Whoosh! Issue 67 - April 2002

By Bret Ryan Rudnick
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
2846 words

Giving Up One Love for Another (01-02)
Ares, Hercules, And Other Oddities (03-07)
Kevin Smith on the Set (08-09)
Coming Into His Own (10-11)
Kevin Smith -- Entertainer (12)
Kevin Smith -- Comedian (13)
Kevin Smith -- Writer? (14-15)
Kevin Smith -- Not Forgotten (16)


All-black fan extraordinaire

Kevin Smith, 1963 - 2002

Giving Up One Love for Another

[01] Well before his fame as an actor, Kevin Smith did what he had wanted to do all his life, play rugby. Nevertheless, it was a series of injuries, most notably three concussions in one season, that caused him to give up the game he loved so well on advice from his physician. Then how did he become an actor? His wife prodded him in that direction. He told me, on our first meeting in 1997,

"While I was having my three-week stand-down period with my head injury, I came home one day and my wife said, "You've got to turn up at this theater." I said "Whatever for?" She said "I saw an ad in the paper and I put your name in for an audition." I said "What?!" I used to play in rock bands. I was really heavy into the alternative music scene when I was younger."

An Elvis impersonation or two later, along with a stint on stage in various roles, and Kevin was well on his way to an acting career.

[02] He often played a muscle head or general all-around bad guy on television Down Under with such shows as Shortland Street, Gloss, Marlin Bay, and others. He did the odd art film (literally) titled Desperate Remedies, of which he said:

"Yes, I shot that film in 1992. We went to Cannes with it. It was an art-house sort of picture but the Italians and the French and the Spanish absolutely loved it because it was a vast, operatic sort of piece. The whole thing was done on a set. It was heavily stylized. It was a great experience. We had two directors working on it, and it was funny the number of people who do come up and say, "Man, I saw that film." It was something that polarized people, they either hated it, or they really dug the film. There were vast tracks in it where I was not wearing an outrageous codpiece -- I was stark-lollicky-naked. (laughs) So every now and then I run into someone who reminds me of that. With the New Zealand film industry, obviously the output is not as big as with a bigger market, but we continually put out interesting and challenging pictures."

Ares, Hercules, And Other Oddities

Aerosmith tribute band contender

Kevin's first character for Pacific Renaissance was Herc's all-mortal half-brother Iphicles.

[03] It is an often forgotten fact that the role of Ares debuted as it was on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, was not initially played by Kevin Smith, but by a different actor. Kevin only later played Ares on Xena: Warrior Princess as well as Hercules. Kevin's first role for Pacific Renaissance was that of Iphicles, Hercules' half-brother. Indeed, Kevin Smith may well have had the role of Hercules himself, had not the fates deemed otherwise. Kevin told me about this as follows:

"Way back when they were just launching the idea [of Hercules], the woman who casts the show out of New Zealand called my agent and asked if I would be interested in auditioning for the role of Hercules. But at that time, I did not audition. I was on a TV series back home [in New Zealand]. I declined, regretfully. I was over here [in the United States] about two years ago and had a chance meeting with Eric Gruendemann, who is a producer [of Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys]. I am really good friends with Michael Hurst [Iolaus in Hercules] and we were just having dinner. Soon afterwards I got a call from New Zealand asking "You want to come over and play Iphicles [Hercules' half-brother]?" so I said, "Sounds like a good deal to me." So I went back, did Iphicles, did theater for about six months, and then I did my first Ares [episode of Xena]. So, it just came out of a chance meeting, really."

[04] Whenever I interviewed Kevin or we were speaking about his work as Ares on or off the record, I was always amazed at his knowledge of the character he played. He knew episode names and details well beyond what even the most diehard fans were capable of. Whether he was discussing "vulnerable" Ares, as in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS, or "vengeful" Ares or "comic" Ares, Kevin had a firm handle on motivation and history.

[05] Kevin also relished the chance to do different things for Herc/Xena also, such as when he played writer Jerry Brown for the Herc episodes that brought the show into modern-day parody.

"I love playing Jerry Brown. I was worried what he'd think about it, but apparently he liked it. I met his daughter at the Burbank convention and thought "Oh, no, he's gonna kill me." But she said, "No, dad loves it!" We just seized on even the slightest personality quirk and warped it beyond recognition. I had heard he was a bit conservative, so I said "Great, turn him into a crazed loony!"

