BURBANK, CA, USA
Fri., Sat. & Sun.
January 13-15, 2006
Hilton and Towers
2500 Hollywood Way
Adrienne Wilkinson Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Steven L. Sears
2006 OFFICIAL XENA CONVENTION
Convention Report by KT
"Baby On Board"
Parts 1 - 3
There really wasn't much news about the movie. Katherine Fugate was the second person to talk about it. (Sears being the first-talking about how one minute you might think something is happening and the next minute you get the phone call saying it isn't.)
Katherine reiterated what she and Rob said last year. That it's not the rights that are causing the problem, it's the budget. They have worked out enough of an agreement on the rights to go ahead. The hold up has been that Rob wants to do a big movie and the movie that Katherine wrote cannot be done for the amount that the studio is willing to spend to produce it. Katherine said that she has gone through the script and simplified it where she could but there are some things they won't sacrifice. And the studio just isn't willing to give them the budget they need to make the movie Rob wants to make. Katherine said they were close to making it last year but they just couldn't close the gap. Fans immediately began to yell out that they would give money to underwrite the movie but Katherine said that there is no way a studio would make a movie that way.
There was a very artsy fan video used to introduce Renee. I think it was called something like "Beauty (maybe Light?) Personified". Something along that line. It was very different from most fan videos since it didn't really present scenes from the show-it was much more like, well, like still shots with just a slight touch of movement. Very short images, nothing tracked for long. There were no lyrics I don't think, just music. So of course there was also no chance to have the selected story of the song used to either emphasize more fully or show in a different light or even "say" the exact opposite of what the show images presented. I'm trying to remember it-I think there were lots of visual techniques used-like screens splitting and geometric patterns unfolding out into an image of Gabrielle.
Not like the usual fan videos at all where the actual scenes from the show are set to music. It was kind of in the style of Stanley Kubrick-where acting doesn't matter, where the message is very often "Watch what I can make my camera do--tricks, manipulated images and visual acts of derring do".
And there was also "something" very obviously missing. When the video was over, the person next to me looked at me and said, "Hey, did you notice Xena wasn't in that video at all?" I don't think it would surprise many people to know that of course I had. Well, actually, she was in like two very quick shots-just standing quietly next to Gabrielle.
The video ended and the guy who made it was given a prize by Creation. (Note: all the fan videos shown at the con were the prize winners of this years' contest.)
Renee walked out and immediately began strutting across the stage, thrusting her belly out for us to see and looking proud and happy. She was wearing a grey pants suit with a black top. The top of the suit was tied under her breasts. Showcased her belly very well. Smile.
The guests always sign the huge hanging banners they use to decorate the stage. These are eventually auctioned off during the con. Renee as Gabrielle is on the top of one of them and Renee stood looking way up, obviously wondering how she could possibly reach any part of Gabrielle to sign. She said, "That's too tall for me." She looked over her shoulder towards her chair on the stage and said, "I suppose I could balance on there." Roars of protective horror from the audience immediately ensued. People began to yell out, "Have her sign it later!" and Renee and Sharon decided this was probably the best idea.
Renee returned to the center stage, smiled happily at us and then said, "Boy, I hope I don't go into labor."
She told us that she's been, "Quietly busy. Obviously. Hoo-hooo!"
She's having a baby girl who will make her debut in March. And when Renee announced the baby was a girl, the audience broke into roars of approval and thunderous applause. In that weird hybrid status we occupy, halfway between being family and friends and being no one the actors know at all, being people in their lives in a kind of aggregate way, we felt that we had the right to show our joy at one of them FINALLY giving us a girl! Lucy has the boys (and yeah, Daisy, but we weren't "there" when she was born), Tsiniana has two boys, Jennifer and Michael have two boys, it was PAST time for a girl, dammit! Go Ren! (Well, actually, go Ren's boyfriend!)
She said that she wanted to share some of her writing with us. "It's very revealing." She wanted to read to us from her journal, about her recent trip to Israel.
She also wanted to talk about some of the dramatic monologues she's been working on. "I don't know if I can bounce around during them. We'll just sit." And she perched on the chair. And opened this HUGE green journal.
