Whoosh! Issue 28 - January 1999

Exclusive to Whoosh!
By Bret Rudnick
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
This edition copyright © 1999 held by WHOOSH
2079 words

Author's Note: Claire Stansfield is best known to Xena viewers as Alti, Xena's nemesis from the episodes ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402). She bears little resemblance in real life to the Alti character. Rather, Ms. Stansfield resembles Supermodel more than Alti, and she has a charm about her that was never evinced in Alti. She has also had quite a lot of experience in film and television, having been in motion pictures such as Drop Zone (John Badham, 1994, "Kara"), and she has made television appearances on Frasier (TV, 1993-), X-Files (TV, 1993-), Twin Peaks (TV, 1990-1991), Ned And Stacey (TV, 1995-1997, "Jordan"), Platypus Man (TV, 1995), The Flash (TV), and more. In December of 1998, Ms. Stansfield graciously shared her thoughts on her experiences, Xena and otherwise.

BETWEEN THE LINES and Alti (01-11)
Different Directing Styles (12-18)
Conventions and Fandom (28-32)
More About BETWEEN THE LINES (33-36)

An Interview With Claire Stansfield

Moments before the guy who turned on the wind machine got fired

Claire Stansfield, as herself.


[01] I understand you just returned from filming another episode, BETWEEN THE LINES, directed by Rick Jacobson.

[02] Yes, Alti gets sort of reincarnated. It's not quite a makeover, but she does look different.

[03] How did you come to play the part of Alti?

[04] I originally read for Hercules, for the part of Morrigan, which I didn't get. In the audition scene, I had to get very angry. Rob Tapert apparently saw some anger there he liked. My agent called me and said "Rob Tapert wants to offer you a part in Xena."

[05] The reason why I read for the Hercules part was the character was meant to be a regular or recurring character, so I wondered about the Xena part. The agent said "Oh no, it's only for a couple of episodes, but there's a possibility it could go on for more." I said, "Well, all right, send it over."

[06] I got the script but was never told the name of the character they wanted me to play. As I was flipping through it I kept seeing the name 'Cyane' and since she was Queen of the Amazons I thought 'That's me!' Gee, I wonder who's going to play this 'old bag of bones' Alti." [both laugh]

[07] When I got to New Zealand, T.J. [Scott] said "Obviously you're not a bag of bones or an old hag. We'll just take some of that out." It's funny because you can see some of the places where they didn't take it out. The actors just said what was in the script and part of that got left in there. I mean, I'm a hundred and forty pounds, no bag of bones.

[08] Even under all that makeup, certainly not an old hag.

Abs more fab than Gab's?

About as far from haggy bag of bones as one can get!

[09] Thank you. [both laugh] So that's how that all came about. I had just seen Merlin (TV miniseries, Steve Barron, 1998), at the time, and I thought Miranda Richardson did such a wonderful job as Mab. I asked Rob Tapert if I could play Alti like Mab, with the eye makeup and the whispery growl, and he said "Yeah!" I wanted to make it more scary and thought that was a way to do it. Whenever I get into that "wicked witch" mode I just "become" that evil character. In BETWEEN THE LINES I am so unbelievably evil, it's just beyond evil.

[10] Oh, my!

[11] Rick would come back from the monitor and say "If I'm laughing, Claire, it's good." He thought I was just so evil and the more he'd laugh the more evil he thought I was, so we had a good time with that. If you're gonna do it, do it all the way.

Different Directing Styles

[12] It's interesting to compare the directing styles of both T.J. Scott and Rick Jacobson.

[13] They're vastly different.

[14] I've heard a number of people say that T.J. Scott must think that "motion pictures" means moving the camera around, because there's a lot of that motion in his work.

[15] Rattling, too. Not only is the camera moving, but he'd have a cameraman hitting, rattling, and shaking the camera as well. Rick was different. What I liked best about Rick was how close he was to the action.

[16] Most directors sit a block away in a little tent looking at a little monitor, surrounded by assistants and script supervisors. Rick was not like that. He stood right next to the camera, jumping up and down like a little kid sometimes, excited and in the trenches with us. I really liked that.

[17] As I'd work he'd be miming right along next to me. That's better than having to look far away to wait for someone to give you a "thumbs up" sign to show you're on the right track. For me it was especially helpful in my latest appearance because I had to do a lot of sword-fighting. When there are twenty people running at you, no matter how well it's choreographed, it's hard to keep your cool.