[06] Kevin also enjoyed playing "bizarro Ares" in the Herc episodes where Ares in an alternate universe is the God of Love, not the God of War.

"I remember in a meeting about the show before we began shooting someone said [switches to American "studio suit" accent] "We do not want this guy gay, OK? NOT gay!" Afterwards, Bruce Campbell, who was the director, said, "I want you to play this guy so f------ queer." I said, "Well, he wasn't like that in the first one." Bruce said, "Well in this one, he is!" My favourite line in it, we came up with this in rehearsal, was when I was standing in front of the mirror and said, "Does this make my b*tt look big?" Well, in the end we decided not to play him gay, but just sort of "Restoration Fop". That's what we went for in the end."

[07] Throughout his several years playing the Ares character, Kevin continued to work on the character's evolution, often displaying a sympathetic side to Ares. It is unfortunate that the inconsistencies of Season Five and Six did not fulfill the earlier direction of the character to its full potential. But still, all things considered, my favourite performance of Kevin Smith as Ares has to be in one of his last episodes, OLD ARES HAD A FARM, where the team of Ares and Horace nearly rivaled the duo of Xena and Gabrielle.

Kevin Smith on the Set

After failing the test to join Ares' persnal staff, Bret finds minimum wage employment as a Dahakian Lieutenant

Kev good-naturedly puts up with a photo op for an expendable extra.

[08] It was my good fortune to actually be able to work with Kevin Smith on the set of a Xena episode and observe his skill in that environment. I was in the episode SACRIFICE, as an unnamed Dahak Lieutenant. When I got to the set, Kevin spotted me and walked right over. "Gidday Bret," he said as he walked up to me to shake my hand. "Looks like we'll be working together today."

[09] 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.

Coming Into His Own

This piercing really, really itches

Kevin had paid his dues and was on the threshold of achieving Hollywood greatness, though many of us already knew he was great.

[10] During his later career on Hercules and Xena, Kevin Smith was honing his acting skills and showing them off to wide acclaim. He starred in the New Zealand television film series Lawless, which won some renown critically, especially for its first film. Kevin also made the kiwi film Channelling Baby, a good film and interesting murder mystery which was received much better abroad than in New Zealand.

[11] Post-Xena, Kevin was making a name for himself on stage in such productions as The Blue Room and A Streetcar Named Desire. I was fortunate enough to see him in the latter, several performances actually, and each time I noticed he would try to improve something or work harder at a scene that was difficult.

Kevin Smith -- Entertainer

As he is about to break into song, an audience member reminds Kevin his 'barn door is open'

Q&A time at conventions was fun for everyone.

[12] Kevin Smith made numerous convention appearances in the USA and some abroad in conjunction with his Xena/Hercules work. Not only did he do the usual question/answer sessions, but he also did musical performances in a band composed of other friends and associates. This issue is full of reports of such things. I encourage you to read them for the details, but the most important thing to impart is that in every performance, Kevin was polite, articulate, patient, and made every person he met feel important. Kevin made you feel as if he was truly glad to see you -- and that is because he was. I have rarely met anyone who loved people in general as much as Kevin did. Almost everyone was greeted or parted with a "Cheers, mate!" a broad smile, and a thumbs up.

Kevin Smith -- Comedian

These rolling blackouts are getting to be really annoying!

Kevin performed XFOLIOS at a Theatresports show in Los Angeles in 2000.

[13] While Kevin was a pleasure to see in live theatre, he was absolutely delightful in a comedy setting known as "Theatresports." This was a group (or groups) of stage players, based in New Zealand, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, that would perform comedy skits, often live and impromptu. The audience would suggest a situation, and the players would run with it. Kevin constantly demonstrated his wit and skill in various situations, and it was truly a pleasure to see him perform. My favourite memory of one of these performances was in Los Angeles, where the cast was challenged to spontaneously create a musical based on current events. We got bus strikes, rolling blackouts, and more, in a performance that was better than some I have seen on Broadway.

Kevin Smith -- Writer?

Kevin uses his mic stand to 'accidentally' unplug Joel's guitar -- again

For several convention appearances, Kevin and Joel performed together.