She said that her new neighbor, Natalie had said to her one day that she was going to Israel (she's an Israeli) and that Renee should join her. Renee said, "Yeah, cool!" She said she realized later that Natalie had said it as more of a joke. But she went anyway.
She began to read from her journal. She went to Israel in August. And the day she was leaving, that morning she had found out she was pregnant. She remembered thinking, "I had such grand plans. How can I fit THIS in?"
Now I think she said something about having been at a market or a fair and coming across a blue box that she really liked. And she bought it for Miles I think it was. There was a slide up on the screen of a kind of fairy sprite, very old fashioned, kind of Maxwell Parish style. And I think there was also a child leaning on the sprite? And I think that was the picture from the blue box. Then Renee talked about coming across a pink box in Israel. Which I believe she said kind of spontaneously opened when she picked it up. And inside was a blessing about a safe delivery. Which absolutely delighted her and which she also bought. She considered it a good omen-pink box, safe delivery, box opening by itself, a box like she had just bought for Miles, etc.
Then I have a note, "My neighbor read from her journal." And I have Renee saying something about watching for (what looks like) "snakes" in my notes. That's followed by "Renee said, 'I watched for snakes as only a Texan could.'" Beats me.
"I never read anyone my journal before."
She brought up politics. "I'm pretty left. Natalie is the opposite." As they discussed current events, "There was lots of tension in the air." They talked about what was necessary to do in the Middle East. I believe that she said they traded opinions about the Gulf War, Saddam, something about beards being cut off, spies, Arab countries and making families. "It gave me insight into the area." (I was beginning to wonder if she was going to tell us she'd changed her outlook but she didn't say that.)
Now I have to give a disclaimer here. It's a bit dismaying looking at my notes and trying to figure out just what Renee said and how we got from one thing to another. Renee is a typical pregnant woman. As many pregnant women mention, the baby kind of sucks your brains out. Her thoughts were a bit scattered to me and it was hard to fully catch the meaning of what she was saying. For me, not all connections were fully made, at least not well enough to easily follow as she made her way down the path she was inviting us to travel along with her. So I sure hope this is somewhere close to what she actually said and talked about.
And very cutely, Sharon was obviously trying to get her on track and once that was accomplished, keep her there.
So Renee would be talking and then kind of wander off into deeply explaining certain things in minute detail and then suddenly make kind of hop, skip and jumping leaps into unexpected byways of thought. Which sometimes got connected. But sometimes didn't. It was certainly interesting. And always surprising. Grin.
So we had Sharon saying in that kind of sing-song, encouraging voice that mom's use when trying to get their toddlers to repeat to someone else a story they've already told Mom about their day, "And then you went to Jerusalem. . ."
Renee obediently repeated, "And then I went to Jerusalem, a city so important in so many religions." She talked about going to the Wailing Wall, a special prayer site for Jews. And how the genders are separated there. The men were gathered at the wall while "the mothers were sitting on chairs. And doing the Xena yell". (The Arabic ululating.) She talked about how the segregation was "Weird for me. But I got over it. As you do." And she explained about how you write a prayer on a piece of paper and stick it into cracks in the wall to talk to God.
"I thanked God for his blessing and my family and my attitude and I stuck the paper in the crack. I didn't know what to do."
She talked about "Walking the path Christ walked. I was raised Christian. This was overwhelming, to walk Christ's path. He passed by here. Here He was crucified."
"I felt way more tension between natives and cultures." I think she said that when she left the group she relaxed. "How different from anyplace I've ever been."
Sharon verbally prodded her again. "And then you had an experience that reminded you of something you'd done on Xena."
I'm not sure, but I bet Renee repeated, "And then I had an experience the reminded me of something I'd done on Xena."
"I went to the Dead Sea Caves." She talked about how it's a tradition to slather yourself with mud. While keeping your underwear on. And then the mud dries. She was told it would take about 15 minutes to dry. "It never did. 15 minutes. One hour. Still wet. I thought I might howl." (Oddly enough, that awful ep she was referring to "Kindred Spirits", just played a few days ago on Oxygen.)