[18] These stunt guys are fantastic and they're really into it. When they ran at me on my first take I just lost it. I said to Rick, "I didn't know they'd be screaming!" He said "Yeah, and you should be too!"


Rejected for the job of 'tooth fairy', Alti embarks on a life of crime

Alti hovers above Xena and Borias in spirit form.

[19] I notice that in the first two episodes you were in, SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402), you must have spent a lot of time hanging from a wire.

[20] Yes, it was really uncomfortable. They did a lot of that first with blue screen, thinking to add the background in later. But then T.J. said "Let's hang Lucy and Claire in the forest!" There were these two cranes that had a landing on top, and across from the cranes was a wire. Lucy was standing on one crane landing and I was standing on the other. We jump off and fly at each other, harnessed under our costumes. We weren't that far off the ground, but the stunt girls were later. We were far enough, though, and far apart enough to miss each other. Lucy is so into it you can't help but want to jump in with her. "Let's go again!" she'd say.

[21] Then when we were losing light and we had to do the "spinning" sequence, they set up a contraption where we were at one end and the camera was at the other and the whole thing was spinning. It went up and down as well as around. We spent a lot of time harnessed to each other, flying around. It wasn't very comfortable, but they took good care of you. Two or three minutes of agony, then they pamper you like crazy.

[22] I noticed the crews down there are very attentive.

[23] It was like going back to family. They're all so cool, so fun, and just great. I've never worked with a crew like the Xena crew.

[24] Aside from being suspended from wires, did you have any other memorable experiences that stand out?

[25] For me the thing that was most scary was when I had to dance around the fire. It's easier to dance in a group than by yourself in front of a crew. I didn't know what I was going to do. I was in my hotel room, studying and listening to the music, trying to figure out what to do.

[26] While I was doing this, there was a documentary on television. They don't have much TV down there, but I was watching The Lonely Planet. They guy on that show happened to be down in South America filming a bunch of shamaness-like women calling up the spirits in a dance. So I went from being stumped on what to do to having an example to work from.

[27] I basically copied these big, strong, beautiful South American women doing this dance, and that, for me, was an important moment. I'm actually quite shy, so getting through that was memorable for me as an actor.

Conventions and Fandom

[28] I've actually become quite proud to be just a part of the Xena experience. Everyone seems to know or have heard of the show. Sometimes people will have an attitude about it, and I'll jump in and say "Hey, have you ever watched it? It's amazing!" I didn't think I was going to be sucked in by the whole thing but I am now.

[29] You also had your first convention experience recently, yes?

[30] Yes, they had someone drop out and I was a substitute. I didn't know anything about it. I just had dinner with Lucy and Rob they introduced me to Ted [Raimi]. Ted and my boyfriend got on like a house on fire. We ended up exchanging numbers and we were supposed to get together. Then they called me to ask me to do the convention, so I wanted to call Ted to find out what to expect. I couldn't find his number. That afternoon I checked my phone messages and Ted had left a message. This was about two weeks after our dinner. We played phone tag for awhile and I left a message saying I was going to be in San Francisco and I was going to a convention. I guess he didn't hear the message properly and he left a message saying "Great, you're coming to San Francisco, if you want to come to the convention I can probably get you a couple of tickets." Finally we got it sorted out.

[31] He told me all about what to expect. He said "Just go out and talk for half an hour, tell some stories." I said "Huh?" I couldn't even wrap my thoughts around the concept. He said "Don't worry, they'll ask questions, it'll be fine." So I decided I'd try not to look like Alti and buffoon it some. They were all expecting Callisto and she couldn't come and I thought everyone was going to be let down and they'd hate me. I couldn't have had a better time. Everyone was so responsive. They laughed, they clapped. The fans made me feel so good and they were so great.

[32] I basically told them a lot of the stories I told you. I answered questions. Sharon told me later that they had to wave frantically to finally get me off the stage. "We have other guests! Get off!" [both laugh] That was so much fun, I didn't want to get off the stage.


No, really, that Borias guy is not for you.  I know a nice Jewish
boy, a doctor no less!

Alti will be back with a vengeance in BETWEEN THE LINES.

[33] Without saying too much about BETWEEN THE LINES or giving anything significant away, you say you're more evil than ever before?

[34] Yeah. Oh yeah. [whispers] I think it may be a future thing as opposed to a flashback thing. And we are all very different.

[35] Something very much to look forward to. Thank you very, very much for your time.

[36] Thank you. You're very welcome.


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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