Whoosh! Issue 27 - December 1998

CONFESSIONS OF A CIVILIAN EXTRA ON THE SET OF XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
IAXS project #026
By Bret Rudnick
Copyright © 1998 held by author
6379 words



Author's Note: This article has been separately copyrighted and formally registered. No use of any of the material in this article is allowed without permission. Unfortunately, problems in the past with people printing things in commercial publications without my knowledge or permission makes this announcement necessary.


One additional note -- while in New Zealand I took a lot of home video to capture some of the sights and sounds of the New Zealand experience. These clips will go up in the WHOOSH! multi-media area as soon as they're available.





Prelude (01)
Where Were You When The Lights Went Out? (11-19)
Meeting The Folks At Pacific Renaissance (20-32)
On The Set (33-60)
     In General (33-45)
     Lucy Lawless (46-50)
     Renee O'Connor (51)
     Kevin Smith (52-55)
     Hudson Leick (56-60)
Sightseeing (61-80)
Biography



Confessions of a Civilian Extra on the Set of Xena: Warrior Princess




Prelude

And don't let the door hit you in the b*tt on the way out.


Part of the 'extra' experience.


First of all, it should be noted that this was a very special visit that took place under exceptional circumstances. As a result, readers and fans can't expect the same level of access and co-operation as described in this story. People do come to New Zealand from time to time in the hopes of seeing XENA at work, but Pacific Renaissance Pictures is a private company which operates under a strict closed set policy. This is necessary in order to make the show. There is no provision for visitors or tourists to watch the show being made or meet the stars. It's a working set, not a theme park or tourist attraction. Because of taxation laws, work permits, and other legal issues, it is not possible for non-New Zealand residents to be hired to work either as extras or in production. So hopefully this tale will be a glimpse into that portion of things, and it should NOT be taken as a blueprint for action. What happened to me happened not because I write for WHOOSH!, but because I happened to do the right unusual thing, at the right unusual time, as the story below describes...

[01] Once upon a time, Universal New Media sponsored an online auction. As has been the case in the past, this auction was primarily to benefit a specific charity. It was particularly poignant to me since the money raised was going to research for breast cancer. Having had a relative die recently from breast cancer, this thought was very much in mind as I perused the online auction pages.

[02] There were a variety of interesting items offered from a number of different TV shows, including Hercules and Xena. One item in particular caught my eye: a walk-on part for either a Hercules or Xena episode. This was a temptation that I could not pass up. Here was a chance to possibly make a dream come true while helping others in the process.

[03] The bidding was already underway by the time I spotted the web page. The latest bid was already several thousand dollars over the initial opening. I took a deep breath, entered a number that was more than I could afford and waited.

[04] In the ensuing days, I watched in dismay as the bids ticked higher than my entry, and then skyrocketed to an astronomical figure. "Oh well," I sighed, "it was worth a try. Perhaps some other time." After sincerely wishing the best for whoever got it, and hoping to hear someday their story, I dismissed the webpage and thought no more about it.

[05] Until a few days later.

[06] About a week after the auction closed, I received an e-mail from Universal. "Congratulations, you have won item XXX in the online auction." How could this be? I was outbid by two other people, and seriously so. Still, I called the number supplied, and the very nice lady who answered explained the situation.

[07] "Apparently the top bid was a practical joke," she said. The e-mail address for this bidder bounced. The next highest bidder never answered back." That left the third and final try, me. "Are you still interested?"

[08] Of course, I was still interested! I liquidated my savings, dug into my 401K, and sent in the nicker.

[09] The prize included more than just the chance to have a place in Hercules or Xena history. It also included air fare and accommodations while in New Zealand, along with some other sightseeing items as well. Since the auction item covered travel and accommodations for two, and since I did not have anyone to go with me, I asked if it might be possible to trade in two coach tickets for one in business class. It is a 6 hour flight from Boston to Los Angeles, and another 12 hours from L.A. to Auckland (longer if you have to stop in Fiji). Having heard horror stories from people who made the trip from L.A. to Auckland in coach, I wanted to avoid that. Sure enough, the change was made, and at the appointed time, I was packed and ready to go.

[10] While waiting for the scheduled day, I mentioned to some acquaintances who work on the show what had happened. "We were wondering who won that," I heard more than one person say. "Glad it was you. You'll have a great time." I was able to get hints about what to see, what to expect, and so forth. Waiting was not easy.