She talked about going to Masada. (Where a mass suicide of Jewish defenders took place during a war with Rome.) There is a light show there at night. Renee said, "I realized, 'This isn't a set.'" She may have told us about the historical event that happened there but I'm not sure if she did or not.
"We are so privileged. I am so blessed. I got a greater appreciation of God in a country where so much happened."
She read more journal entries about being in Israel and living with the constant awareness of being in a terror zone. And how the people who live there just go on with life.
Renee talked about being in a store, in a modern shopping center buying sunglasses. And someone in the store asked her, "Did you hear about the missile that hit just down the road? She said, "I thought Jordan casinos were supposed to be peaceful." She asked her friend Natalie why she hadn't warned her that it was dangerous where they were. Natalie just shrugged and said, "You Americans overreact to everything." Renee said, "Oh my God, I have to call my mother!" And Natalie said, "See!"
Renee continued her story. "Life went on. People were eating McDonald's, wearing bikinis." She said she decided to emulate them and go ahead with her plans which had been to go parasailing. Which is where you strap yourself into a parachute and tie yourself behind a boat which then races away and flings you up into the air. Renee said, "I went by a Jordanian flag and gave it a kind of wave. I figured I'd just be another moving target."
Someone asked her why she had gone to Israel. "Because I wanted to learn about the country. Now my notes say, "Where'd you go with who." And Renee appears to answer, "I thought I was getting all the answers wrong. I was sweating. Natalie-oh god!" It'll be interesting to me to watch the DVD and see what the heck was actually going on-what Renee was talking about. Heh.
She began to talk about her painting. She showed us the pictures she's done of Lucy as Xena. One a head shot and one full length of Xena from FIN. Then she added, "I'm doing self-portraits now. It's easier to do Lucy because I've been looking at her for so long. But life is short! So I'm doing pictures of myself." She pulled another picture out of the pile and showed it to us. It was a nude self portrait of herself pregnant. It's a silhouette of her body, sideways, with a representation of the baby inside her swollen belly. She had asked her boyfriend to take a picture of her pregnant so she could paint herself. She hasn't finished it, there's some blank areas that she said she would fill in with I think a flower in one spot and something else in another panel. She said she brought it over to her boyfriend's house the first time she met his parents, to show it to them. I wonder if they thought it was a hostess gift?
Now this was funny-Renee mentioning a boyfriend didn't come as a big surprise to me. It was something I thought was likely, that being pregnant, she had a new relationship. However, two different people told me that "When Renee mentioned a boyfriend, everybody went absolutely still for a moment. And then there was this kind of sighing breath being let go. And then, 'Okay', let's go on from there."
Now this confused me for a bit because for one, "everybody going absolutely still" wasn't something that happened around me-not that I noticed, anyway. And for two, why would it be such a surprise since it was obvious that Renee was pregnant again? It's not like this mention of a boyfriend came out of the blue with absolutely no bell-ringing, big belly, previously announced to the fans she was pregnant before Christmas warning. Then I remembered that on one list, some fans were trying to shop around the possibility that Renee and Katherine Fugate are now a couple. So I wonder if that's why some fans were so shocked. Rule number one in Fandom-never, ever take fan gossip as heck, not only true, don't even take it as likely.
Renee held up another painting. "My first nude." This was a full frontal view of Renee ummm, maybe cut off just below the thighs. Then she said, "I'm getting embarrassed. I didn't think I'd be embarrassed." She said that it started out as being a deity. Then the belly area (I think this was supposed to be another representation of the baby, not just her guts) turned out to be a smiley face." She put it back in the pile and said, "I'm going to turn that one around" so that we couldn't see it anymore. Laugh! Very cute.
She said that her oil paintings are "still an expression of where I'm going. It's really challenging. Especially after 'Alien Apocalypse'." Many people in the audience laughed at that. "There's so much more here."
