With that little bit of shameless self-promotion out of the way, let's get back to business! If you missed the previous installment of this interview, you can read it here.
Let's move on to the real reason I called you. Were you aware of the series? Did they approach you, or was this something your agent put together?
It was kind of a combination. I was definitely aware of the show, though I didn't really know anything about the characters. It was all set up through my representation. The timing was kind of funny, because they called me in late December or early January, and I couldn't attend. So for all practical purposes I thought the chance had passed. But then a couple weeks passed and they still hadn't found anyone, so they called for me again and this time I was able to go.
It was hilarious, because the casting director had said, "They definitely want to see Adrienne, but they're concerned that she might be too old." I remember my agent thinking that they must be thinking of the wrong person, because the role was for twenty-five and I'm twenty-two. I always play younger - this is the first time I've played older.
My agent's like, "I think you have the wrong person." And the casting director said, "I'm not sure, I remember her, I love her, but I thought she was older." So I showed up and she looked at me and was like, "Oh my god. You're the one." I'm sure it was out of frustration because she had been looking for a while.
That's actually somewhat surprising that they'd think you were too old.
I was totally surprised when they said that.
So you got the part, after extensive trials I'm sure.
[Laughs] There were a few.
And then they sent you the first script. What was your reaction after reading it?
Complete and total shock. The sides that I read - the excerpts from the script I auditioned with - it was only two scenes.This was from the first episode you did?
Yeah, this was for Livia, and onscreen the scenes ended up totally different from the audition sides. One of the scenes was with Ares - it was, in fact one of the very first scenes in the script. Basically it was just me plotting with him. At that point it was incredibly romantic, and he was convincing me how I was going to be the Empress and so on, how I was going to lead everyone back to the gods.
None of the scenes even read with Xena, so I had no idea there was even any relationship between us. I wasn't sure my story would even intersect with hers - I thought that I was in a "B" storyline that didn't even involve her.
Little did you know...
Absolutely! It's interesting. I was thrilled, but I was also shocked and confused. I didn't know much of the back-story; I didn't understand the lack of age difference. When I learned more about the story, and more of the details I became absolutely ecstatic.
How did you prepare for that? Once you became more aware of the back-story of the character and where she came from, did you grab a hold of some tapes of the show to get some idea of the way things worked?
A couple of things, actually. There's a lot about my character that isn't known. I mean there's twenty-five years where we have no idea what happened. So just for my own sake I did a little back-story on what kind of person she is, what kind of life she's had, what makes her who she is - trying to justify some of the choices.
The production company sent me three tapes, one with Xena when she was evil, one of the first episodes where Callisto appeared, and then an episode that was only a few episodes before I appeared, when I was a baby. This was so I would know a little bit about the story.
Before I left, I had about four days of rehearsals with a martial arts teacher who does fight choreography for film. I was able to work with him and get a clue about what they might be asking for. He taught me some sequences, and how to work with certain weapons. I got a lot of help out of that.
The honest truth is, I cannot tell you how much of a difference the costume made. That is really what cinched the whole thing. It was regal, and powerful, and slightly intimidating - or at least, that's how it made me feel. That helped me tremendously.
I was going to ask if you had studied any of Hudson Leick's performances. When you first appeared - obviously the fans knew exactly what was going on with Eve being Callisto reborn - several people commented on how your physical performance and mannerisms seemed very similar to things that Hudson did as Callisto. There was a lot of question whether that was intentional - if it was something you and the producers were going for to intentionally draw that connection.
I would say it was a combination. Once I realized that I was the daughter I absolutely watched for details that I might be able to pick up from them. Hudson has the most amazing... I don't even know if I can describe it all that well... but she had this presence that was deliciously evil. It wasn't necessarily overbearing and ugly, it was really satisfying to watch. She was entirely self-satisfied, and I stole a little bit of that. I think Callisto was completely in the right, no one could ever challenge her - from her own perspective, at least - and I definitely brought that into my character. Without a doubt, that whatever decision I made was one hundred percent correct and nobody could change my mind.
Physically, I only saw the single fight she did in that episode they sent me. I have to say that was the fight choreographer. I heard a lot of the actual moves during the fights were taken from her and a lot of the choreography was from earlier episodes. I've heard the same comment from other people, and I can't take responsibility for that. It was entirely the choreographer.
It was a group effort.
If you didn't have the attitude, it wouldn't have worked.
Exactly. At the same time, it was also the directors that were helping. I don't think they were consciously going for mimicry of Xena or Callisto, but I do think they wanted me right on the brink - because no matter what the character is like, they aren't interesting unless you like something about them. Even if it's that you like to hate them, that they're fabulously evil. They definitely tried to take it as far as it would go. Hopefully it worked.
The general response was pretty favorable. I do have to confess that my initial review was that you didn't go quite far enough in the actual performance...
[Groans] You know what I hate about that? This is a secret that bothers me so much. The first episode that we shot ran twenty-two minutes over. Twenty-two minutes is an entire half-hour episode. They had to cut a half hour of material out of it, and that bothered me so much because some of my very favorite scenes had to be cut. The story still makes sense without them, but they were a bit evolutionary for my character. They showed some interesting things, so that was unfortunate.
