she's just evil, really, really evil, mean, mean person and I think that was probably the farthest stretch, not that I can't be mean (laughs). That was the farthest stretch for me to have to go to be such a vindictive, evil, mean person. And that was probably the most challenging, I think.
If you weren't an actress, what do you think you'd be doing now?
I love photography, so I'd probably try to have my own studio, or try to shoot -- I love shooting kids, and I love shooting just scenic shots, so I'd probably try to have some kind of studio, or even do it out of my house, you know or something that I could do photography.
How is the set of a television show different from the set of a movie?
I think, well, when you're on a movie for a while, it kind of becomes like this close knit family, in a way, but I think probably television shows, I usually have done guest spots, I haven't been on a television show very long, except for Xena, and you just become such good friends with everyone. These people work together for years, and I think it's almost like an extension of your family because they spend so much time working together to do a project. I don't know what - I mean they're pretty basically, pretty basically the same in most aspects. But like Xena was great because it was shot in New Zealand, and a lot of the work was done on location so you weren't just stuck on a set all day, you got to go to different locations and do different things. I don't know, they're kind of the same - the one's that I've done.
What reaction do you have to seeing yourself on TV?
I really don't like to watch myself, especially in front of other people. (laughs) I think it's really embarrassing. So, if I'm going to watch myself...like we one time did a little get-together, I was on CSI, and I had people come over, because everyone thought that would be fun, and I was mortified, I really didn't like it. So if I'm going to watch it, I'd much rather watch it by myself or with my family than have a bunch of people around because it's kind of embarrassing.
That's kind of how I felt playing our interviews back and listening to myself on those.
Did you? Yeah - I hate to hear myself. I sound like that? Oh my gosh. Yeah, I know, it's totally, it's embarrassing. I'd much rather not. And then you feel like everyone has to be like, 'Oh that was so good,' you know, because what are they gonna say? That really sucked? I don't know (laughs). So anyway, I really would rather not, yeah. Or if you go to a premier or something, it's really embarrassing. All your friends look at you like -- That's you! And you know, it's just weird.
If you could guest star or star on any TV show, what would it be?
Well, I love Alias just because there's so much action. I love doing action. I absolutely loved Xena because I got to do all my stunts, I mean, of course we had stunt people, but I got to do a lot of my own stuff, which is so fun. So, probably that show. Or, if I was really funny, which I'm not, I would love to be on comedy. And I love Will and Grace, (laughs) but I'd have to be really funny, and I'm not. Action's probably more my road (laughs).
When getting into character for a role, are there any tricks you like to use?
Any tricks? I think, I don't know if I really have any tricks. Just like for - if I have a character or if I have a scene that's really emotional or whatever, it's mostly just staying away from people because, when I'm around people I tend to be myself which is maybe not who the character is exactly, so it's better for me to spend time by myself and be away from people if it's a serious role or if it's an emotional scene or something like that. I just kind of try to stay by myself. Except for it's hard to deal with hair and makeup -- trying to do your hair right before you go on (laughs). As much I can, I just try to do my own thing, be alone.
How much athletic training was involved in Bring It On, since it's a cheerleading movie?
We actually trained for a month before, we spent the whole month getting all the routines down and learning them and stuff, which was really fun. We all got to know each other really well. I mean, how much fun is that? You get to dance around for a month and get paid to do it, so it was really great (laughs). It was a lot of fun.
Our next category is on Xena, so what was your favorite scene or stunt?
Oh my goodness. My favorite fight scene was the one with Renee [O'Connor]. I don't even know what episode that was.
Varia and Gabrielle have a debate
That was PATH OF VENGEANCE.
PATH OF VENGEANCE, yeah. That one was the funnest, because it was such a long sequence. We shot that for an entire day, just that fight sequence. That one was really fun because, I think the stunt people maybe did like one flip or something, like we did the whole sequence. That was really, really fun, and Renee's a really good fighter, so that was really fun to do that. And then there's one where I fly out of the trees and they let me get on the wires and I was way, way high up in the tress and I like swing out of trees and land on the ground, and I was like, 'Oh yeah, I can totally do it, yeah, absolutely,' because I really wanted to be on the wires, you know. And I got up there, and I was scared shitless. I was so scared out of my mind that I was like, 'Oh yeah, no problem,' because I wanted to do it so bad. And once I got the first one down, I was okay but I was petrified up there and I was trying to act like I didn't care, was totally fine. So that was kind of funny. And then another one...I loved all my fight stuff. I had a fight with Lucy [Lawless] and I had staffs, I had those two sticks in my hands, and that one was bad, I dislocated my shoulder. So that was gross. Yeah that was really gross. But it was really fun, until then (laughs) and I had to go home.
Going back to what you said in the beginning of that about the fight scene with Renee, so you were saying that most of that was the two of you and not as much stunt people?
Yeah. That was pretty basically all us. I think there's one flip that I was supposed to do and the stunt person did, but besides that the whole rest of that sequence was us. So it was really fun and they took a lot of time to shoot it, which was really fun. I don't know, that was just a really fun fight sequence.
