Whoosh! Issue 40 - January 2000

Exclusive to Whoosh!
By Bret Ryan Rudnick
Copyright © 2000 held by author
1900 words

Author's Note: XENA fans will recognise Alison Wall as Minya and she has made four appearances as that character to date. But Alison Wall the actress is known as much for her voice work as her work on stage and in front of the camera. She did two voices in the animated HERC film THE BATTLE FOR MOUNT OLYMPUS (as the Titan Tethys and as Mnemsyne). Dual roles are nothing new to Ms. Wall, who played the "evil imposter" Uncle Abenazer and Deidre, the Dragon Empress in a pantomime favourite ALADDIN, performed in 1996 in New Zealand (also starring Michael Hurst as The Widow Twankey, and he wrote and directed the play as well). You might have been lucky enough to catch the 1998 international premiere of POINT YOUR TOES, CUSHLA, a short dramatic film with Alison Wall in a leading role which won critical acclaim. These are but small sample of the work of a very nice and talented lady who was gracious enough to spare some time on March 4, 199 to discuss her work. You can catch Alison Wall "live" in the United States at the huge Pasadena Xena Convention 21-23 January 2000.

An Interview With Alison Wall

Just sign my goat!

Minya made her debut in A DAY IN THE LIFE.

[01] You made your XENA debut as the crazed fan Minya, though I must say the character has been well received by real XENA fans.

[02] [laughs] She can be quite keen. I've just done another episode (TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE) where Minya and her friends are holed up in this house, giving a surprise party for Gabrielle. I'm the fan they can't shake.

[03] When I first saw your character debut in A DAY IN THE LIFE I was concerned that a lot of fans might take offence as to how the character was portrayed, but I was pleased to see the reaction was very much the opposite.

[04] It was fun to do. Michael Hurst directed that and I've worked with him before. It wasn't too long before that I'd done ALADDIN with him, a pantomime, and I was all the evil characters. I played Uncle Abenazer (goes into deep voice to demonstrate) and the Dragon Empress (goes into high voice to demonstrate). Michael was great to work with and knew exactly what he wanted. It's very nerve-wracking, the first time you do one of these XENAs. New Zealand television crews are usually very small. Suddenly you look out there and there's a hundred people all waiting for you to get it right. I knew from talking to Michael at lunchtime they were having problems with the Steadycam. They had terrible problems with cloud cover and that held them up for ages. It was right at the end of the day and we were losing light and he said "Well, we've got five minutes, let's go for it!"

[05] No pressure there.

[06] [laughs] No pressure at all. I was holding this goat which picked up on my nervousness and it kept trying to climb me, as they do since they're mountain climbing creatures. I had to hold this goat down, try to act, spin around, all the while feeling as though a hundred thousand people were staring at me waiting to get it right. It was quite nerve-wracking that first day.

[07] As a tribute to your acting ability I've had a number of peopel say to me, "Alison Wall, she's surely an American, not from New Zealand."

[08] Really? Great! When I went to drama school, most people could do English accents but not American. Now we have so much American television you find the opposite. Things have changed over the last fifteen years, I think, quite a bit. While I was on the set that first day I had a lot of time to look about and see what people did. That's what they mainly pay you for, is waiting. I saw one fellow setting tape and marks for people. Another lady attended to wardrobe. There was this one fellow, I could not figure out what he did. He wasn't doing anything. Turns out he was the dialogue coach, for American accents. They try to keep the accents "standard Californian". I finally worked out what that was.

Something is definitely fishy!  I think it's the script.

We saw Minya again in THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER.

[09] You captured the essence of a type of XENA fan many people recognise. Minya is actually quite popular. In several character surveys she rates quite highly.

[10] It was something of a glamour role, character-wise. Guys often have one eye or they're crusty or scruffy or weird. It was quite a nice character part.

[11] When you came back in THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER as Minya, did you settle into the character quickly or did it feel different to you?

[12] It was nice to play the same character again. It was much easier the second time. Kevin and Renee are both lovely to work with. I've done lots of improv work with Kevin and he quickly picks up on what you're doing. I actually did my own stunts, accidentally, on that show. I haven't seen either episode, so I don't know if they kept this in, but at one point I had to rush in and bob down between Gabrielle and Joxer and say something like "Here come the barbarians." I rushed in and slipped and fell right down. I got up right away and carried on with the line thinking at any time someone will call "Cut!" but they didn't. It became part of the scene. I like the idea of the gods losing their powers. Poor old Aphrodite, who is so ethereal and beautiful, confronted with the reality of personal hygeine.

[13] Your third appearance as Minya is in THE PLAY'S THE THING.

[14] Poor Minya, she so wanted to play Xena and ended up as a spear carrier. She even has her own homemade costume now. It was very silly to do, but fun. One man, who played a centaur, was made to look absolutely horrible, which is no mean feat to do to someone as good looking as that. But N'gila [Dickson, costume designer] managed to put him in an old woman's evening dress or something with all these spangly bits and a blonde wig made out of an old mop. We all looked completely stupid. And the last one I did, TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE, was a comedy as well.