[14] Perhaps the artistic skill I admired Kevin most for was one few people knew he possessed -- Kevin was a fine writer. We exchanged a number of e-mails, and each one was a delight as Kevin typed out expository literature that would be the envy of many professionals.

[15] I have permission to share an example of that work. Lori Joyce is the person in charge of Joel Tobeck's fan club. Joel and Kevin have been good friends for a long time. Lori asked Kevin if he would care to contribute something for the Joel Tobeck newsletter, and Kevin agreed, though in his busy schedule, he sort of forgot about it. Lori in turn asked myself and Beth, who used to run Kevin's fan club, if we could remind him of that commitment. Here is the letter that Kevin sent to Lori:

Dear Lori,

I caught up with Beth last week while I was in LA and she expressed her surprise at my prompt reply to a recent e- mail she sent and at that moment a light came on, the veil was lifted, the doors of perception flung wide open...could it be? was it possible?

YES!!! I WAS A TARDY B------!!!

My conscience pricked, I decided to retrace my steps and make amends for a life of procrastination and one of the first stops on my Siberian railway of atonement was you. I can't remember exactly when it was that you asked me for something for Joel's fanmag, but I seem to think it was a loooooong time ago. Perhaps it was purely forgetfulness, perhaps I had every intention of getting around to it…or perhaps, subconsciously at least, the reason for the delay had darker, more sinister origins.

I had always known that there was something hollow about the public displays of "bon amis" between Tobeck and myself but I figured for the sake of the show Joel, ever the political animal, had decided to present a united front. Perhaps naively, I went along with him, thus servicing my almost cloying need to be liked (a weakness that Tobeck had recognized and exploited from the very beginning of our "relationship"), but for whatever reason, I must take some of the blame for perpetuating the whole facade. The moment it hit me, and hit me it did with a feeling akin to eating a two week old custard square that had been floating uncovered off the coast of Borneo (and I guess we all know that feeling right?) was when we had to share a hotel room some months back.

I had fallen asleep, or so Tobeck thought (sleep doesn't come easily when your inner alarm system is yelling GET OUT!!! and suppressing the desire to scream like an air-raid siren is a second to second battle), when in his complacency, he began putting salted fish inside his pimp-chic shoes, unaware that I was watching the unholy dance unfold. From within his "guitar case" he removed six or seven pounds of cured meat small goods. At a glance, it appeared to be an assortment of sausages, bratwurst, black pudding and beef jerky. These he then proceeded to deftly sew into the lining of one of the garish man-frocks for which he is so famous.

But what these pitifully ravaged eyes had to witness next will haunt me the rest of my tortured days. If the word "egret" offends you, read no further (if indeed the word egret is the correct term for a baby eagle, for that is what it was), but from inside one of his musical Pat Boone socks, he pulled out an egret and began to tongue kiss it in such a lascivious fashion, that it was only the presence of my own fist in my mouth that stayed the torrent of bile that surged like a tsunami up my throat. His dark work done, he proceeded to eat the hapless and defiled bird, washing it down with a modestly priced pinot noir and, after leaving me a note asking me, nay telling me to pre-record his guitar tracks for that night's concert (it should be painfully obvious to anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with the instrument that the man can't play a lick), this walking delicatessen of a man flounced off into the night.

So am I tardy? Most assuredly, that is an historical fact. Am I implicated in whatever his murky crimes are because of my reluctance to come forth? There is a good argument for the affirmative. Is my warning too late? I pray not. Be well, be ready.


Kevin Smith -- Not Forgotten

[16] It is probably not an exaggeration to say that few who met Kevin or saw him in person will soon forget him. Indeed, the man had such charm and love in him that all of us who met him or saw him could be somewhat infected by that. We are left with a legacy of his work, insufficient though that may be, but we can also aspire to have an attitude to life and people more like his than not. As I have said elsewhere, to borrow words from Professor Marvel to the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, a heart is not measured by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others. In either case, Kevin had the biggest heart of anyone I have known.


Too numerous to list


a Bret of mystery Bret Ryan 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.

Favorite episodes: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206), and THE QUEST (37/213)
Favorite lines: 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: FRIEND IN NEED



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