An Interview With An Interview With Chris Ryan

Whoosh! Issue 13 -
October 1997

Exclusive to Whoosh!
By Bret Ryan Rudnick
Copyright © 1997 held by author
1459 words

Author's Note: Throughout the month of May 1997, I carried on an electronic correspondence with Chris Ryan, best known to XENA fans as the warlord, Virgilius, who appeared in the second season episode TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (#32). At one point, our correspondence was interrupted because Chris' computer packed up and he had to borrow a friend's. Being the imposing character he is, I told him I had this image of Virgilius versus the computer and that the poor computer stood no chance at all. He laughed at this, because although Chris has quite an imposing appearance, he truly is a "gentle giant" and just a ripping good chap in general. His surname is Ryan (as is my middle name, coincidentally) and we discussed at one point whether he may actually be a relation to Lucy Lawless, but that has only been speculation, nothing conclusive. After he agreed to an interview and I submitted my questions, he responded "Whoa, you didn't just ask those nice easy yes/no questions." I told him no, I had a Whoosh! responsibility, and so the interview was on.

Getting the Part (01-02)
Family, Acting, and Background (03-10)

An Interview With Chris Ryan

And I can cook too!

Actor Chris Ryan, sans beard and leather.

Getting the Part

[01] I have to say, I really enjoyed your performance as "Virgilius" in the episode TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (#32). Your character was very memorable. What was your first Xena memory -- how were you selected for the role?

[02] My association with Hercules goes back to the beginning (unfortunately participation does not), I was offered a large role in one of the original pilot movies. However I was offered this role about 3 days before I was due to start a 5 week season of 'Les Miserables', they completely overlapped and I had to turn it down. More fool me, after that there was no word for two and a half years. I got an audition for Xena, drove 420 miles for it, did it well, drove home, blew the engine in my van (NZ$4000 to fix) and did not get the part. The gorgeous Lucy Lawless then proceeded to crack her pelvis, the shooting schedule was rearranged, and "poof" I was 'Virgilius', who could now pay his mechanic.

Family, Acting, and Background

Care to smell my basket?

Virgilius (right) chats with another bad-boy warlord (left).

[03] You have a very imposing appearance on television. I'm guessing you're about six foot five?

[04] I am 6'4" (1.93m), 286 lbs (130kg) and yes, imposing if you like, but gentle and lamblike in real life. I'm 31, married, 3 kids: girls, 5 and 4, and a boy, 3 months.

[05] What is your background and acting history?

[06] I'm an artist with modest success in sculpting and painting. I work in radio, DJing and voice production, ad voiceovers, etc. I do a bit of singing, musical theatre, and suchlike. Like most NZ actors, all my fingers are in different pies -- anything to make a buck.

[07] What roles have you done outside of the one I know you from (TEN LITTLE WARLORDS)?

[08] Actingwise, I've been in quite a bit of minor roles in NZ TV, many ads, Shakespeare and theatre productions, none of which you will ever see in the States (hopefully). I had couple of small roles in Kiwi films such as Braindead (Peter Jackson film: I was a zombie in that. Lots of fun!). 'Nuff said, suffice it to say I'm just a small (yet remarkable heavy) cheese in a growing industry. There's hope for me yet. We have many very talented actors in NZ (as everywhere) all just waiting for that big break. Hercules/Xena has kept many of us alive.

[09] How has your acting career affected your everyday life? Do you find people recognise you from your appearances?

[10] Yes, recognition; mainly from high profile ad campaigns in NZ. Some of which are embarrassing so you don't need to know about them.


Callisto secretly envied those who could grow facial

Virgilius and 'Callisto' exchange pleasantries.

You may download a short (1M) .avi file of a similar scene by clicking short_version
or a longer (3M) .avi file of the same scene by clicking long_version.

[11] What are some of your personal experiences from TEN LITTLE WARLORDS that come to mind? Some funny or memorable moments?

[12] What can I say? Wardrobe and makeup is amazing. A huge supply of costumes, etc, even (eventually) big enough for me. That's not my beard in the episode, by the way, but even people on set were fooled. Great people and probably one of the most efficient production companies from top to bottom in the world. (I have to say credit to Kiwi involvement). You are worked hard though, in make up by around 5:30am and on set sometimes 'til 7:00pm.

[13] You walk in through a side door of a warehouse (just off downtown Auckland) into a huge cave, then to an antechamber and on to the interior of a castle. And it looks real! This obviously changes from production to production. Pretty good for polystyrene and paint. Although sometimes a mistimed sword or axe will imbed itself in to a 'stone' wall or a rubber weapon will bend at an embarrassing angle and stay that way while menacing a maiden.

[14] Mind you Kevin Smith(Ares), didn't look overly happy when I was swinging an aluminium (aluminum) axe at his head. Don't worry, the fights are really well drilled and choreographed. How often do you get to beat the crap out of the God of War? We had a great cast and crew on this one (I assume this is the norm).

Is this port...or starboard?

Virgilus about to strike at Ares from behind.

[15] Was TEN LITTLE WARLORDS originally supposed to be filmed with Lucy Lawless rather than Hudson Leick? Did Lucy's injury knock the episode production for six?

[16] Lucy Lawless was originally meant to be in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS, but the injury, you know about it, totally changed production. We were fortunate that she had been transferred into Callistos' body in the previous episode and it could be easily changed to stay that way. Unfortunate for Lucy but who would complain about Hudson? What a leather clad babe. I mean, babe. Truly a honey to work with, and off set.

[17] How much were you able to bring to the character of Virgilius on your own? Were you minutely directed or could you just "go with it"?

[18] Just briefly. We are fairly closely directed but if your character is down pat you can 'go with it' in some cases. American accents, however, are very closely monitored although Kiwis and Aussies are pretty good at them. Charles Siebert(Director and 'Sisyphus') knew his stuff. Unfortunately, I didn't have much to do with Gabrielle or Joxer, they were on different locations for most of the filming. I must say my wife was pleased it was a mainly male cast and I wasn't subjected to too many wonderbra effects. Never mind.

[19] All in all this was fun. There was plenty of joking about off set (sometimes to the confusion of American senses of humour; no insult intended but Americans are pretty stiff sometimes). The occasional whack in the head was hilarious. Perhaps I shouldn't say anything more, we are professionals after all. Maybe the stern glance every once in a while from Siebert was deserved, but Tegason, Carus and Virgilius in gay parody and falsetto off camera was good base humour to my mind.

[20] Another quick note, the catering was great, but the makeup department (marvelous individuals that they are) put my beard on soooo tight I could only hope they were serving those little cocktail sausages for breakfast. They were the only thing I could suck into my mouth, providing amusement to (almost) all in the cafe. Scrambled egg got stuck in the hair and grease unstuck the glue. That reminds me, that bloody beard and costume were hot, especially in fight filming. I got my own personal fan, whoopee.

[21] Virgilius was such a great character I was sorry he only appeared in one episode. Do you know of any plans to bring him back (death is no barrier for characters on X:WP) or will you appear on the show again?

[22] I'm glad you enjoyed Virgilius, there were a few good characters. But the other 9 little warlords were pussies and he didn't deserve to die and should have had his own series. Ok, it is fantasy alright. You're right, death is no barrier, but might be in this case. There are always possibilities for further work, cross fingers, and wish me luck.

[23] Thanks very much for taking the time to answer -- it's very generous of you to give us your time. Hope to hear from you soon -- and best of luck with those repairs!

Or is it the bow? D*mn!!

Virgilius, listening to the message from 'Ares' (who is really Sisyphus).

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