By Sheryl-Lee Kerr
Sheryl-Lee Kerr interviews
Adrienne Wilkinson exclusively for
The Australian Xena Information Page
Shes been a sweet girlfriend, a cheerleader, the token girl next door, and now Adrienne Wilkinson has stormed into television folklore as the wild, fearless, armor-clad daughter of a certain butt-kicking Warrior Princess.
And no one was more surprised than Adrienne.
"I knew Livia was an amazing woman and a great character to play," the 22-year-old Missouri native says, "But no one was informed that she was the daughter of Xena until after I had been cast. Imagine my surprise!"
And even then it took some adjustment, given Lucy Lawless who plays Xena was not old enough to be Adriennes mother in real life.
"At the time I didn't know the story line, so I didn't see how I could possibly be her daughter when we are so close to being the same age," she says.
"The role sounded very challenging and fun. The script was incredibly exciting -- but I also wasn't sure if I had a chance (at the audition) -- because I wasn't sure if I looked enough like Xena.
"I was smaller in stature (5ft5in), I had brown not black hair, and I hadn't ever played a role that required fighting -- so I was hoping I could pull it off.
"I had absolutely no training in combat. I remember at first they asked me if I had any "sword-wielding experience" and I laughed and said "Are you kidding?". Because that is so far removed from any experience I had.
"Nearly every role I've had, to date, has been the sweet girl next door, the girlfriend, the cheerleader etc, so I was beyond eager to be a little hellcat and cause some trouble."
And a hellcat she is, a chilling vision on her black, armored steed, with a full metal face mask, only her blue eyes glinting through it, Xena-esque body dress with an imperious worn, white Roman-style gathered sheet and tunic for trim. Beyond this her long, dark hair is flowing, her bloodied sword raised. One gets the distinct impression this woman is not about to order take-out.
Adrienne explains how her character came to be.
"I don't want to spoil the surprises that are in store for the audience, so in short I'll say this: Livia (Eve has been renamed Livia for her own safety) is of course the daughter of Xena; she is around 25 years old and has been raised most of her life by Augustus (played by Mark Warren and Colin Moy)," Adrienne says.
"The audience will never find Livia to be timid. She has both the zest and energy of Xena, and of course the spirit of Callisto."
"Not having been raised by Xena, she is in desperate need of guidance, but has absolutely no desire for it. As with any mother/daughter relationship Xena is bound to get the upper hand eventually, but it won't be easy."
Adrienne appears in three episodes, generally set in Rome -- Livia, Eve and Motherhood and is scheduled for several more episodes down the track.
Perhaps one of the most unusual things about her role is often overlooked: Eve/Livias "daddy", thanks to the gods sleight of hand, is actually a woman -- Callisto, the one-time favorite evil hellraiser turned good.
So what does Adrienne make of her characters odd parentage?
"I still find that one amusing," she says. "To be honest, I've had my lineage described to me by numerous people and their perspectives tend to include or leave out details that they find unimportant -- so I don't think I've heard exactly the same answer twice. I know that to be the daughter of two females that are both so fierce -- their daughter must be amazing, and I hope I live up to that.
"Hudson (Leick -- Callisto) was not in any episodes with me. Fortunately I have inherited the good in Callisto: Every once in a while I am able to draw on the evil that lurked inside of her -- but I was created with the good of her spirit."
And what of Livias relationship with Gabrielle? The sometimes bard turned fighter, has no genetic ties to Xenas wildchild and -- theoretically at least, could seem less threatening to Livia.
"The relationship between Gabrielle and I changes throughout the course of the story," Adrienne explains. "Gabrielle is always able to see the good that is within someone even when it isn't obvious and, at times, it can be very hard to see the good in Livia. Gabrielle has faith in the relationship between Xena and I, and without her I doubt that Xena and I could have survived the turbulence of seeing each other again after so many years.
"There's a point in many teenagers lives where they seem to find this place where they are frustrated and angry and they take a lot of that out on their parents. Livia is not a teenager -- but I associate her behavior the same way -- she has needed guidance for a long time and without a mother to help her find her way.
"She has created her own boundries of right and wrong -- and has been led down quite the wrong path by other people. She is confused and full of anger and with no one to tell her otherwise, she always believes she is right.
"Basically she has always been able to do whatever she wants without consequence and it's quite a shock when suddenly someone is threatening both her position of power and getting in the way of her plans. Yep, sometimes that can mean she is totally out of control."
Theres no out-of -control when it comes to Livias costume... it was designed to make a jaw-dropping entrance, and it delivers. Livias look -- a hybrid between Xena and Roman influences, is both soft and hard. Grit, power and grace. It helped, literally and metaphorically give Adrienne her wild streak as Livia. However the actress is a little coy on the subject just before her first episode airs.
"All I can say is that I was amazed with what the costume designer was able to create," she says. "Everyone loves the costume. It is strong, and powerful, which the character requires, but it also is sexy and fun. A costume always has the potential to make or break a character -- and this is no exception. It gave me the opportunity to be as wild as I wanted to be, and added the edge that Livia needed. I cannot wait for the audience to see it.