Where Were You When The Lights Went Out?

The only evidence of Godzilla was a chunk missing off the top of the building


A view of Queen Street, in daylight hours.


[11] Just before my plane left to ultimately carry me to Auckland, I caught up on International news. I usually listen to BBC on short wave, but even at that, NZ news can be pretty scarce unless you dig for it. Being fairly online savvy, I had been monitoring some online NZ publications and news sites for awhile, but now I had a reason to pay attention to them very carefully. It was two days before I left that I heard the words "CBD" and "blackout" mentioned in the same sentence.

[12] As it was reported, Auckland had been having power cable problems for months. Nine underground cables fed the Central Business District (CBD), which is Auckland's financial and cultural center. Auckland is a very spread out city (it reminds me of Los Angeles in that respect), but the heart of the city contains many important things such as trade and financial hubs, a hospital, the university, and the bulk of the tourist trade. There is also the casino and several hotels in that area. Over the previous several months, and due to strong power demands from a hot summer, the power cables that fed into this thriving center failed one by one, until finally the last one went. It left the city center in near total darkness.

Alas, when they quit selling bagels, the people quit coming.


Another view of Queen Street. Note that the traffic light, as well as the block itself, is dark.


[13] Shortly after I landed, I saw just what the impact of this would be.

[14] To my surprise and delight, I was met at the airport by someone hired by Universal/Pacific Renaissance to look after me. (I suspect initially I was being watched more than looked after in case I was a truly nutty nutball, but I was well-behaved -- most of the time). To that extent, I was treated like a guest star would typically be treated. I was driven to my hotel, given a little time to freshen up, and then I would be picked up again for a costume fitting and read-through of the part I was to play. More on this shortly.

[15] I will refer to the very nice woman who stuck with me as my "guide", since she was that as well as chauffeur, question-and-answer person, tourism counselor, and much more. I will not use many names in this article to protect the privacy of locations and individuals as much as possible.

[16] On the trip in from the airport, she explained to me a bit about Auckland, and I learned that Auckland is made up of four different cities, rather than a single metropolis. New Zealand has a population of about 3.5 million people, and almost one million live in and around Auckland, nearly thirty percent of the entire New Zealand populace. The economy had not been so hot in recent months, unemployment was higher than it should be, and the blackout was the most recent of woes. As we approached the city center, where my lodging was to be, this was made clear.

[17] After a certain point, traffic lights were not working. Buildings were dark. Portable generators, for those fortunate enough to have them, dotted every sidewalk and alley. Most places were shut.

The power outage caused a few tourist sites to become black-and-white.


Near the University, which was temporarily shut due to the power cut.


[18] As luck would have it, though, the place I was to stay had power since they were lucky enough to acquire a generator. This was no mean feat, since virtually every portable generator in the country was in Auckland or on its way. Later in the crisis, help would come from such diverse sources as Australia and Elton John (he left generators from his concert tour).

[19] Unfortunately, my arranged accommodation was a youth hostel. This made sense, in light of the fact that this particular company donated accommodation and sightseeing trips to the auction in exchange for publicity. The people there were very nice, and the side trips I took later were very good, and while it certainly looked clean and safe, a youth hostel is still a youth hostel. It was too much like camping for me, and I camped enough when I was in Scouts. I like a walk in the woods and some fresh air, but nowadays, camping for me is a two star hotel. So I made my own arrangements and stayed at an absolutely wonderful place just up the road on Queen Street. The rate was reasonable, and I got the equivalent of a studio apartment - bedroom, kitchen (with fully stocked cupboards of plates and glassware, fridge, stove, and they did the dishes!), bathroom (which also had a washer and dryer), nice telly and stereo, plus a desk where I could plug in my laptop! Yes indeed, I was online even in New Zealand.


Meeting The Folks At Pacific Renaissance

[21] We arrived at the studios, an unobtrusive set of buildings off a main road. There were no identifying signs. Unless you knew they were there, you would drive right by!

[22] These studios had some sets used for interior shooting, including some of the familiar "jungle" sets. They were also getting a set ready for a future Hercules episode, as well as shooting a Hercules episode that day. This complex was also the nerve center for prop storage and production, as well as costume storage and production, and it housed office space for the small army of people required to produce all the episodes we see. In fact, it was in the parking lot on the way in that I first met Eric Gruendemann, the co-executive producer.

