Author's Note: Gina Torres is best known to Xena fans for playing the role of Cleopatra in KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308) and the recurring character of Nebula the Pirate Queen in the Hercules episodes WEB OF DESIRE (H63/404) and WAR WOUNDS (H78/419). She also has an impressive resume of television and film appearances, including M.A.N.T.I.S (1994)[which also starred Bobby Hosea, Marcus on Xena, and was co-written by Sam Raimi], Substance Of Fire (Daniel Sullivan, 1996), Bed Of Roses (Michael Goldenberg, 1996), and Dark Angel (TV, Robert Iscove, 1996). She has also had guest appearances on other TV shows such as Law And Order (1992 & 1995) and Profiler (1996- ). I was fortunate enough to get some of her time on 20 February 1998. A printed interview cannot even remotely do justice to Ms. Torres' vocal qualities. Simply put, she has a voice that could melt butter. It certainly melted me. She was very patient with my questions, and behind that wonderful voice is a woman of deep thought and sensitivity.
Author's Note Supplemental 5 May: Gina Torres has just finished filming a Hercules ep, FAITH, and is about to do one more called LOSS.
Acting Resume (01-14)
Strong Women (15-18)
WAR WOUNDS (19-22)
YES, VIRGINIA... (23-26)
Xena vs. Herc (27-30)
The Future (33-36)
Acting ResumeBRET RUDNICK:
 I understand you just got back from New Zealand.
 Yes! I've just done another episode entitled WAR WOUNDS (H78/419). I'm reprising the role of Nebula on Hercules.
Gina Torres as the Pirate Queen, Nebula, in WAR WOUNDS.
I know a number of people who were pleased with your performance as Nebula in WEB OF DESIRE (H63/404). Many I have spoken with liked your character.
 That's great! It's good to hear.
 I was going over your filmography. 1996 was a very busy year for you.
 Yes, it was a blessed year. We [actors] like having years like that. It was quite a diverse grouping of roles as well, so it was nice to do that and get to spin those wheels.
 And I understand you've been on Broadway as well?
 Unfortunately they've been those crash and burn Broadway stories. But I did have the opportunity to work with some very incredible people. Working backwards, I did The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, which is kinda sort of a sequel to The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. That was directed by Tommy Tune and Pete Masterson, who won the Oscar for Trip To Bountiful years back. That was very exciting and I had my costumes designed by Bob Mackie. I did a Broadway show called Face Value, which was directed by Jerry Zaks, who aside from being a multiple Tony Award winning director, made an incredible directorial feature debut with Marvin's Room.
 How would you compare and contrast those stage experiences with your television work?
 Stage is my first love, absolutely. It's hard work, but it's so rewarding. It's immediate gratification. You know if they love you and you know if they don't. [laughs] The audience is definitely the "other character" in a play. They figure greatly into the energy and how it goes and how you feel and what you work towards. A live performance is a living thing. It changes every night. You're saying the same words, and it's the same people you're working with day in and day out, but it's a living, breathing, thing, because it's live. You have to be prepared for that.
 I know you don't have that immediate connection to an audience when you do television work, but you've certainly been seen by millions of people from your Hercules and Xena appearances alone.
 [laughs] I've started to experience a tiny ripple of that recognition.
 People off the street recognize you?
 Exactly. It's lovely and it's wonderful that they're watching, and that you can be recognized outside of a brass bra and leather peekaboo pants. [both laugh] There's no anonymity there!
It's healthier not to irritate Nebula.
 Costuming aside, the characters you've played on both Hercules and Xena have both been very strong female characters. What do you think about that kind of role?
 It's always great to play those kinds of characters. You get away with murder. It's significant, I think, too, because it's lovely to be able to express more than one facet of a woman. Good, bad, or indifferent, just by virtue of the costumes you wear on these shows, you can sometimes be relegated to the status of a T&A show, certainly for women. But Lucy Lawless made such wonderful strides, as has Renee [O'Connor] in depicting a very strong woman. Yes, you can have a sex life, you can be a sensual being, and not acquiesce to a male-dominated society. You have your own power and your power doesn't lie strictly within your ability to flirt.
 It's certainly evident in the way you portrayed Cleopatra, for example. Bruce Campbell plays a very charismatic, magnetic character and it takes something special to hold your own playing opposite a character like that, but I think you did that very effectively. Same with Nebula on Hercules. It takes a certain something to claim a fair share of the screen in the presence of the male leads there, but you do that very well.
 Thank you. It was very exciting to be able to do that. And the producers as well as Kevin and Michael were wonderful and very generous in giving me the space and the opportunity to just go for it. Again, these are not shrinking violets. These are women who rule worlds, or parts of them. And Nebula, she's a Pirate Queen. I wasn't about to shortchange the way that character was written. I wasn't going to drop by the wayside and be "the girl". It was important to me that when we would run through the tunnels I would arrive at the same time Iolaus or Hercules would arrive, as opposed to two beats later or tripping over a rock on my way there. That just wasn't going to happen, and it wouldn't have been true to what this woman is.