The fans are constantly murmuring about director's cuts being released, because all this film is lying around. The show is obviously a huge hit, and the fans will buy almost anything. Why don't they release DVD versions of these episodes with all the extra footage that was cut for time and explain how it fits together. I'd love to see them myself simply for the storytelling and production aspects. I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels that way.
I don't know how much it would help, but I'd sure appreciate it. [Laughs] It's always interesting to see a director's cut, because everything the director thought was important is there. After that it's simply a matter of fitting it to the time frame. You take out what you can take out, but hate to, and will still allow the story to be told.
The one advantage to feature film over television.
Was the amount of preparation you did for this character unusual for you, or do you usually do a good amount of development work on your own before playing a part.
I'd say that at least ninety percent of the time I do as much work as I can. If for no other reason than to make it more interesting for me. It makes it more fun for me to play if I have a little bit more back-story going on, or whatever it takes for me to enjoy the piece.
Physically, Livia and Eve took more out of me than any character I've ever done. But emotionally I can't really say that. The transition has been wonderful, simply being able to play two entirely different characters. But I can't say it was an exceptional amount of time that I dedicated. In fact, I'd say it's about normal.
How beat up did you get filming those fight scenes?
I did get some serious bruises. But it really wasn't horrible - it was exhausting, and it was really a learning experience because it is so precise. You know, of course, that you're not actually trying to hurt that person, and they're not trying to hurt you, but it's a matter of everyone remembering exactly what the sequence is. The biggest difference is in rehearsal you don't go that fast, you're simply trying to memorize what move comes next. On film they want it to be as fast as you can physically do it, it just looks much more fierce. So there were a couple of times I got seriously whacked because either I, or the person I was fighting with lost their place.
[Laughs] Using Motherhood specifically, I certainly looked a lot worse than I ever actually felt. It was stressful, but it wasn't that physically... scary might be a good term. It was exhausting, but not terribly overwhelming.
I've got to ask this. Lucy Lawless is well known for her incredible singing voice with the two musical episodes they've done on the show, and her role on Broadway. Do you sing yourself, or are you more like Renee and beg off that sort of thing?
[Laughs] Renee is so cute. She's adorable, because actually the final episode that I filmed had a scene where the three of us were supposed to be singing together. It wasn't supposed to be some big production number, just the three of us singing as we traveled. It ended up getting cut - it never got filmed because it ended up not working with the rest of the episode. But it was fun because it would have actually been us singing.
I think Lucy is amazing. I would never in a million years say I'm in the same category as Lucy in any aspect because she's just unbelievable. She's just very inspiring to me. But I am a singer.
When this whole thing started back in January, I was part of a group, a sort of female urban pop group. Specifically because of this job I ended up having to make the choice of what I loved more, the singing or the acting. I couldn't deny how much I loved it, so I ended up choosing acting.
The group is doing fabulously. They have a record deal, and they should have an album out... probably late spring but it might not be until summer. It's interesting, because I love performing and that's my favorite thing about the music group, but career wise... I couldn't give up the acting and I actually had to make the choice. Mostly because all of the Xena I was filming was in New Zealand, and I couldn't keep up my part of the bargain being gone so much. It's been an interesting year, one of those times of "when it rains it pours." Having two things that you love so much both work at the same time... it was overwhelming and just having to make the decision was pretty scary.
And now you're going back to do some more.
Yeah, I've filmed three episodes off the sixth season so far, and I'm leaving on Tuesday to film a fourth episode. After that I have absolutely no idea. It's completely up to the producers, and they haven't given me any idea whatsoever of what they're thinking with my character.
They tend to keep their cards close to their vest. Any information that leaks out, fifty million people know about it in half an hour.
That's so true.
Any little tidbits you can drop about the stuff you've done so far?
I have no idea about the other episodes - the ones I haven't been in - because I don't exactly know where the storyline is going this year. The episodes I've filmed, though - one of them is about as close to a horror episode as the show can really get. I haven't seen any of the final footage of any of the stuff I've done this year, but I had so much fun doing that episode - the makeup was so gruesome. The audience is going to freak out when they see Renee, because she looks unbelievable. That was The Haunting of Amphipolis.
I know that they do deal with some of the previous twenty-five years, and what has happened to people that Xena and Gabrielle know. What has happened to their families, things like that.
I don't know - that's pretty much as far as I can go. I'm a huge believer in not spilling secrets, because I think it's better to be surprised and love it than to know all the spoilers ahead of time.
That feeling of surprise is part of the reason I try to avoid spoilers. In fact, to give you an idea of how much I like that feeling, the show only airs once during the week in my area - late Sunday night into Monday morning. I stay up to watch the show when it airs, rather than tape it because there's a more... satisfying feeling. Somehow, it's more immediate.