[23] We went in to get me fitted for costume. It was here that I found out I was to be a hooded worshiper/disciple of Dahak. After reviewing the script and noting it was written by Steve Sears, I could tell right away there was going to be a lot of action as well as a jam-packed story. This proved to be quite true, since the finished product of SACRIFICE (67-68/321-322) -- the episode I was in, having footage in both parts - ran longer than needed and had to be trimmed by several minutes. Unfortunately, the trimmed minutes included my hoodless close-up and some cool scenes (some of which I was not in, but they were very cool scenes), but in retrospect, perhaps the Xenaverse is much better off for not seeing me clearly.

And this is the Three Stooges one finger technique. Now don't blink!


Making sure those fashionable Dahak duds fit!.


[24] The costume ladies took great care to make sure I was well equipped. I was given period boots, dark underwear, a black robe with a rope belt, and a hood. Some shots were taken for continuity purposes. I read through the script to understand what I had to do. Mercifully it was not too complicated, but it sure looked like it was going to be fun.

All clothing was purchased at discount at SalMart, the one-stop shopping store in ancient Greece.


An entire room is set aside for costumes labeled 'Xena' and 'Gabrielle'.


[25] After the costume fitting, I was able to get a tour of the area. There are not enough good things that can be said of all the people who work so incredibly hard on the costumes. There is rack after rack of wardrobe. Pretty much every costume that has been created is stored for possible future use. They have a laundry, dye vats, repair tables and spare parts in plentiful supply. Everything is done by hand, mostly from scratch.

This dress also comes to life to terrorize Ash in the upcoming EVIL DEAD IV.


The costume Jacqueline 'Lao Ma' Kim wore in THE DEBT.


Wearer immediately develops a bad French accent.


The costume Danielle Cormack wore as the Chartreuse Fox in the HERC episode LES CONTEMPTIBLES.


[26] These people are an absolute marvel. They did not even know they had been put in an ad hoping to get them recognized with an Emmy for their work (so I sent them a copy). One of the more outstanding examples they brought out for me was the costume worn by Lao Ma in THE DEBT (52-53/306-307). The detail and fine work on that is absolutely amazing. Much of the costume was not be seen, but every detail is paid attention to, even in the underlayers. They also showed me the wonderful dress made for Danielle Cormack when she played the Chartreuse Fox on Hercules. There were many, many costumes that I recognized immediately from various episodes. There was even a very large room with many racks of clothing labeled "Xena" and "Gabrielle". Every outfit made for those characters is stored there, and one can see the evolution of the Gabrielle character quite plainly on those racks.

Recycled Kiwi beer bottles


All props are carefully classified and stored. This section of bottles is but one example.


[27] After spending some time with the costumes I was able to see vast array of props. Again, there were many familiar items from many episodes. Skeletons were in one corner, gold and chests in another, chairs, spears, tables, weapons, bottles, vases, and dozens and dozens of other items all very carefully labeled.

The Joxer helmet collection is the room with the half-moon cut-out
on the door.


Helmets alone occupy several shelves, and are sub-categorised even within that!


[28] Armor and helmets occupied another section. There was the "new metal" armor stolen from Hephaestus (it was really molded plastic) and some of the magnificent Amazon bird headgear. There was an entire shelf of Joxer helmets. And nearby, in another series of rooms, there was constant hammering as the smiths created more new wonderful things either from metal or plastic for upcoming shows. The dedication and skill of all these workers is absolutely remarkable, and it was so nice to see a sparkle in their eyes when I asked them about what they did and how they did it. Their pride is evident, and well deserved.

[29] It was also very evident that everything I have heard about the RP crew being like a family was true. People seemed not only very happy in their jobs, but very glad to work with each other. It was a labor of love, not a trial, which is good when there is so much labor involved!

Big Bird the day after the 30th anniversary shingdig at CTW.


A stunning Amazon headdress.


[30] I was given an amazing amount of freedom to roam the complex, take pictures, and chat with people who were not too busy at the given moment. Everyone was so nice and made me feel right at home. They were as interested in me and what I do as I was in them. Some seemed surprised to know that Hercules and Xena have such an intent following (or perhaps they were just listening politely). A few are Internet savvy, but most are not.

