Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor on reuniting amid the pandemic for My Life Is Murder, their favorite Xena episodes and using their platform to call out people like Kevin Sorbo.
In 2001, “Xena: Warrior Princess” and trusty sidekick Gabrielle faced off against evil together for the last time — on camera at least — with the show’s series finale.
20 years later, the actresses who played the legendary duo have reunited for Lucy Lawless’ Acorn TV series “My Life Is Murder,” a show which takes her and Renee O’Connor out of swords and sandals territory and throws them into a modern-day mystery. Lawless stars as detective Alexa Crowe on a show and the Season 2 finale finds her investigating a murder of a self-help guru and going head to head against his wife (O’Connor).
Though this is the first time the two have had any substantial screen time together since “Xena,” they’ve clearly remained very close in the real world — whether it’s reuniting at fan conventions or catching up, as well all do now, via their computers.
TooFab actually spoke with them both over Zoom ahead of the “My Life Is Murder” finale, where they opened up about how it felt being able to film together during the pandemic, how their children feel about their iconic series now that they’re older and shared which episodes they’d love to step back in time to and experience all over again. Lawless also opened up about the reaction to her viral Kevin Sorbo tweet ripping him for questioning who was really responsible for the Capitol Insurrection — and why she isn’t afraid to take a stand on social media.
Read the full conversation below. The Season 2 finale of “My Life Is Murder” premieres Monday, October 25 on Acorn TV.
When was the last time you saw each other before working on “My Life Is Murder”?
Renee: Before “My Life Is Murder,’ I feel like it was when you were in Los Angeles … oh, no, no, no, no, I think it might have been in Colorado? At a convention, yeah.
Lucy: No, Toronto, Toronto!
Renee: There was a brief moment where we saw each other back-to-back over a couple different cities, and so that was the last time.
When it did come time to work together on this, Renee still had to do two weeks of quarantine once you touched down in New Zealand. Was that frustrating, to have that reunion delayed even more?
Renee: Well, honestly, it was perfect for me because I came from a very busy environment in America, and a very politically-charged environment in America, so it was nice to go to New Zealand and just unwind and decompress. Honestly, two weeks was longer than I wanted to wait to see Lucy but it was so nice to just slow down. And then I came out of quarantine on Lucy’s birthday. So the timing was perfect, I went straight to the set and saw her.
Lucy: I didn’t recognize her at first, she was some weird American lady making goofy comments at me in the lunch line. With the masks and everything I couldn’t tell you who she was, I wasn’t expecting it.
For Lucy, how did you decide that this was the role that Renee should take on? I know you talked about wanting to work with her in the first season, but it couldn’t happen. How did this come about?
Lucy: The role was written for a man. We had been talking about what can we put Renee in? Can we get Renee down? Can we bureaucratically work it out — because it was very difficult — is she available? Will she tolerate — to do two weeks in quarantine is just hideous — so thank you, Renee. But I think [producers Claire Tonkin and Mark Beesley] were the ones who figured out, no let’s have Rene in a finale, and let’s change this role to be a woman.
It’s such a fun role too, as this guru/cult leader personality.
Renee: I’d never played anything like that before. I’ve been in plays where I was a mother whose daughter went into a cult, but I’ve never been the actual cult leader.
Lucy: She’s quite terrifying!
Renee: I remember, Lucy, I was sending you those videos of that guy that was a current cult leader [Keith Raniere of NXIVM].
When came time to shoot, how fun was it to do something that is so completely different from Xena? Modern setting, normal clothes, being around each other again, what was that like?
Lucy: For me, Ren, it didn’t feel that different. It felt like no time at all had passed. Were both accustomed to mixing up the roles, Xena, Gabrielle were often different things, so that was not different. The uncanny thing was how little time passed.
Renee: Right, yeah, I agree. Just working with Lucy it felt like I just left.
Lucy: The most natural thing in the world.
Renee: Yeah, completely, which is why I would love to do it again. The character though was pretty out there, so I know I don’t think I felt comfortable in my skin but that actually was perfect for the opportunity.
I know this was filmed during the ongoing pandemic but were you able to spend time together off-set? What is the reaction like when people do see you two together?
Renee: I was able to stay with Lucy. Lucy invited me to stay with her the whole time but when I knew it was going to be over two months and I knew she was working constantly non-stop, I chose to just sort of give her a little more space and stay elsewhere until the very end. Honestly, the last week I stayed with her, it was the best time I had with Lucy because it was just so relaxing to be able to just have a little more time to chat with her. Besides, in the middle of a filming session.
Lucy: And to meet her beautiful boy who’s in New Zealand studying drama was just like just closing the circle of family, because I had known him as a little boy, but he didn’t know me. And so the fact that he’s become an actor — between the two of us, he’s the only one of the five kids who has any interest in the business.
Renee, how was it having your son Miles be involved in this as well — and is it wild that he is back in New Zealand kind of around the same age you were when you started filming Xena?
Lucy: That’s true, isn’t it?
