Whoosh! Issue 27 - Decembe=
r 1998

Exclusive to Whoosh!
By Bret Rudnick
Copyright © 1998 held by author
2056 words

Author's Note: Kathryn Morris is a busy woman. She has more than a dozen film credits, the most recent of which include an appearance in Inferno (Ian Berry, 1998). She has almost as many television credits, including appearances in Magnificent Seven (TV, 1998) and Xena. Most people who have become familiar with her work know her in a more mainstream way from the series she was a regular on for its first year, PENSACOLA: WINGS OF GOLD (she played a helicopter pilot). It was her appearance as Najara on the Xena episode CRUSADER I was most interested in. This episode and character have been one of the most talked about in Season Four, garnering perhaps the most conjecture of any unaired episode in the season to date. The first week of November 1998, Ms. Morris graciously took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her work.

Genre Television (01-04)
Getting the Part of Najara (05-06)
Thoughts on the Character of Najara (07-12)
Working in New Zealand (13-17)
Working on the Set (18-25)
Subtext (26-28)
Working with the Horses (29-31)
Future Plans (32-35)

An Interview With Kathryn Morris

Y'know, *I* could have been Gabrielle!

You can read and see more about Kathryn Morris by checking out this fan page: http://members.aol.com/Pritibella/Kathym.html.

Genre Television

Bret Rudnick:
[01] I see during the last couple of years you've been quite busy, appearing in a number of things.

Kathryn Morris:
[02] Yes, I've been quite fortunate. I'm a very lucky girl -- have worked very hard to put myself in a position to be so lucky! [laughs]

[03] What do you think of genre television?

[04] I think if there's a real commitment to the genre it's great. For example, Martin Scorcese has a particular theme that he investigates constantly, and he does it so well. I had a really great time on Poltergeist: The Legacy (TV, 1996) because you have to just go with it. With Xena, it's all fantasy, so that was a lot of fun.

Getting the Part of Najara

No, really!  That fish was *this* big!

Najara communes with the Jinn.

[05] How did you come to play the part of Najara on Xena?

[06] The casting director knew me from years past. I've been told several times I have a very "Joan of Arc" quality. They wanted the character to be strong but have a gentle appearance. I went and auditioned for it. I felt it was a fascinating character. She wasn't a yelling, screaming warrior, she was a zealot, and that was fascinating to me.

Thoughts on the Character of Najara

[07] R.J. Stewart wrote the script, and I know he tends to write very though-provoking characters. His dialogue and character motivations are often very detailed. What did you think of the character itself?

[08] I thought it was very well developed. Najara was very motivated in her purpose for being a warrior, as Xena is motivated in hers. Najara was a very vulnerable villain. It made her have a lot more compassion for why she's so crazy. [laughs] It's really irritating to me to see a villain that's a caricature of a person. I feel that if a character is evil they're motivated by something much deeper, like a hurt or injustice they feel needs to be corrected. I thought that was really fascinating. Najara believes she has good intentions. Not everyone agrees with her and she just doesn't like that.

[09] She tends to go to extremes.

[10] She probably needs a little medication. [both laugh]

[11] I understand there's a possibility Najara might come back.

[12] I heard mumblings about that. They spend a lot of time developing these characters and it's so well done -- the costuming, the training. I was down there for three weeks just fighting and riding horses. I heard it might be a possibility. I think they worked very hard on that show. We'll see.

Working in New Zealand

Dach's brother, Theodorus, was also employed as a blonde's lieutenant.

Left to right, Najara, Bonacar (the horse), and Dach.

[13] What did you think of New Zealand in general? Not only is it a beautiful country but the people there work very hard and they're very skilled.

[14] The New Zealanders are amazing people. I just love them. They're very kind. It's a young country, and they're very excited about their culture and the land. They have a real appreciation for what they have. The crew love being at work. A lot of American crews take things for granted. The best part is they have that afternoon tea.

[15] I noticed that! No matter what you're doing or how intense the scene, when it's three o'clock, it's break time.

[16] [laughs] There's something very civilised about that. It's very refreshing. Here I'm often eating a Balance Bar or something in my car because there's no time to eat, but they stop for a snack in the afternoon. It's very civilised, I really like that.

[17] Lots of butter, too. You have to keep your exercise up to work on that set.

Working on the Set

[18] Fortunately I had about three or four fights with Xena, so that wasn't a problem. In fact I had a little tennis elbow when I was finished. When you swing that sword you can't do it in a pansy way, you really have to swing it.