[31] As I left, I was given a set of written instructions which explained some basic things about the episode I was in. There was a surprising amount of information jammed into a small space. But as I was to learn, one of the reasons Hercules and Xena are so successful is very good organization.

[32] I was not needed on the set for a couple of days, but that would give me time to scout out other famous locations familiar to Hercules and Xena fans. It also gave me time to schmooze with many Hercules and Xena alum.


On The Set


On the Set of SACRIFICE in General

[33] My set call was very early - about 6AM, and we did not leave the set until after 6PM. My guide picked me up at my hotel, then drove me to the location for the day, a farm outside Auckland.

[34] First thing was to get into costume, which I did. Everything was waiting for me, as it was for all the extras that day. My costume was labeled and everything fit just right, as planned. Wardrobe was on hand to make any adjustments or repairs necessary.

Wait a minute...I'm a rosey peach, NOT a cream beige!


That stuff is cold, too!


[35] From there the next stop was makeup. I was going to have close-ups taken, so it took me a bit longer to get set. I have very long hair, which is usually drawn back into a pony tail, but for the shots today it was to be set free. It fit right in with the time period. Makeup was a little more problematic. I got to see first hand how that orange stuff is applied. I heard from Alexandra "Aphrodite" Tydings that it was rough stuff, and she was right! It does indeed stay with you all day and leaves a very nice ring in the tub when you wash it off - if indeed you can get all of it off. Still, it is a rite of passage for this show, and I could not complain about the attention.

[36] The makeup crew was as skilled and as efficient as all the others. As I sat in the chair I noticed several pictures up from various characters that have been on the shows. Karl Urban was represented as Caesar, as were numerous other characters such as Palaemon, Sisyphus, Tara, and many more. After about 20 minutes of application and touch up, everything was ready. The time passed very quickly, and once again, everyone was so nice it was like being with family.

D*mn! No one told me NOT to wear a watch!


An actual continuity shot from SACRIFICE with all pertinent information written on the margins. The author is far right.


[37] It was a bit of a hike from the wardrobe and makeup trailers to the actual place where we filmed. The camera crews were already in place. Set design people were busy pounding in stakes and setting up skulls on poles and other menacing props. We had several pages of script to get through and everything was carefully planned. The script was not shot in order, but rather with an eye to what required the least amount of changes to props, set, and so forth. Still, the shooting was confined to a set of pages that were close together, so today, there was not a drastic shift in continuity.

[38] For the first round of shooting, we were doing a scene that involved Xena infiltrating a gathering of Dahak's worshipers to prevent a sacrifice. But Lucy was not on the set yet! For these scenes, a double for Lucy was used instead. This worked out well because for one scene, the double's face was completely covered by a mask. This does indeed prove the general rule "If you don't see Lucy's face, it's not Lucy." It also involved a climb on a makeshift ladder and a jump, which could be a little hazardous. She took it all in stride though. She was very nice to talk to between shots, and again seemed as interested in me as I was in her and what she did. It was also fun working out reactions with her, since I was one of the disciples expecting to see her "sacrificed".

Only known as 'Burmuda Shorts' to the cast, Pat tries to find his/her contact.


Setting up a scene, placing marks..


[39] There were some other scenes shot after this, including some backstory stuff which was cut from the final version of the episode. One of these scenes involved the High Priest, Werfner, giving orders to two henchmen (myself and Michael, a veteran character actor whose unusual looks have got him on many Hercules and Xena episodes). We go off to gather more followers, but you never see that in the final version. Through the miracle of computer technology, though, you can see part of that scene in the WHOOSH! multi-media section as soon as it gets put up there.

[40] Later in the morning we shot some fight scenes that did include Lucy. I got to be one of the disciples who got tossed around but lived to fight another day because I ran away! I do not know if he really meant it or not, but the First Assistant Director was very complimentary and said I could probably build a career from running away!

[41] Other shots later in the day involved a very sensuous dance of Dahak disciples. The women who were the dancers had previously been Amazon dancers, and their costumes were in fact similar. Again, it was really tough work to have to stand by and watch the Amazon/Dahak dancers do their thing, but someone had to do it!

