It may have been created specifically for syndication and never held a prime time slot, but Xena: Warrior Princess was one of the shows that defined the 1990s. Alongside Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena ruled the late-night airwaves for six whole seasons before wrapping up the hero's tale in a two-part series finale in 2001.
For the uninitiated, the show followed Xena (played by Lucy Lawless) and her partner Gabrielle as they traveled through a fantasy version of ancient Greece, saving villages from mythological monsters and dealing with gods like Ares and Aphrodite.
Was it campy? Yes. Were the effects laughably bad at times? Yes. Was it awesome? Hell yes!
For a show in syndication, Xena had an intricate lore, blending different mythologies from across the globe while at the same time developing the characters of the show into ones that have stuck with us for years. Lawless herself would go on to be a mainstay in Spartacus, but fans will always remember her as the charming and fierce Warrior Princess.
With a reboot rumored to be in the works, we're going to take a stroll down memory lane and remind you of some lesser-known facts about the show that has been called "...One of the most influential TV shows of all time."
Here are 15 Things You Didn't Know About Xena: Warrior Princess.
15 It was created by Sam Raimi, of Spider-Man and Evil Dead fame
He's more known as the director of the best Spider-Man series to date (even if the third one was... less than stellar), but Sam Raimi got his start with this little cult classic horror movie called The Evil Dead. Maybe you've heard of it? It went on to spawn two sequels, a reboot, a comic book series, countless video games, and even a TV show. Lately Raimi has embraced the role of producer more than director, with only two movies released since Spider-Man 3 in 2007.
The role of the producer isn't something that's new to Raimi; he actually has more producer credits to his name than he does director or writer!
Xena was far from the only syndicated show that the director/producer has funded, but it is by far his most popular. Raimi's fingerprints are all over this show; it's full of the director's signature blend of humor, horror, and camp, on top of including several of his usual actors in cameos and as recurring characters.
14 There were always jokes in the credits
The opening credits of any show are a great way to hype up the thirty to sixty minutes that are about to follow. Often accompanied by epic music, the start of Xena would get us excited with clips of the hero's adventures mixed with the cast of colorful characters. It wasn't anything too experimental or unique, but it worked! Then there were the end credits. No matter what show you're watching there's a good chance that you're not going to give more than a second glance to the words on the screen at the end.
Xena: Warrior Princess found a fun way to keep fans glued to the screen through the credits: they would always insert a humorous line near the end. Messages included things like "No harpies were harmed in the making of this episode" to "Xena was permanently harmed in the making of this motion picture, but kept her spirits up" in the final episode (featuring the character's death).
Fans were so excited about catching each funny message that they started keeping track of them via internet forums.
13 Most of the episodes were shot on location in New Zealand
Syndicated shows are known for being notoriously cheap. They have terrible effects, usually have wooden acting, and can't get any more than B-list talent. However, one of the few benefits of this shoestring approach to budgeting is that it forces the showrunners to shoot in real locations rather than purely on the sound stages of a production studio. What a show like this lacks in production value, it makes up for in the cinematography of the natural landscape.
If the locations of Xena: Warrior Princess look familiar, it's because the show shares a popular shooting location with one of the biggest blockbuster franchises of all time. Just like Lord of the Rings, Xena was filmed on location in New Zealand. Many of the show's scenes were shot in the Auckland Region of the country, inside of their natural parks. Fun fact: Lucy Lawless herself is actually a native Kiwi!
12 It was actually a spin-off of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Alongside Xena, Sam Raimi was responsible for producing Hercules: The Legendary Journeys with Kevin Sorbo starring as the famed demigod. Both of the series took place in a shared universe long before Marvel popularized the concept in the world of cinema. Xena and Hercules had multiple crossover episodes and shared a handful of characters and locations.
Though the two shows ran simultaneously through most of their run, Hercules was actually the one to come first. Of course, Xena was around for longer, but people are often quick to associate the two shows with each other.
What they often forget is that the Warrior Princess got her start in a three-episode arc in Hercules. Originally the showrunners intended the character to die at the end of this story arc and never be seen again. However, fan reaction was so strong to Xena that she was spared and got her own spin-off in 1995. Xena eventually went on to eclipse its predecessor in the syndication ratings.
11 Her weapon (the Chakram) has a backstory all to itself
Xena's weapon, the Chakram, is one of the most iconic parts of the show. Instead of a typical sword or bow and arrow, the Warrior Princess would wield this circular blade-like weapon as she charged into battle screaming her powerful war cry. The Chakram was unique in that it acted like a razor-sharp boomerang, bouncing off enemies and returning to its wielder after each throw. Because the weapon required so much skill, only three other characters in the entire six-season run were shown to be able to use it.