There have been a lot of rumors lately about a Xena movie and if it were possible to write you into one, would you like to do it?
Oh yeah, I'd absolutely love to do it. That would be so much fun. Are they real rumors or are they just...?
We're not sure. There's been a lot of stuff, I think I read somewhere, that the Pasadena convention that it was Rob Tapert and Lucy Lawless who said they would love to do it, but that it might be a few years down the road. We're not sure how serious the rumors are.
Right, right. Oh that would be cool, huh?
Yeah. In filming the episode DANGEROUS PREY you had the opportunity to be directed by a fellow cast member, Renee O'Connor. Was it at all different to be directed by someone you'd acted with in front of the camera?
It was great for me because she's such a sweetheart. She's really descriptive in helping her actors. She's an actress, so she knows kind of how to talk to us and tell us what she wants in a really kind way, not that I've had any bad directors, but she was just really, really great to work with, and we had a lot of fun doing that.
If you could have portrayed either of the main characters of Xena, either Xena or Gabrielle, which one would you have wanted to be and why?
Oh my goodness. Huh. Oh wow. That's a good question. You guys have good questions.
That's funny. We asked that one to Adrienne Wilkinson, and she said the same thing - that it was a good question, and that she'd never had it asked.
Yeah, that's a really good question. Oh my gosh, that's so hard. I love Renee's character because, I don't know...she's so levelheaded and kind and you know, that's kind of neat. But Lucy's character, I think, more fun because she's more wild and kind of crazy. So I think Lucy's character would be a little funner to actually play. But Renee's - I don't know (laughs). That's a really good question.
What was your opinion of all those skimpy amazon outfits? Were you ever uncomfortable?
Well I got there, and I was mortified. I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' And it was even shorter than what you guys saw. It was so short. My outfit was terrible. I was like begging them - can you please give me a little more? And on top of that, we do all those kicks, and all that stuff and the crotch shots aren't very sweet either, with all the fighting (laughs). So they ended up making my little stupid skirt thing longer, but they would wash it and by the last episode it was so small it was like a bikini. So they cut me a new one because I was like, 'This is really ridiculous,' (laughs) and they cut me a new one and it looked like I had this huge dress on, putting the new one next to the one they'd washed like ten times. It was so funny how much it had shrunk up. Yeah, and my boobs were really nice in those too. They were huge. The costume was so uncomfortable. I'd have like huge marks, like cuts in my neck and stuff because it was so tight. Kinda crazy.
Varia having a bad day in TO HELICON AND BACK
Is there anything about Xena or your character that you would have changed?
Probably...well my outfit for one. I got used to it after a couple of episodes but in the beginning that was awful. The only thing I would have changed is I probably would have come on the show sooner just so I would have gotten to do more because once I got there I had so much fun. I just wish I could have not been there in the last run of it and been there a little earlier so I could have gotten to do more. That would probably be it.
Going off that, is it different the first time you come on for an episode then like the second or third time when you've already been there?
Absolutely. The first time is always really awkward and kind of uncomfortable. Any guest spot you do, it's really uncomfortable, because like I said earlier everyone is like a family, they work together every day for months, sometimes years together, so they're really tight-knit. And it's not that they're not great and warm and friendly, it's just, you know, when you have your best friends that you've hung around with forever, and a newcomer comes in, it's just different. So I think it's a huge difference. By the time I did my last episode, I'd missed everyone so much from New Zealand. The crew was amazing, the cast was really great, I was like hoping that I would get to go back because I'd get to see all the people and the friends that I'd made because they're just wonderful people.
Are you still in touch with them? Or are you still friendly?
Occasionally, I write to some of the wardrobe girls and makeup girls who were just so much fun. I love 'em to death. Anyways, occasionally I get a letter from them, and I write them so yeah. Every once in a while. I think it's kind of hard because we're so far apart that the likelihood of us seeing each other again is pretty much, it's not gonna happen unless they come here or I go there. Some of the actors I still see. Like Adrienne [Wilkinson] I see occasionally. I think we had a couple episodes together. She's a sweetheart.
So, how has being on Xena changed you or your life? p>Changed me or my life? It changed me - I guess I got the opportunity to go to New Zealand and to meet all those people. It's always a great experience to meet people from other cultures and different countries and just make those connections, and see the way other people live and you know, make new friends. I think being on Xena gave me, I don't know - it maybe gave me a little bit more confidence acting wise because I was on the show for like 5 episodes which was not a ton but it was more television than I'd done. Usually I do guest spots or I'm there for one episode or whatever. So that was kind of fun that I got to keep coming back and kind of evolve my character a little bit more than I maybe would have on something that I'm going on once. I don't know, that's probably most of what it did and also I've gotten to go to a lot of conventions which is kind of fun but kind of crazy (laughs).
What's it like meeting your fans?