[15] Everything went smoothly in that one?

[16] oh, yes, everyone knows their part so well. Everyone really likes each other and it's a nice warm atmosphere to be a part of. Renee and Lucy and Ted all know the ropes. Ted is funny, he's so lovely and vague. For some reason he called me "Mindy" for the longest time. I was talking to someone on set and he called me Mindy and this person gave the strangest look. I said "Oh, Ted is so sweet, he calls me Mindy all the time." He said "Isn't that your name?" I said "No, actually, it's Ali." He was so apologetic. I said "I really don't mind, Tod, you can call me what you like!" The next day in makeup he said "Hi Mindy!" He is lovely though. He's writing too, apparently. All jolly good fun, really.


A bona fide thespian in THE PLAY'S THE THING.

[17] Any trips to the HERC side of things?

[18] I was in one episode of YOUNG HERCULES as a giant lizard woman. I have to say I didn't enjoy that as much because I was basically a special effect. I had to be larger than anyone else and I didn't really get to act with anyone else except when I was up on a platform shouting down at everyone. When they did closeup there was no one else around. "Dot A" would threaten me and I then had to look at "Dot B". I would have to get angry at the dot and attack it. [both laugh] At one point I clonked the designer on the head with my club and drew blood. He was supposed to catch it in his cupped hands. He said "Whack me and you can't go wrong!" He was so sweet, he ducked out of shot and pretended nothing happened so I could just continue with the action. He came back with a bandaid and I felt terrible. Mainly though, I had to work with dots. And the actors didn't even read their lines, they were read by other people on the set. I'm much more at home working off other actors. It's much more fun that way. Working with dots is not my cup of tea at all. Plus there was four hours of prosthetics a day. The directors were great though. I like that show, the format. It's a lot of fun, the guys are great, and everyone works very hard. I do a lot of voice over work for YOUNG HERCULES. A lot of it takes place in a tavern, but we can never mention alcohol. We say things like "Great juniper juice, would you like another?" "I'd like a milk!" "OK, go girl!" In the background conversations we have to be careful about what we say, not just because it's a kid's show. Certain words we can't say. We can't say "chicken" because apparently it always stands out and it's amusing. It has to be very bland, so we always end up talking about crops. "How is the maize going?" "Great, great maize this year. Corn too." "Wait a minute, corn is maize, aren't they the same thing?" Then people will start laughing. It's very silly and we have a lot of fun. Fight scenes have to be tempered too. If someone gets hit he'll say "Ow!" instead of some blood-curdling scream. And I got to be a nymph! Now who on earth would cast *me* as a nymph. But on YOUNG HERCULES ADR [Automatic Dialogue Replacement] I got to be a nymph. [going into high-pitched nymph voice] "Oh, don't do that!" [both laugh] It's terrific.

[19] You did some voice work for the animated film as well.

[20] I was the water monster and the fire monster. At one point they have to talk to each other, which is tricky. As the water monster, I had to drink water while I said the lines. The woman was so deadpan who was directing me. "Now-do-the-blood- curdling-water-monster-scream." Now which one is that particularly? You have to just come up with something on the spot. So I drank water while I did it. It looks really stupid to watch, but you have to get it out. I've noticed a lot of people who do strange voices twist and contort themselves. When there's a fight scene, the guys will often move and hit each other while they're doing the ADR work. They're in this tiny space in this tiny studio, beating the hell out of each other. It's really quite funny. But I do enjoy doing the voice work. There's no constraints. That's why I don't like seeing myself on the screen. I have this image of character in my mind's eye, but I see it and it's just me. I imagine another person altogether.

Whoa, how much do you think I could get for this on ebay?

Lila looks on admiringly in TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE.

[21]Speaking of different people, a lot of people don't realise that in these shows the same few guys are doing stunts all the time because they get changes of costume so often.

[22] I had to fight a bunch of them off in the last XENA episode I was in, it was quite fun, actually. A lot of people don't realise you put as much effort into a fake punch as a real one. The next day I was quite sore. In one scene I really thought I was the bees knees because I had to use the whip to make it look like I was swinging from it. I got this whipping teacher that Pacific Renaissance got from the Moscow Circus! He was here about five years ago in New Zealand and comes back often. He jumps from the ground onto the back of a horse and whips things with great penache. He taught me how to do my bit of whipping. It looked very impressive, with this crack, crack of the whip. You never know what you're going to do until the last minute. "Now you're going to punch out eight guys." And it's always the end of the day and you've got one take to do it in. I'm no good at violence and I always worry about getting something wrong.

[23] You'd never know from the finished product. It all comes out very well.

[24] Well they know the angles and everything and they know how much bad fighting I can get away with.

[25] Thanks very much for your time. It's been a pleasure.

[26] Oh, thank you for asking!


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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