"My costume is very unique and very Roman. It doesn't feature the leather associated with Xena, but is also not nearly as tame as what Gabrielle wears. It is (somewhat) practical for battle and very intimidating."
Beyond leather, also associated with Xena is fighting. Livia dives in boots and all into the action on more than one occasion. But for Adrienne, who had never attempted any fighting disciplines prior to the role, it was a whole new world.
" I knew nothing about fighting," she explains. "I had never taken any martial arts or anything like that. What I had going for me was that I've had years of dance training -- so I had flexibility. I'm in shape, and I pick up choreography quickly. It took quite a bit of practice before my body really knew what was needed to make the movements look as intense and powerful as they were required to be, instead of graceful like I am used to. But with practice it worked well."
Fighting practice came in handy when she had to go toe to toe with one of the shows considerably larger adversaries -- namely, the God of War...
"I'm only 5'5" but more specifically I weigh just over 100 pounds, so when I first saw Kevin (Smith) who, yes, towered over me, but more obviously could probably pick me up and throw me with one hand -- I was a little overwhelmed. It was my first fight afterall," she says. "Needless to say he was great though. Not five minutes after meeting him, I was crying with laughter. He puts everyone at ease.
"I probably worked with Kevin the most in the first episode. My first fight was with Kevin and I was terrified, simply by his size. But he was wonderful. And the last two episodes I worked most with Lucy, Renee and Ted (Raimi -- Joxer).
"Lucy taught me so much in such a small amount of time; Renee is a fierce fighter -- and helped me with the fight choreography and Ted kept me laughing everyday.
"You never know when working on a show as guest star, how the other players will be. I find its always unpredictable, and that can make the experience either exciting or terrifying. I have to say that working with both Lucy and Renee was so gratifying. They are two of the most generous and beautiful people I've worked with.
"Lucy's sense of humor lightens up any stress over long hours or uncomfortable locations. Renee is such a caring and warm person. We had so much fun filming.
"Every day I was surprised by the wonderful memories that I was able to take home. I even had family visit the set, and they were astounded by how they were welcomed and included by everyone, especially Lucy."
However Adrienne singles out Gregg Lee who plays Virgil as one of the nicest people to hang out with on the set: "He and I became great friends. We were both overseas from LA for about the same amount of time and we were learning the ropes of Xena together. He is a fabulous actor and a really warm and wonderful person."
It takes a brave woman to take on a role like Xenas daughter -- knowing that every move will be scrutinised by fans -- far more so than had she been the guest baddy of the week. Adrienne is very aware of the fans expectations for her performance.
"Its a bit overwhelming," she concedes. "I want everyone to be happy with the job that I've done. I would hate to think I've disappointed anyone, but at the end of the day I have to know I'm happy and proud of what I've created, (that) I've done the best I can do, and it doesn't help to worry about it."
The actress admits to not having seen much of Xena before her role on the show -- but this has since changed. "Everyone knows about the show, and I had caught clips here and there, but I have to say that I hadn't seen many episodes," she says. "Nor did I know much about the current plot. Not only myself, but everyone I know that wasn't a serious fan before is definitely a huge fan now."
Despite not having caught much of the show, Adrienne was already aware of the Xenas subtext debate beforehand and said no one on the set had to fill her in about it.
"That is a widely debated rumor," she explains. "I think that the everyone in the production attempts to cater to what the fans are interested in -- to a certain extent. I know from conversations I had on set that when the show started, the subtext was entirely unintentional and quite unexpected that people were finding it or applying it to their relationship.
"I think that now, it is something that the players and the scripts are allowed to have a bit of fun with. Probably every person on the show has their own ideas of what might go on beyond the script between the characters and they might add shades of that to their performance. I know nothing is ever overt -- but I think it gives a great 'tongue in cheek' sense of humor to the show."
She says her time on Xena was well worth it and shed love to return. "The cast and crew of Xena are some of the best people I've had the chance to work with. Whatever they needed -- on Xena or on any future productions I would jump at the chance to be a part of.
"Without question my best role to date has been Livia/Eve. It has required the most from me, both as an actor and physically through all of the fight choreography that the show entails.
"I had certain ideas about what the experience would be like before I went to New Zealand. I can safely say that none of my preconceived notions came close to capturing the experience. The role of Livia is such an amazing story itself. In a matter of weeks I was able to take a character through so many different stages.
"I will always be grateful that they had the confidence in my ability and trusted me enough to play the role. The show has such a loyal fan base that doing justice to playing Xena's daughter is a bit of an overwhelming task, but I hope that everyone enjoys the work and effort that went into creating someone powerful and complex enough to be Xena's daughter."
Adrienne has been on stage since she was three years old as a dancer and actress. She has been in numerous local productions and performance groups and her resume includes Living at Home, The Goddess, Much Adu about Nothing, Last Summer, Saved By the Bell, Sweet Valley High and Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Currently based in Los Angeles where she has lived for almost five years, she believes acting was always her calling.