Exactly. I know what you mean - it doesn't matter what it is that I've done, there's something about seeing it the first time as opposed to seeing it on a rerun, even if I haven't seen it before. There's something about knowing it's the first time anyone is seeing it. With Xena, it's such a huge viewing audience that there's a real shared experience, so many people are watching it and it's so important to them.
Out of all the things you've done as an actress, even as far back as live high school theatre, what is the single performance you are most proud of?
Oh god... you don't even know how hard that question is.
Actually, I do.
[Laughs] The thing is for me; I have favorite performances for different reasons. I truly have a hard time just picking one. Livia was more fun than any character I've ever played - she was so self-absorbed. If you don't care what anybody else thinks, that gives you a sense of freedom that I personally don't have in real life. I'm a person that really cares what everyone thinks. I'm almost a detriment that I worry too much about pleasing everyone else. If you're playing a character that is so self-satisfied, it's really interesting.
I did a little film a couple of years ago that is one of the things I'm most proud of. It's called Walk Away, and it almost had an amazing life, but unfortunately nothing really happened to it. That film, though, is one of my absolute proudest moments because it was myself and a group of friends, and it was made by calling in a ton of favors. Between all of us it was about seven hundred bucks or something that we spent and it ended up being twenty-three minutes or something like that. Just doing it, just being able to get it made was unbelievable. It was the coolest experience of calling in favors, getting free film from all these shows that have leftover reels, borrowing a location - one scene was shot in a restaurant where we had to beg them to let us use the restaurant at three in the morning. Then there were beach scenes, and none of us happened to know anything about the tide. Silly little things like that.
It was shot over about two and a half weeks. Not consistently, but over that time frame. One of my very best friends in the world directed it, and just the effect that it had. She went to Cannes that year and was able to show it to people - as a twenty minute film there wasn't much that could be done with it, but it was nice knowing that it was given a small life. It was really interesting.
Every role I've ever had has taught me something. Whether it's something about being part of a production, or about relationships that I've developed. It's such a... I love working so much because it's impossible. Every week you set out to do something that's truly impossible, there's no way you can get all of this footage shot, there's no way you can accomplish all these things that you're supposed to do in a week with all of these locations, and only a hundred different obstacles you have to hurdle. But you do it; it takes a hundred different people working together. It's just so appealing for me to see so many different people brought together on a project. It just happens again and again where it feels like family, because for however long it is - whether it's just one episode you're on, or whether you're shooting a movie, it's a family that you have because you spend so many hours with them.
I think that's why people do it, because the hours are ridiculous. If it wasn't so fun, I don't think people would be in the film business. I know so many people that work up to seventeen hours a day. For what other job would you do that? But they truly love what they do. Somehow it makes a difference.
Have you gotten more attention - both from the fans and the industry - because of your work on Xena?
It's been a bit of a combination. Obviously, of course, from the fans because Xena fans are like no other fans I can even think of. The enthusiasm and interest that they've shown has been beyond overwhelming.
For instance, there's the fan club. Shawna Pedego is the fan club president, and she contacted me almost immediately after I returned from doing the first three episodes. I remember thinking, "How hilarious is it that somebody thinks I need a fan club?" I thought was the funniest thing. It took her almost two and half or three weeks to convince me that it was a worthwhile thing just to try. I mean, I thought there was just no way - as much as I had heard about the fans, I didn't understand. I still hadn't had the experiences.
Have you made a convention appearance yet?
I have not. My first appearance is in about three weeks.
You're in for a treat.
I know - everybody tells me that. It's funny because it started out as this huge thing where there was this cabaret - which I still don't completely get - but I was supposed to do this big cabaret thing, and I was supposed to be on both days. It's just so overwhelming, the musical director doesn't have time to learn three new songs because everybody else there has done numerous conventions, and he's familiar with their work.
So now it's become I don't have to do the cabaret, and since I'm not doing the cabaret I don't have to do the first day - just the second. The convention people keep calling me back and saying, "You don't understand, you'll thank us for this. It's so overwhelming that it'll be the most wonderful thing you've experienced, but it will be more than you've expected because of the feedback. It's better to start small and grow."
It will be interesting - I'm so looking forward to it.
Where is that convention?
Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
I don't think I'll be able to make it to that one. I have never actually made it to a con myself yet. I live in central Maine and the nearest cons are usually in New York City, which is an eight or ten hour drive for me. I've got a friend who keeps telling me I've got to go to one.
I've heard that whether you're a fan or whether you're part of the show, you have to attend at least one, simply because the experience is so amazing.
We're supposedly going into the last season, so I'd better make sure that I fit at least one into my schedule here.
Well, that does it for part two! I hope you've enjoyed it so far, and I invite you to return for part three in just a few short days! We lay bare the cold heart that beats at the center of the Hollywood Dream Machine! (Okay, we don't really do that, but please come back for some interesting insights into the business!)
Once again I'd like to thank both Adrienne and Shawna Pedego for the use of the images in this article. You can visit the official Adrienne Wilkinson Fan Club online at: www.AdrienneWilkinson.com.
Until next time, battle on!