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This Week
25 July 1998

Supplemental Insert in Newsday (Long Island NY).

Xena's Renee O'Connor is home on the range in New Zealand

by David Brian Waldon

She's a product of the great state of Texas, but Renee O'Connor resides in a different neck of the woods. As loyal sidekick Gabrielle on "Xena:Warrior Princess," O'Connor spends nine months of the year in New Zealand, where she recently bought a house after three years of renting apartments.

"I've been here so long, and felt like a nomad and sort of unsettled," O'Connor says. "So buying a house here made me take it easy on my life and try to relax." Or maybe not; the 27 year-old actress has been busy fixing up her new abode. "I'm actually not the best carpenter in the world. But it's been enjoyable because any sort of landscaping you do is an instantaneous investment in the place, and you can see results immediately," she says.

She hasn't had those kind of immediate results with "Xena" though, at least in New Zealand, where "Xena" is just in its second season. Most of the adoration had been directed to local girl Lucy Lawless, but it's finally starting to trickle down to O'Connor.

"People are recognizing me more, and that's something that I'm having to deal with for the first time, really," she says. "There are times when it's uncomfortable because the people fund humor in the fact that Gabrielle is out buying wine at a liquor store, or Gabrielle is shopping at the grocery store."

Now deep into filming the "Xena" season that will begin this fall, O'Connor reports that things will lighten up considerably from last year. That's when among other things, Gabrielle's daughter murdered Xena's son, testing their relationship.

"The feeling that I've had so far is that Xena and Gabrielle have come through this whole rift closer than they've ever been before and dependent on each other," O'Connor says. "I'm thrilled about that because I think I've had enough crying for a while."

When she's not in "Xena" mode, the actress makes time for her Kiwi boyfriend and even got some rare non-"Xena" work this summer in a stateside comedy called "Rubbernecking." The film is a set of vignettes that take place in a massive L.A. traffic jam. "Mine is a romance that evolves between two people over a cell phone," she says.

But there's always "Xena," even in her hobbies. For one new episode, Xena and Gabrielle bring dance to a repressed town, and Gabrielle invents the Irish jig. "I'm learning this routine that has "Riverdance" written all over it," she says, laughing. Luckily, for the audience - and O'Connor - she got a dance double: "It's quite obvious it's not me!"

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