Someone asked her about "Diamonds and Guns", when it would be ready. She said that there had been a split among the little group of people who made it. That she and the "girl producer" were on one side and the director, the writer and the other producer were on the other. One of the writers pulled out. The other producer also left. So now it's kind of up to her.
"This project was not my baby to begin with. But I was left with it." She talked about how she had pulled people in from Xena. Ted Raimi had been pulled in to direct. A cinematographer, an editor, a composer from Xena, all good friends of hers were helping with the movie. "And you guys give so much support."
"My relationship with them is more important than me getting tired and just walking away. This has been such a lesson in staying power. Perseverance. Keeping your word. Learning to ask for help."
Somehow she started talking about her source of inspiration. "It's non-Xena related. It's about the miracle of life in a woman's body."
She was asked if Miles was excited about the new baby. She laughed and said that she had set up a crib and filled it with little bears. Miles crawled into the crib and threw the bears out. He put Spiderman and Batman in the crib and then climbed in with them. "He's a dear little soul. He'll do fine."
Now my next paragraph is confusing to me. "They took me into a warehouse and showed me the moves. My son has a sword-he's banging it on the closets." *sigh* Let me repeat, I can hardly wait for the DVD to be released to clear some of this mess up.
She was asked if she would take "Diamonds and Guns" to festivals. "It's not my project. It's not deep enough."
She was asked about the naming of the tenth planet. "I was surprised, especially with the moon. They just found the moon. How surreal-how could you ever imagine that our little show would (inspire that? Something along those lines.)"
As Renee walked around, and stood sideways at times, her outfit and how she had tied the jacket under her breasts gave her this really out there profile. I glanced up at her at one point as she stood with her right side to me and suddenly grinned. With the waistline of her pants slipped just a bit underneath her stomach, she really reminded me of a guy sporting a beer belly. Looked just like one. She had the same silhouette, same eye-catching anatomy, same proud, unbowed "I look good" posture, not the least bit shy about showing off the physique. It was kewl, endearing and funny.
Renee told us that there had been abuse in her family. And this was the kernel
of Meg, the character she played in One Weekend A Month. Meg was the most
revealing, the most raw character she played. "On Xena, I bring myself to the
character. Meg was the first time I could release the rage. It was so
revealing, that character."
Then I THINK she started talking about some dramatic monologues she's working
She said the character was inspired by Caroline. (I THINK she said Caroline.)
It was about a woman who loses her son in the war. She received his last
letter. He had helped an Iraqi mother who had lost her son in the war. It's
about the last letter he sends home. He tells his mother how he helped the
Iraqi mother. He went and brought her son's body back to her. And the Iraqi
mother touches his cheek in gratitude.
"It's heavy material." Renee is also working on another piece about young girls
in Iraq. How they dealt with American soldiers coming into their home. They are
very modest and suddenly these men go into their home. Renee was thinking over
if there would be a sexual relationship. "Go further. I don't mind doing this,
making people question themselves. But I don't want to (I lost track of what
she said at the end of this sentence, what she didn't want to do. Tch.)
She talked about the sexual tensions of being in the Guard. Like in One Weekend
A Month. "A woman who loves to dance. But she can't use her legs anymore.
(Pause). Light material here." She laughed.
She talked about another project also. "The themes are the same as Xena. It's
about friendship. Friends all over the world. Being brave."
She was asked if she'd had fun in Seattle. "Oh yeah. I got to hang out with
A person told her that she was in the military and said, "Thank you for
supporting us." Renee replied, "Thank YOU for supporting us."
Renee talked about when she was pregnant the first time. "Danielle was on set a
lot. (Last of the Centaurs, I guess, eh?) I kept asking her all these questions
about having babies and about children. Danielle asked Lucy, 'Is Ren pregnant?'
Lucy replied, 'You'd better ask her.' Of course I had told Lucy."
Then she switched to talking about Katherine Fugate-not sure if someone asked
her about her or not. "Katherine and I just bonded."
Then she started talking about traveling. "Growing up in Texas-you go to
Western Europe if you travel." But Renee went all over. Because she was in "New
Zealand where the people go everywhere because they want to see what's there.