Remember when we said Xena was great at world building? Well, even her freaking weapon had its own intricate backstory! Though the story was kept as vague and mysterious as it could be, we know that she was given the weapon by the god Ares sometime in her early days.
Later, it is shown that her Chakram is one of two: Xena wields the Dark Chakram throughout most of the series and attained the "Chakram of Light" later, fusing it with her own to make the Balance Chakram.
10 The original costume was donated to the Smithsonian
Like any good show, Xena's costume evolved with her character over time. Though she always had an armored breastplate and leather skirt, the showrunners would change things up with different colors, sleeves, and accessories for her outfit.
Sometimes the character would be adorned in glamorous ceremonial armor while other times she would be in little more than an armored bra and skirt. No matter what she wore, the Warrior Princess was a fashion icon of the fantasy genre.
In 2006, one of the character's outfits was recognized as an important part of pop culture history. Lucy Lawless decided to donate her own personal costume (a souvenir she had taken from the show) to the Smithsonian Museum of American History to put in their vast collection. The piece is currently still on display in all its glory, along with the hero's signature Chakram and sword.
9 Bruce Campbell (and Raimi's brother) had recurring roles
Like we said before, it wouldn't be a Sam Raimi production without some of his favorite actors! Bruce Campbell and the director go way back. The two were friends back during Raimi's early film making days before hitting it (semi) big with The Evil Dead. In the years since the two have followed each other in their endeavors. Campbell has either starred or had a cameo in everything Raimi has made in the last twenty years! Another signature actor who appears in Raimi's movies is his brother, Ted.
In Xena the two were front and center as recurring characters. Bruce Campbell played Autolycus, the King of Thieves. As the name suggests, Autolycus was a legendary criminal who turned to a life of crime after his brother was murdered in cold blood.
Ted Raimi was the bumbling Joxer, a loyal friend to Xena and Gabrielle who acted as the show's comic relief and wasn't the brightest bulb in the box. The character started off as a minor recurring character before getting promoted to a series regular in the second season.
8 Xena is Bulgarian
Obviously, a show about ancient Greece would include a Greek main character, right? Xena has the personality, fighting prowess, and stature of the traditional Amazonian woman of Greek Mythology. Most people just assume that the Warrior Princess hails from somewhere like Sparta or Athens, or even Thebes, but that is not the case.
Lucy Lawless has come out and admitted that Xena is Bulgarian (Ancient Thrace, in particular). This shouldn't have come as a surprise; the Thracians were allies of Troy during the Trojan war, and part of ancient Bulgaria lies within the modern-day borders of Greece. Not to mention, Greek Mythology gives the ancient Thracian King Thrax ties to the God of War, Ares (who is also a recurring character in Xena).
There was also a major hint staring fans right in the face the whole time, as the show's theme song is an adaptation of a traditional Bulgarian folk song!
7 The show wasn't all Greek
The whole shtick of Xena and Hercules was that it was a syndicated series chronicling the adventures of the characters through ancient Greece as they encountered larger-than-life characters straight out of Greek mythology. Not only did Xena have to deal with the characters of the legendary stories, but she also had so many encounters with people ripped straight out of history and was put in scenarios that the showrunners would create out of the existing mythology. The fact that Xena was Bulgarian is the olive on top of this Mediterranean salad.
However, the show was not afraid to break away from the standard formula and branch out into the mythologies of other cultures. Xena and Gabrielle have fought characters from Egyptian, Japanese, German, and Chinese lore.
There was even a severely controversial episode in which the Warrior Princess encounters a few of the Hindu gods (Hinduism is still widely practiced today), and fans of the show were angry that the two-part finale had nothing to do with Greece or Greek mythology at all.
6 Lucy Lawless would eventually play Wonder Woman
If you take one look at Xena, you can see how much the character was inspired by Wonder Woman. Diana of Themyscira wears a costume that is near-identical to the one that was donated to the Smithsonian. Though Xena was Bulgarian, both her and Diana had origins tied to Greek mythology. Both of the characters were fierce, independent women who could kick your butt and look great doing it. Some would even argue that Xena is just a Wonder Woman that is willing to kill!