[19] You seem very physically active in general. Did you do most of the action yourself?

[20] There are some things I cannot do or wouldn't be safe. Backflips I don't know how to do, so the stunt people do that. They bring out the big girls for that, these women are like Olympians. I'm happy to delegate that, and I have a lot of respect for what they do. There are times when you're doing your own action scenes with stunt people and you might be tired and hit a little too hard and miss and hit a knee or something, but they take it all in stride. They're really amazing.

[21] Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor are the regulars on that set. Did you find you were able to work with them easily as well as make your character grow and come alive?

[22] They were so generous and hospitable and respectful with what I had to bring to the table. It was very nice to be able to collaborate and ask about the dynamics between characters. How did they feel and what would they do? Lucy and Renee are true pros.

[23] It's so nice to be able to walk into a foreign country and into a situation that's been completely established for years. I've worked on sets where there's been a negative energy sent out by stars and I feel it's really important for the actors and producers and directors to set a tone that is positive and welcoming, because we all work really long hours. Lucy has that gift. That show runs very smoothly because of Lucy and Renee and all the producers. Their hospitality makes you want to work 12 or 14 hours a day. The show itself is a fun show.

[24] Were you familiar with the show at all before you went down there?

[25] I don't watch much TV in general. When I went down there I did see some of it and I was impressed with the production values. They make the show look like a million dollars. The camera crew are top of the line. Many of them worked on features like Once Were Warriors (Lee Tamahori, 1994) and The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993), so you're dealing with people who really know their stuff and can't sleep at night being hacks. Some of those syndicated shows are really harsh. But Hercules and Xena put the money into it, and I think that's why a lot of people like it.


I think it's so cool that your eyebrows are dark but your hair is light!

Najara and Gabrielle bond.

[26] It's also a popular show with a number of demographic groups. One of the things that come up in this show that you don't hear about in most other shows is the "subtextual" relationship, actual or perceived, between Xena and Gabrielle. Did you have any experience with that?

[27] [laughs] I was definitely told about that in advance. I think people can watch shows such as Melrose Place and read into it whatever they want. Some people watch ER as if it's a life and death situation and their lives depend on it. Then again some people can watch both shows as a kooky soap opera. In the same way, I think Xena is much more an entertainment show and a genre show as opposed to something extremely serious. However people want to look at it is up to them.

[28] As far as my character and Xena and Gabrielle is concerned, whatever relationship there is between Xena and Gabrielle is pretty intense. Regarding my character and Gabrielle, I'm trying to get her to join my army. Najara is a zealot who's convinced she's got this purity and love and light going for her. It's kind of like a David Koresh or Jim Jones kind of thing. It's the "come to the light" theme that was important. I don't try to be creepy about it or put some lesbian innuendo in there. I just try to be true to the character. I did notice she had quite a few men in her army, no women, really. [both laugh]

Working with the Horses

[29] Is there any particular experience in your work on Xena that stands out for you?

[30] Something I found very endearing was the horses used on the show. They're unbelievable. They're very intelligent, and I learned just how smart and intuitive they are. I was new to dealing with horses in an aggressive way. I've worked with horses a little bit, but these horses have been so well trained that they can sense your level of anxiety and tease you as well as take care of you. When you're riding you might get the sense they're thinking "You might think I'm not going to the mark but I'm going to hit it right on the dot!"

[31] One time one of the horses was a bit PMS. Gabrielle and I were walking by the lake and all of a sudden the horse just turned around and nipped me in the stomach. It didn't hurt or anything, but the trainer later said "I have to apologise for Panda's PMS." [both laugh] "She's a bit hormonal right now, she's in love with a donkey." Tilly, Xena's horse, definitely knows she's the star.

Future Plans

[32] What do you have for yourself coming up, acting-wise? What projects are you excited about for the near future?

[33] I have a film I'm excited about coming up with Kevin Pollack and Timothy Hutton and Sean Astin called Deterrence (Rod Lurie, 1998). It's a fascinating film. It's about the possibility of the President dropping the bomb on Iraq. It's a small ensemble cast. We'll see what happens with it. And I'm always studying and trying to improve.

[34] And if your schedule permits and they wanted you to play Najara again you wouldn't say no?

[35] New Zealand is pretty breathtaking and it's pretty fun wielding that sword, I must admit. [both laugh]

Oh, darn.  I left the candles burning at home!

Najara watches Gabrielle leave as she declares forgiveness of the bard.


Bret Rudnick Bret Rudnick
Whoosh! Staff
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... a n 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: IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)

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