It changed my view of myself in the world. 'Where do we fit in?' There's
judgment against Americans. We're good people. I don't want to talk politics.
I'm disappointed at our choices sometimes."
Se was asked if she would be writing a book. "Some people asked me to write a
book about my experience in New Zealand. How old am I to write a book? I had a
difficult childhood. Gabrielle taught me to stand up and tell people they're
wrong. I'd write about that."
She was asked about school. "I went to the performing high school. I went back
(to Katy high school) to graduate but I had changed so much. Then I went on to
performing. The Micky Mouse Club."
Question: "What is your favorite board game?" "I don't play board games. But
I'm pretty good at poker." She said something about strip poker. And then
indicated again that she's good at poker. She joked a bit, I believe feeling
that people underestimate her and that because she was such a good player
they'd be surprised by the outcome. "They want to play strip poker with ME?"
She laughed at that apparently thinking she'd win out for sure.
"What do you see yourself doing in five years time?"
"My life is full of surprises. 'Diamonds and Guns' will be finished. A whole
world will open up. Gabrielle-it was right to have her in my life. I'm so
She was asked if she'd work with Rob on a project again. "I would definitely do
it. Rob is one of those people who if he asked me to do something, I'd do it.
He's been so (good to me? supportive?) I'm so loyal to him." Then she said
something about the nuances in her life, relating this to Rob also, I believe.
"What's your favorite episode?"
"I loved the last one. I know you guys. . ." (She didn't finish that sentence I
don't think.) "The last one (did or didn't, I'm not sure) came out of left
field. Rob was so brave. He always did what he thought was right for the
character." (I THINK she also said that the series came full circle.) "Those
two episodes I hold very sacredly."
A guy came up to the mike holding a cell phone. He told Renee that his baby
daughter was named Alexandra Gabrielle. And he asked Renee if she would talk to
his wife. Renee said sure and took the phone. I think she confirmed with the
mom the baby's name. And then she said, "Lots of people are listening to you.
Are you going to kill him now?" She turned to the guy, "She wants you home to
take care of the kids NOW." I think there was also some byplay about the wife
coming to the con next year. Renee handed the cell phone back and then said,
"This (coming to the con) was her Christmas present to him."
Now people asking celebrities during a public event to talk on their cell
phones to some far away honey/friend/mother/child usually ticks me off. I find
it very selfish and a total waste of time for those of us who did the work to
show up-we kind of stand there ignored while they interact privately with the
person on the phone. However, for some reason, I found this charming. Not sure
why. I just enjoyed that the guy was so excited about being there, that he
called his spouse to share the moment with her, that Renee was so gracious as
to talk with her-it "worked" for me this time. I ain't making no promises about
being happy if it happens again though.
(We wound up in the bar with this guy one night. He was fun. He told us he just
couldn't get away with "Xena" as his daughter's first name.) And in case his
honey reads this, he behaved very well.
One fan yelled out, "I'm a new mom. I'm trying to lose my weight. Any
suggestions?" Renee said incredulously, as she thrust out her belly, "You're
She added, "I was so health conscious during Miles. Now I'm so preoccupied with
being a mom. I'm just enjoying it. Enjoying it for all it's worth. If I'm not
working, I'm with my son." Then she added, "My favorite part of Bard Con was
the talent show." Now, I'm not sure if someone yelled out a question about that
or if it was just her pregnant hop, skip, jump connection working. Shrug. She
may have also said, "I was in leather in Bard con." I have that written down,
but I also have it crossed out and the word "Shakespeare" written in the
Then these quotes from Renee. "In the fifth season, I wanted to do more things
acting wise. So I went to workshops. I'd love to do it in New Zealand."
(Shakespeare perhaps?) "New Zealand is a tranquil place for me. Three times
I've been back to New Zealand. No cell phones (Editorial note: Laugh!), no
cable." She said she goes back because "My son's family is there."
Question: "If Katherine Fugate came up with something for you would you do it?"
"If things are meant to be, it happens."
"Gabrielle was like Renee but younger. Can I play Renee?" (?-that's what my