Nebula tosses a lifeline to her allies.
 That's a very subtle but important point. I'm looking very much forward to seeing you reprise Nebula in WAR WOUNDS (H78/419).
 It's a good episode. It's quite a deep episode. It's very cerebral for Hercules. It has to do with the Trojan war. We see what the Trojan soldiers would have gone through much like the Vietnam soldiers did when they returned home. They lived through a long, thankless war. It's how our soldiers who protect us and protect our country, and how we kind of don't forgive them for doing all the things they've been trained to do, that are required of that job.
 Paul Coyle is an excellent writer, I'm keen to see how he handles that.
 Our D.P. [Director of Photography] made his directorial debut on this episode, so it should look fabulous as well.
 And the other episode that people have been talking about is Yes Virginia, There Is A Hercules (H74/415). That just looks like out and out fun.
 Yes, it's big fun. We had a blast doing that. It's a farce, basically. I think people will enjoy it. I play Beth Hymson, the casting director, who is a real person who works on the show, but I don't think she'll recognize herself. [both laugh] It's great that they could lampoon themselves like that.
 I've noticed that everyone I've talked to at Renaissance seem like a big family that really enjoys working together.
 Some of that may have to do with the fact that a lot of the executives are younger than some at other production companies. There's a bit of that "Young Turk" feel and they genuinely like what they do. That trickles down to everyone.
Xena vs. HercRUDNICK:
 Do you have any appearances on Hercules or Xena coming up for Season 4 that you know of?
 [thinks] Not that I know of. Cleopatra may be coming out of that rug when she meets Caesar! [both laugh] That's always a possibility. But as far as I know, nothing yet.
 Since you've worked on both shows, especially since you're a woman, I have to ask you this question: I've had men who work on both shows tell me they don't notice a difference between the sets and women usually say there is. Do you notice a difference between working on the two sets?
 Huge. [both laugh] Xena is a woman's show. There's a definite, different vibe. Neither one is necessarily better, but it's different. On Hercules I'm playing with the boys. They crack jokes all the time, Kevin and Michael try to outdo each other with one-liners. There's a lot more testosterone on that set. On Xena there's more chatting and talking, it's just different. It's nice. When I was down there, I shot my episodes at about the same time, so I saw the difference immediately.
Iolaus has a hard time looking Nebula in the eye during her shower scene -- and it's not just the difference in height.
 Any memories or experiences that stand out in your work there to date?
 [thinks] For the Xena episode there was the disrobing scene I had to do [KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308)]. Just getting the two ladies together to shield me at the last moment and coordinating that took a lot of work. It was a long day. [both laugh] It wasn't that bad, but it was very funny, because there's a similar scene in WAR WOUNDS (H78/419) coming up. Nudity and sexuality on television in general is a head thing. My costumes are much more suggestive than what I really had to wear when I shot these scenes. It's a tribute to how caring and protective the staff are. But it is sort of a kid's show and you can't have any parts showing. Even though you're not naked you *feel* naked with all the care that's taken, and you're wearing more clothing than you are when you're in full costume! [both laugh] But it's always fun. When you're outside you're always battling the elements. It was summer when I was down there and very hot. My costume was tanned onto my body. I have triangular tan spots on my legs right now. So there are hazards involved in playing the Pirate Queen. [both laugh]
 What about some other projects for you?
 I have an episode of La Femme Nikita (TV 1997) coming up on USA. It's pilot season here in L.A., so I'm casting my pole out with everyone else hoping to land a big fish.
 And I hope you do! Thank you very, very much for your time, it's been a pleasure and a delight.
 You're very welcome.
IAXS Executive Committee
"You can never have too much money or too many Amazons"
When he's not working for a big Science/Engineering company that (amongst other things) designs, builds, launches, and operates exploratory spacecraft, Bret writes fantasy novels and short stories. Bret is a man of many skills, having also previously been an Olympic-qualified archer, a drummer in the Butch Grinder Band, a news reader for Public Television Station KVCR, and a Deputy Sheriff for the County of San Bernardino, California. He also collects Japanese swords, armor, and art. He and his dog hunt down stray Bacchae in New England.
Favorite episode: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206), and THE QUEST (37/213)
Favorite line: Xena: "What's this?" Gabrielle: "I'm... an amazon princess?" Xena (rolls eyes): "Great." HOOVES AND HARLOTS, 10/110; Xena after being goosed by Joxer: "Are you suicidal?" WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP, 30/206; Joxer: "Ha. Ha." A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222); Autolycus: "I'm not just leering at scantily clad women, you know, I'm working!" THE QUEST (37/213)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: GIANT KILLER (27/203)