[42] Seriously though, the dancers work very hard. And the sun was very hot that day, so those of us in the black robes and hoods were baking. But even though it was high noon, the shots were done to look like a different time of day. A campfire was created at the center of the scene to establish mood. But it was fueled not by wood but by one of those infamous propane tanks, like the type you can see in GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (28/204) if you look carefully. Crew members were standing by just out of shot to make sure everything went well and to be ready to extinguish a dancer or disciple if necessary. Fortunately, none were harmed or even came close to it. Safety is taken very seriously, and the crew are very conscious of it.

The crew was so absorbed, they missed the cigar shapped UFO hovering over them.


Setting up for a complex special effects shot. Hudson Leick is far left, Kevin Smith is just left of the tent cover.


[43] There were special effects shots to be done as well. One of them involved a setup where Ares and Callisto got into a "firefight". It was very interesting to observe how all that was set up, and to realize how carefully everything had to be planned because the effects are the last things to be added in post production.

[44] Lunch break came and we all hiked back to base camp. They served sushi that day. The food was great. And after all that work earlier in the day, everyone was ready for a good meal!

[45] There was more shooting, a tea break in the afternoon, a little more shooting, and when it was dark, the day was over and we all went home.


On the Set with Lucy Lawless

Lucy purchases a cardboard standee of a fan.


Lucy Lawless, on the set.


[46] Lucy Lawless is a very powerful presence on the set, entirely fitting since she is the star of the show. But even with that distinction, she is very much a stabilizing factor. The rest of the cast and crew are very much attuned to how she feels on a given day. If Lucy is having a great day, so is everyone else.

[47] There is no doubt she works very hard. Sometimes one has to wonder if perhaps she does not work too hard. It is not a pace one can keep up forever. Nevertheless, Lucy was always very energetic and extremely involved with what was going on.

[48] In the scenes that she was in, she would carefully study the results. Although the cameras put the action on film, they are also set up to capture what took place on videotape. It is possible to see what was just filmed without having to wait for the processing. In some scenes, Lucy had a definite idea of what she wanted to achieve. She studied the result carefully, and in a couple of cases, did more takes than would be usual for a scene. But one of these scenes we shot that day was the last in an act (just before a cut to commercial break). It involved a complex camera setup, and Lucy must have had a goal in mind for how she wanted it to turn out, because after viewing the results, she asked for more takes.

[49] But even though she is very serious about her craft, she also has a great rapport with everyone who works on the set. I watched her kid around with many of the crew between takes. She went to her own trailer during lunch for a rest, but still during the break period she came out and played hackeysack with some of the crew. However, when it was time to shoot, she was all business.

[50] During a break in some of the day, Lucy and I had the opportunity for a fairly lengthy chat. I had never met her before, but we settled into a very pleasant conversation about fans, fandom, and so forth. She was very nice, asked about what I did in "real life" and asked some questions about fans and the whole phenomenon of the show and its popularity. Pretty much every nice and professional thing I had heard about Lucy was proven true. I was very grateful to be able to spend even a short time conversing with this very intelligent and talented woman. The Xenaverse is lucky to have her.


On the Set with Renee O'Connor

[51] I have already described my interaction and observations about Renee O'Connor in a previous article called "On the Set with Renee O'Connor", Whoosh! #21 (06/98).


On the Set with Kevin Smith

Kevin borrows Lucy's fan standee.


Kevin Smith, on the set.


[52] I already knew Kevin Smith a little before my trip to New Zealand. He was the very first interview I did for Whoosh! ("An Interview with Kevin Smith", Whoosh! #10 (07/97). We also spent a little time together in Washington DC at WarriorCon (09/97) and ran into each other a time or two after that.

[53] In fact, on the set of SACRIFICE (67/321), Kevin saw me before I saw him. "Gidday Bret," he said as he walked up to me to shake my hand. "Looks like we'll be working together today."

[54] And work he did! Kevin was always on his mark, always attentive, and always ready when it was time to shoot his scenes. He always gave a hundred percent of himself in any of the situations I saw him in. Even in very brief scenes where he would do a short bit to set up for an effects shot, he would work as if it was the most crucial scene he was doing. It was so interesting to see him on the set in and out of character. When the cameras rolled, he was Ares, no doubt about it. When the cameras were off, he was the affable and pleasant Kevin, always having a kind word for everyone.

[55] At lunch, he and I and Hudson Leick chatted at length about Los Angeles, politics, and a variety of other subjects. There we all are, in full costume, under a big tent, eating sushi and discussing modern society. It was an amusing picture.