"My mother first started me in dance classes, recitals, and various extracurricular activities. My entire family has been fabulous in supporting my decision to pursue this as a career -- but I know that they were initially terrified of me moving so far from home and being able to handle the inevitable rejection and close calls that come with the decision to be in the business."
Showbiz also seems to run in her family.
"My younger sister, Tracey, has been a great dancer/actress and is an amazing writer/director- I can't wait for the world to see her work," she enthuses. "My brother, Daniel, made his acting debut in A Midsummer Night's Dream last year playing
Oberon. And my youngest sister, Aimee, is already a dancer and is very interested in the business and I wouldn't be surprised to see her making the leap to acting in the future."
And, as for Adriennes many skills, well what daughter of Xena wouldnt be able to sing, too?
"Yes, I am a singer," Adrienne agrees. "It was funny to be on set with Lucy. She sings all the time. She has a beautiful voice and it keeps the set very laidback and relaxed.
"I am actually part of a five-girl singing group that will have an album coming out within a few months. Our name is STILL being debated, but the final decision has to be within the next two weeks. The music is a mix of pop- r&b- hip-hop and
trance. I couldn't be more excited about the project. The music surpasses even what I thought we could create and every member of the group is a highly trained dancer so we are doing all of our own intense choreography. Together we are creating video and album concepts that I think are new and different and interesting to lots of different types of music lovers."
But the question all actors hate being asked -- what would they do if they couldnt act -- is not an easy one for Adrienne.
"That's a tough one," she says. "There are so many things in life I would like to experience. As an actor -- even if its just for a few days, I get to try most of them.
"I heard it said once that performance is a language you either speak or you don't, and its just that simple. I love performing. Whether it is acting on film or on stage -- singing live, or doing choreography there is no relationship that compares with what an audience gives you and the response you get from doing justice to a performance. The hours can be very long and uncomfortable -- but when you know you are doing what you are meant to do, you enjoy every second of it.
"I'm lucky enough to say that I'm still enjoying every aspect of what I get to do. I hope I'm fortunate enough to have a long and interesting career.
So, does that mean some pretty interesting dream roles ahead?
"I have so many dream roles," she muses. "History is littered with fascinating females that have yet to be brought to the screen. I'd like to be able to look back and see that I always challenged myself in the roles that I took and that I had a wide variety. From comedy to tragedy and all in between. There is one role that my heart is set on, but I'm not quite brave enough to voice it yet. I'm waiting till it is a definite possibility."
So what does the daughter of a policeman dad and a show horse trainer mum do when shes not missing the rolling hills and greenery of Missouri? For Adrienne, its adventuring.
"I love to go dancing. I like hiking. I love movies. I love crazy, unplanned adventures with people that are eager to have a good time," she says. "I love to travel. I even love just having quiet evening with a few friends and just hanging out."
So is there a special someone in her life now? Maybe even only if his name is Spot and he growls happily when she rubs his stomach?
"Oh don't I wish I had a more entertaining answer for this," she says. "I am currently single. I'm not really looking -- but certainly not opposed to the idea. I don't have any children -- probably not for a while too, so I'm glad I have my three younger siblings who also double as some of my best friends in the world.
" I'm travelling too much right now to have any pets -- which just kills me. I've always had pets -- so I can't wait until I have the time and space again."
So then, what is the most precious thing in her life?
"Chocolate," she laughs. "That was the easy answer... deeper, umm, this might sound a little cheesy -- but ... my family lets me know that I am one of the most precious things in their life, and in turn they are the most import thing in mine.
"I'm learning that some of the most obvious things will make you happy. You spend more time at work than nearly any other place in life, so you better love what you do. I only surround myself with people I like and love. Life is also too short to be made miserable by discontent people.
"I have some of the most loyal and best friends I hope I am as good to them as they are to me. I do what I want to do -- and then I don't feel I am wasting my life. It's this amazing gift and I do my best to do justice to how much I have received."
So what does Adriennes close family make of the fact they have suddenly a kick-butt daughter of a warrior princess on their hands?
"They love it," she says. "They love the character, the costume, the storyline. I am blessed to have the most supportive family. They've been right by my side in all of my accomplishments -- and perhaps more important -- they've been there when things weren't as amazing. They never let me lose sight of whats important."
And how does she feel about her character, Livia, now that shes had time to digest her experiences properly and reflect on it all? Would she like her if she met her in real life?
" I love my character," Adrienne concludes. "But I think to play a character well, no matter who they are, you must love them. Otherwise you cheat them out of their glory. You look down on them -- and that makes a character weak.
"So I must say I revelled in playing Livia. She has certain traits I admire. She has no fear. She is brave and very smart. She never hesitates. If I met her in real life -- I would probably be overwhelmed, and a bit intimidated. Its rare to run into someone with that kind of blind ambition. I think there are moments where I share some of those traits -- where I ignore fear and jump into something that scares me a bit.
"Those moments are too few and far between. Maybe playing Livia will teach me to become an even braver person."
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