Renee: Yeah, I’ve been very aware that he is sort of recreating the same steps. He decided to leave for New Zealand and he hasn’t come back and he’s really not planning on coming back anytime soon, which is exactly the experience I had. He’s just in love with, with everything about New Zealand, so I’m so thrilled for him. Working with him, wasn’t unusual because we’ve been doing several plays and musicals and even filming projects together.
Lucy: Renee’s family is a little rep theater of their own.
Renee: We’re the Von Trapps! But honestly, working with Lucy was a whole other level for him and he was so excited, honestly. Every day he was just like, ‘I can’t believe I’m working with Lucy Lawless. He was so nervous about working with her and getting it right and being perfect …
Lucy: Which is part of your rite of passage as an actor, if you’re a real actor, you’re going to worry about that no matter what. But I wanted to make sure that he, like everybody else who comes on the show, feels the most relaxed they can so they could do their best work.
Renee: You definitely did that for him, Lucy.
You two have already said can’t wait to work together again. The question we got over and over again when we mentioned we’d be speaking with you is when can we see you again after this. This hasn’t even aired yet and they’re ready for the next thing.
Renee: That’s amazing. I just hope they soak up this opportunity and then share it with everybody and enjoy the episode and enjoy all of Lucy’s shows, enjoy the seasons, support the show completely, that’s what I’m hoping for.
Lucy: Renee comes and helps me. She came and helped me do a little passion project, and she was my lovely assistant, and helped with the crew and fed the crew and all this stuff. You did, so she and I will be working together, for sure.
Renee: Yeah, I can’t wait, whatever it is.
What is it like to keep in contact when you guys are so separated?
Lucy: It’s like family in the modern world, isn’t it, with Zoom? We don’t even need it. She and I are like two halves of some … that experience, meant that we’re just forever connected. Renee, you complete me.
Renee: It’s nice though, after all this time, to see other ways that we can work together. Even just helping, honestly, I was just there at this one tiny moment of what Lucy is working on at the moment but I would do anything just to hang out with her and work with her. It’s just because she’s a cool lady to begin with and she’s a dear friend, so it’s cool. These zoom opportunities are my chance just to say, ‘Hey, how’s it going, Luce,” until we get to see each other again. I really appreciate you guys supporting this, our relationship throughout the years.
What do both of your kids think of your your Xena legacies now that they’re old enough to appreciate it. Obviously, some of them weren’t even born or were just children when the show began — but have they watched it, do they appreciate it?
Lucy: My kids don’t have any interest, I might as well work in a bank. No, they are the stars of their own lives. They’re quite surprised when other people give a damn.
Renee: Are they? That’s so interesting. Obviously Miles had a sort of a moment with Lucy, so it was very evident. And then my daughter, little things creep up here and there. She was just in a musical that I was directing, and she was an understudy for a certain role, but I added this stunt version of sort of like Xena moment in Beauty and the Beast because I wanted to. So, when I was showing her the stunt, it was my opportunity to bring out this little Gabrielle staff, and she didn’t understand why I knew so much about this little weapon of choice.
Renee: So little moments come out.
Lucy: That’s right, so both of Renee’s children are interested in the performance and none of mine.
If you could travel back to any day on the set of “Xena” or a specific episode that you would love to relive or redo what would it be?
Renee: I know what mine would be. Mine would be ‘A Day in the Life.’ It was so much fun. It was one of the first times that a comedy came through, and we had a ball, Michael Hurst was directing. It set the tone of the comedies, don’t you think Lucy, early on?
Lucy: That was a beaut. One episode I really liked, and I’m quite proud of my work on it was ‘Old Aries Had a Farm’ where actually Xena was not focus of the episode, at all. I was kind of an extra in my own show and just relaxing into that makes you do just really great work. I’m sort of proud of that, I guess it’s more filmic you know when you’re not acting at all. In fact, you’re just a bit of a zero and it makes it kind of fascinating. Something magical happened there just on an acting level.
Renee: I’d like to see ‘The Debt’ again, that one would be interesting to revisit after all this time. I know that it was heavy and hard but wow, I liked it.
Lucy: I think any of the ones where we were in pain.
Lastly, Lucy, you’ve been very vocal and active on Twitter. Are you happy to be in a place where you do have this platform where you can do something with it — and were you surprised how much attention you got earlier this year for calling out Kevin Sorbo on Twitter?
I was surprised about that. Just shows the level of resonance that those characters still have for people these days. But, you know, needs must, you got to speak your mind and I’m a big believer in a clean justice system and a clean political system and I fear for what is going on in, not just here, but in many countries.
I’m working with Steven Donziger, a human rights lawyer that big oil is trying to jail, and they’ve already vilified aand tried to destroy him and now they want to throw him in jail. And over my dead body, that man should not even spend one day in jail. We’re looking for a judge with even an ounce of morality and love for actual justice and the law to come in and fix that mess, because his only crime was to win a major judgment for people, the Indigenous people of Ecuador against an oil company that had deliberately polluted their homelands, to this day, and given them all horrible cancers, and lost their limbs, and the only one who’s paying is that lawyer.
Fans are obviously happy to see you still fighting now for something even greater. Thank you for your time today.