On the Set with Hudson Leick

Hudson steals the standee from Kevin...


Hudson Leick, on the set.


[56] Hudson was someone else I already knew a little prior to coming to New Zealand. I had interviewed her before ("An Interview with Hudson Leick", Whoosh! #14 (11/97)) and chatted with her at different convention locations. It was flattering that she remembered me as well. "It's so funny that you're here!" she laughed, and we had a nice chat about what was going on back in California and the States.

[57] Hudson is as intense in real life as she is in character as Callisto, but not in the same way. Hudson has a way of looking through you and into your soul, assessing you, and, as she puts it, "getting to know you." I have been under that stare a couple of times, and it is something I have rarely experienced in others. She is also a very intense professional.

[58] One scene being set up was a rather complicated affair involving an exchange of "fireballs" between Ares and Callisto. While things were being set up, Hudson very quietly sat on her haunches in the middle of a field, all by herself, waiting for the signal to action. After a time she got a small umbrella to shield her from the very intense New Zealand sun, but she still waited very quietly and patiently for her cue.

[59] She had a scene with Xena as well. Watching her work is absolutely mesmerizing. She is so concentrated, so focused, so intense.

Animated by Zeus, the fan standee comes to life to behead Hudson.


Hudson Leick herself suggested we take this picture. 'Let 'em think this is how Callisto dies!' she joked.


[60] And the crew absolutely adores Hudson. They took very good care of her. In one scene, she had to dive away to avoid a fireball thrown by Ares. What the audience does not see is that she dove into a large blanket held out of view by some of the crew. After the necessary takes, on her last dive, the crew began to toss her up and down in the air while holding the blanket, and she laughed and giggled the whole time, thoroughly enjoying it. I do not think they would do that with just anyone.


Sightseeing

Not to be confused with Pastifika, which honors the introduction of pasta to NZ.


Pasifika is an annual festival in Auckland, bringing together diverse cultures from all over the South Pacific. There is music, dancing, stories, artifacts, and displays that are wonderful to see. If it's on when you're there, don't miss it!


[61] Auckland by itself is a great place for the tourist. This is especially true if you are into boats or sailing. Auckland is known as the "City of Sails" and has more boats per capita than any other major city in the world. If you are lucky, you may be able to see "Rob's Folly", the ship used in Hercules and Xena, down near the Maritime Museum. For a time, it was moored next to the museum, and although people couldn't board it, it could be easily seen up close.

[62] Near to the maritime museum is a place where you can take a water taxi to other "near Auckland" destinations. One of these is Devonport, a lovely little seaside community and popular tourist spot. The tour guide who showed me around that day mentioned that some people who live there commute to downtown via water taxi and do not even use a car for commuting, though many owned them. Tour buses and other excursions are in Devonport aplenty, and it is a delightful place to do a walking tour. You could easily spend a full day or two there.

A peaceful island...


Rangitoto Island, as seen from Auckland's Sky Tower.


[63] Another worthy excursion is Rangitoto Island, also available via water taxi from Auckland centre. It is a huge dormant volcano, quite young, geologically speaking. As you walk on it, you can still feel the heat from below through your feet! The views from the top of Rangitoto are magnificent, and it is another day easily spent.

...until closer inspection reveals a spire the shape of an enema tip.


The Auckland skyline as seen from One Tree Hill, another fabulous spot not to be missed.


[64] In and around Auckland centre are quite a variety of things to see and do. When the power is on, it is a very modern city. Auckland's Sky Tower dominates the skyline (Auckland does not really have skyscrapers -- it is very spread out). Sky Tower is a huge "needle" structure, with viewing galleries and restaurants atop. It is billed as the tallest structure south of the equator. Views from the top are stunning, and recorded tours tell you all about what you can see.

[65] Right next to Sky Tower is a casino. Good luck if that is your thing! I won about $500NZ the first few minutes I was there and did not go back! This area also has a lot of restaurants and shops. I was able to get an adapter for my laptop with no worries.

Originally designed by Escher, loss of funds forced the steps to lead somewhere.


Auckland's historic Town Hall, on Queen Street, located adjacent to a major cultural centre.