The showrunners have made no secret that the Wonder Woman comics were a huge inspiration for their show. This made it all the more sweeter when, in 2008, the two characters were forever intertwined with Justice League: New Frontier. Lucy Lawless was given the role of Diana of Themyscira, and was finally able to pay homage to the woman who had inspired the character that launched her career. Needless to say, she was a natural in the role!
5 One of the first shows to have a dedicated internet fandom (and still active today!)
The '90s were an interesting time for the world wide web. Nowadays we use the internet for everything from mobile banking to video-calling our friends to streaming the latest episode of Stranger Things. Back when Xena was on the airwaves, the internet was still in its early stages of development. You had to be logged into a chat room to communicate with your friends after school and often you couldn't use the internet and the phone at the same time.
However, the fans of Xena were one of the first to utilize the world wide web to discuss their favorite show with people across the world. People would hop on the Xena Online Community board to discuss the latest episode, or theories they had about where the story was headed, or just to discuss the awesomeness of the show in general.
The Xena fandom is so dedicated that it was only in 2015, a whopping fourteen years after the show had ended, that the final Xena convention was held. Despite this small setback, the show's forums are still alive and kicking to this very day.
4 It helped boost young Karl Urban's career
Karl Urban has come a long way since his early days. The Kiwi actor started with such "classic" shows as Shark in the Park and White Fang before going on to become one of the more bankable stars in Hollywood.
Though he still doesn't have that "leading man" status, Urban is no slouch, having given us impressive performances as Judge Dredd, Eomer, and Dr. McCoy. The actor is set to get in on the MCU when he plays the villain Skurge in Marvel's upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.
But before the days of Gondor and Mega-City One, there was Cupid. And Julius Caesar. And Mael. And Kor. Between Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Urban played four different characters!
Oddly enough, if you didn't point out that it was the same actor, many wouldn't notice. Despite playing both Cupid and Caesar multiple times, Urban blended into his roles so well that you couldn't tell it was the same guy.
3 The actress playing Gabrielle did most of her own stunts
For a list about Xena: Warrior Princess, we've been awfully quiet about Gabrielle! Portrayed by Renee O'Connor, Gabrielle was the Robin to Xena's Batman. Actually, that's a pretty poor comparison - Gabrielle and Xena were pretty much equals when it came to their adventures.
In the pilot episode Xena saves the young girl and her village from the clutches of the warlord Draco. In return (and to get away from the arranged marriage her parents set up), Gabrielle offers to follow Xena on her quest. Over the course of the series she goes from helpless farm girl to badass Amazonian warrior.
Her personality isn't the only thing that's tough about Gabrielle. Renee O'Connor actually did a ton of her own stunts herself! Though she still had some stunt doubles on duty for some of the more death-defying feats, she learned how to do her own fight choreography and did as many stunts as the showrunners would allow her to do. The most impressive of these was a backflip suspended over a deep pit in the "Abyss" episode of season six.
2 The show was nominated for multiple Emmy awards
Xena: Warrior Princess may have been a great show, but it's just about the furthest thing away from what you'd consider "Emmy worthy."
Sure, it had cool stunts and good writing. Yeah, the lore was well done and the stories were really well thought out. But in the end it was still a syndicated show that featured the main character screaming "Aiyiyiyiyi!" as she did a double backflip over her enemy's head. Also, despite the stories being well written, the dialogue left something to be desired at times.
Yet, Xena can be listed under the category of "Emmy Award-Winning!" The show's composer, Joseph LoDuca, was nominated for his work on the show six times. He was finally able to snag the elusive award in 2000 for his music in the show's fourth season.
Despite the lack of Emmys under its belt, Xena was nominated for (and won) countless awards in its six year run.
1 Xena and Gabrielle's relationship was left intentionally ambiguous
There always seem to be an elephant in the room when people talk about the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. Of course, being around each other for six years and facing life-or-death scenarios together forms a strong bond that can't easily be broken between friends. However, these two seemed much closer than "just friends" at times; the two have locked lips on multiple occasions (both intentionally and unintentionally) and seem to have a much more intimate relationship than most. Lawless herself is even on board with the theory that the two were a couple.
It is never said outright what kind of a relationship the two have together, and this was intentional on the part of the showrunners. They claimed that they wanted viewers to form their own opinions on the matter rather than causing a stir by announcing it one way or the other.
This has led to the pair becoming a positive symbol for the LBGT community while also becoming sex symbols. It may remain ambiguous, but the relationship between these two should be life goals, no matter which way you look at it!
Did we get your favorite piece of Xena trivia on here? Were you such a big fan that you already knew all this? Let us know in the comments!
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