It's really weird because I'm kind of a dork and I don't think of myself as anything special really. I don't know - it's kind of weird when someone's really excited to meet you it's kind of a weird feeling. Kind of like I don't really understand why, cause if they knew me they wouldn't be that impressed. You know what I mean? I don't know. It's kind of weird. Kind of bizarre. If someone's super excited it's really weird cause like - why are you so excited? And then it's funny, like, Sarah that does my website, the first time she met me she was like freaking out and now she talks to me all the time and she's like yeah, now it's no big deal (laughs). It's just you, it's not a big deal. Kind of funny. I was like thanks a lot, you were excited about me at one time and now I'm just Tsianina, it's no big deal (laughs).
So right now, currently, do you have any projects that you're working on?
You know what, I actually don't. I haven't even told Sarah, but I talked to my manager a couple weeks ago and I'm going to take a few months off. I think I tried to come back too fast after I had the baby and it's just, having a baby is a lot of work and a lot of fun but I wasn't enjoying my acting because I was so stressed out being a new mom and we just redid our house at the same time so everything has been kind of hectic. So I'm going to take a couple months off, kind of regroup, get my house finished and then I will start up again. I had a little period where I wasn't having fun just because I was so stressed out about my baby so I don't want to do it if I'm not having a good time. So I'm excited to take just a couple months off and get ready and get back to auditioning.
I read, I'm not sure what site it was, but I was just trying to look up some of the things you had done and one of the sites mentioned something about the the movie Boat Trip? Saying that you had a small part in that?
I don't even know if I'm in the final cut. I don't even know if my scene's in there. I haven't seen it. My part was really small, it was nothing major at all and I don't even know if it's in there. Nobody I know has seen it and I haven't seen it.
What was your scene?
Oh, my scene. I play a blind girl, or a blind woman. Horatio Sanz is trying to pick up on me and he's trying to pick up on all these girls and I'm blind so I can't see what he looks like. And I feel his face and I'm totally grossed out and I kind of walk off and then Cuba walks in. So, yeah, I have no idea if it's in there. I was actually in the trailer. It's funny. Whenever I do a small part on a movie I'm always in the trailer for some reason. And my parts like so small it cracks me up. So I did see myself in the trailer but I didn't you know, see the movie, so I don't know.
I did have a question about your name. I've tried to look up exactly how to say it....
(laughs)It's pronounced Cha-neena like c-h-a Cha-neena.
That's what I thought. Was it hard on you growing up with people spelling it and saying it wrong all the time?
From the time I was a little girl I was always very proud of my name, I don't know why. I liked that it was different. Every day I get asked so I'm very used to it and it doesn't bother me at all and it never has. When I was little I was more apt to correct you on saying my name properly and now people mess it up all the time and - whatever. I answer to pretty much anything. I've always liked having a different name. I love my name. When I first moved out here, my manager said you need to change your name. Like, no. She wanted me to change the spelling so it sounded phonetically, you know, the way it's spelled. It's actually Cree Indian, and it means wildflower. I like it. It's different.
I think it's a very pretty name. Yeah, once you figure out how to say it.
Thank you. Yeah, exactly, I know. On my resume, I have it phonetically and even then people don't get it.
Did you think it was at all not weird, but maybe surprising, I don't know the word...but how did you react to that we wanted to do an interview?
Oh, I was excited to do it. She [manager] told me you know, what you guys were doing, kind of, and what it was about. I used to have a show on MTV and I did a lot of interviews then. I just haven't for a while because I've kind of been out of the loop, obviously having a baby kind of puts me out of the loop while I'm pregnant and then now having him. So it's been a little while, but I have done quite a few in the past. But for me, I don't know....if I'm talking to you guys, I'm talking to you as friends. When you guys called to do an interview I felt like oh cool, I get to meet some new people and find out about them a little bit and tell them a little about me and it's always fun for me. I love to meet people and make new friends.
Joelson showing off at a convention
Florence Jessica Paulle and Brianna Leigh, "Interview with Adrienne Wilkinson". Whoosh #77 (May 2003)
Florence Jessica Paulle and Brianna Leigh, "Interview with Timothy Omundson". Whoosh #83 (December 2003)
Florence Jessica Paulle
Florence Jessica Paulle is a teenager attending high school in Michigan. Writing is her favorite hobby, and she plans to turn that love into a career someday soon. She enjoys tennis as well, and of course is a longtime viewer of Xena: Warrior Princess.
Favorite episodes: INTIMATE STRANGER and THE GREATER GOOD
Favorite line: Callisto: "We played a game of truth or dare and she wasn't very good at it." A NECESSARY EVIL
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST
Least favorite episode: FRIEND IN NEED
Brianna is a teenager attending high school in Hawaii, USA. She is a frequent visitor at the Whoosh! message boards... you may know her as lilpunkin or mystikgab. Brianna enjoys horseback riding and surfing, and looks into acting or web design as a career.
Favorite episode: MANY HAPPY RETURN
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "It's very strange... in each story you tell me, this thing I'm wearing gets smaller. Is it enchanted?" FORGET ME NOT
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST
Least favorite episode: MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS