JUST MARRY HER, WILL YOU? ROBERT TAPERT AT THE BURBANK CONVENTION
By Cynthia Ward Cooper (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Content © 1997 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 1997 held by Whoosh!
Rob Tapert, co-founder of Renaissance Pictures, executive producer of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, and sometime writer/director for XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, was probably responsible for more regrets than anyone else at the Convention. The reason? He appeared on Day One, ostensibly Hercules Day, January 11, 1997, which many Xenites had disdained to attend. It was their loss, because his was one of the most informative sessions of all. Tapert, boyish and shy, proved to be a font of information of all things XENA. He solved the Mystery of the Casting of Xena, shed light on the Future Direction, and made a Confession of Biblical proportions. It was, in short, quite an hour.
Asked to confirm that Lucy Lawless was not the first choice to play Xena, Tapert demurred. "She was always OUR top choice," he said, "MCA wanted us to cast someone else."
It seems that Lucy had appeared too recently in HERCULES (as Lyla, a Centaur's wife, in HTLJ #06, AS DARKNESS FALLS), and MCA was afraid that viewers would be confused to see her as another character. As if! However, the other actress (identified later by Lucy as Vanessa Angel) did not work out -- whether because she became ill or backed out is uncertain -- and Tapert and company wasted no time in putting Lucy in the role.
Contacting her was the hardest part, he recalled -- it was New Year's weekend, and she was off camping. Fortunately, they persevered; the rest, as they say, is history.
Photo courtesy of Debbie Cassetta
Several children asked questions about HERCULES: Why is Hera never shown? Would Athena be reappearing? What about the upcoming cartoon?
Using peacock feathers for Hera was initially to save money, and was kept because of viewer response.
Athena would be back, but in a different form (he wasn't happy with the way she'd been portrayed in THE APPLE, HTLJ #30).
The animated feature will be out this summer, and will be "not the usual cartoon."
This talk of cartoons and peacock feathers prompted me to ask about XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS' future direction. Where, I asked, was Xena's dark side? He assuaged my fears that Renaissance would be compelled to bow to the lowest common denominator. "Don't worry," he said, winking, "You haven't seen anything yet."
A comment that the Biblical shows seemed glaringly out of place elicited a wince from Tapert, accompanied by the wry confession that they had been his idea.
On a more personal level, Tapert was asked about his relationship with Lucy Lawless.
"I see the cat's out of the bag," he said ruefully.
Asked if they'd be getting married, he pretended not to hear. It did not help that his old friend Bruce Campbell, signing autographs nearby, kept yelling, "Answer the question!!!" Finally, Tapert, blushing, replied he couldn't say, "but you'll be the third to know."
With that, the session was over. In just under an hour, Tapert had succeeded in alternately charming, informing, tantalizing, and reassuring 2000 people -- quite a feat. But for the man who'd created Xena, it was probably just another afternoon.