[66] Also, near downtown, by the historic Town Hall, is a cultural centre where there is often a play running. It was here I saw Alison "Melosa" Bruce in Chekov's THE CHERRY ORCHARD. Nearby are other theatres as well, and many Xena and Hercules alumni are usually performing. For example, I saw THE HERBAL BED with Karl "Caesar" Urban and Jennifer "Boudicea" Ward-Lealand, with a cast of other Hercules/Xena alumni.

[67] At the nearby University is Theatresports, which is usually sold out, but where Kevin Smith can be seen from time to time.

Like twigs in a forest, these are the trees of our lives.


A scene in Albert Park.


[68] Parks abound in Auckland. The charming Albert Park is a nice walk. About another 20 minute walk from there is the Domain, a huge park atop which is a museum and war memorial.

[69] The war memorial was where I have had one of the most moving experiences of my life. It is every bit as gripping as the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, if not more, considering this site honours Kiwis who fell in many conflicts, including WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, etc. Even today, at a small shrine in the WWI section, people leave notes, tokens, and messages of thanks and gratitude.

Avon calling!


A maori dwelling.


[70] On the first floor is a museum of Maori artifacts including a reproduction of some village structures. One can also see Maori performances here, and it is well worth it. Kiwis have embraced many Maori ideals, including the Maori emphasis on family structure and values. For those wanting to learn about Maori history and culture, especially for those like me who knew little or nothing before I came here, this is a good place to start.

[71] Auckland does not have a Disneyland and it does not have a Sea World, but it has the next best thing -- Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World. It is part huge aquarium and part Antarctic museum. Kiwis are great explorers, especially to places like the Antarctic, and the displays here tell you all about that. It is a very interesting place, and one can easily spend a day or two here as well. Sir Edmund Hillary, famous explorer and first to climb Mt. Everst, narrates part of the recorded tour. Awhile back there was a new sport stadium built near Wellington, the capital, and Sir Edmund Hillary was asked to dedicate it. In typical Kiwi self-deprecation he responded "Don't you want somebody famous for that?" Made me smile when I heard that, considering he is probably the most famous Kiwi alive.

[72] Not only can you learn about the Antarctic at Kelly Tarlton's, but you can also walk THROUGH the huge aquarium, see penguins aplenty, and learn all about a variety of ocean life, as well as see it up close and personal.

[74] Most people know that Hercules and Xena do many of their external shots on private property that they own outside of town. That's the location of some of the familiar sets such as the "ship in the harbour", the "stone town", the "village", the "fortress", the "quarry", and others.

[75] Nevertheless, the shows also film in and around public areas and you can see those places too!

Beware of women riding clamshells...


Bethells' beach, site of many HERC and XENA eps including the famous Xena/Callisto chariot action.


[76] Not to be missed are some of the popular tourist beaches West of town, such as Karekare, Bethells, and Piha. Walking along those beaches I am sure you will recognise many familiar landmarks. If you pick the right time of week/year, you can have most of it all to yourself! When I was there in March [1998], going mid-week, virtually no one else was about.

Anytown, USA


A peaceful view of Mangere Mountain.


[77] Farther afield from town are parks such as Mangere Mountain, another dormant volcano, but also a site where Hercules and Xena have filmed quite a bit. It was here that Xena ran up and down mountains in ALTARED STATES (19/119), and it was also here that Autolycus and Iolaus tricked Mercury out of his boots in Hercules's PORKULES (H75/416). Most recently, it was a location used for CRUSADER.

A Palace Fave!


Hunua Falls.


[78] Also about an hour drive from town is Hunua Falls. This is where Xena and Gabrielle went skinny dipping/fishing in ALTARED STATES (19/119), to name one example. It is also a site used by other New Zealand productions.

A small group of the production crew is rumored to still be in there.


Some of the lovely New Zealand countryside.


[79] But Hercules and Xena aside, anyone who visits Auckland should take advantage of the wonderfully unspoiled areas still left. Off several major roads, one can find trails that lead them into the bush. A couple of minutes along one of these trails and there is no hint there is a road or civilisation nearby. It is wonderfully primevil. You might think you could see a dinosaur around the next corner. And at the end of these trails is often a delightful waterfall or other natural site. Pack a lunch, and pack your litter after.

[80] All in all, it was a truly amazing trip. I saw things I had never seen before, met people and made friends, and took home memories to last a lifetime. I have always been a big believer that travel not only broadens the mind, but it also broadens the soul. New Zealand certainly does not disappoint on either count.



Biography

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... 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: IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)

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