[Whoosh!] [Issue 22 - July 1998]

 

An Interview With Steven L. Sears

 

Excerpted

 

Can of Worms: THE DELIVERER

Khrafstar plays Xena and Gabrielle like a fiddle in THE DELIVERER.

SEARS:

[168] So in doing THE DELIVERER there were a few things that had

to be accepted. One, this was going to launch us into an extremely

dark area. One of the things about the rift is that the rift is

best viewed all in one evening. Because it aired over several

nights and sometimes the studio interrupted it with comedy

episodes, the rift didn't have the continuity that you needed. We

wrote it and produced it with the continuity. But because it was

broken up there was just no way to do it.

 

[169] Until the last few minutes of THE DELIVERER it just looks

like a regular XENA episode. It's really the last few minutes that

launch you into what's happening with the rift. As most of us

know, THE DELIVERER had a lot of pressure on it because a gossip

columnist came out and used a word which I don't like to use in

regard to this, for a very important reason.

 

[170] She referred to it as a rape. As a sidebar here, and you can

use this if you want, there's a very important reason why I refuse

to call this a rape. It has nothing to do with protecting myself.

It has nothing to do with being afraid of the word. I've had a lot

of debates with people about the definition of rape. For example,

not myself, but someone came up with the idea that if this was

rape, then Mary was raped. Even then I wouldn't use that word.

 

[171] I got a lot of nasty mail. I got a lot of hate mail. Very,

very angry mail. One person said that any time a woman carries a

child without her consent, when she was impregnated, that is rape.

My response is "If I force a woman to have sex with me then as

long as I wear a condom it's not rape?" There are just too many

ways to debate that word. But this is what I believe, and I firmly

stand by this. I know rape victims. I have been involved with rape

victims, in relationships with women who have been raped. Being

supported on a pillar of fire while some mystical god impregnates

a seed of a demon child inside of you is not rape. Talk to a rape

victim and find out what real rape is. To me, it's disgusting to

try to apply their torment to that act on television. That was a

fictional fantasy. Sorry to be graphic, but having a man on top of

you, forcing himself on you while you're screaming and perhaps

even beating you to keep you quiet, that's rape. I refuse to use

that word because it diminishes what the reality of the word is.

 

[172] If you want to say "Gabrielle was violated" then hey, go for

it. Use that word. She was definitely violated. But I won't use

the word rape because of what it conjures up and what it

diminishes. But we had to deal with that. As soon as I saw that

word in print, I was angry. And if the episode had aired without

that, there probably would have been a ripple effect, but people

would not have been fired up as much. At the end of the episode,

you would not have known she was pregnant. There was nothing there

to really indicate that. Anyway, end of rant. We had to deal with

that before and after it aired.

 

[173] The other thing I did was I tried to put the audience in the

place of what Xena was doing. To a certain extent I succeeded

beyond my wildest dreams. I also got some slams about that. What I

tried to show was that Xena was so obsessed with Caesar that she

was ignoring what was going on with Gabrielle. Gabrielle was being

played. Gabrielle was being given everything Gabrielle wanted to

believe to set her up. Xena should have seen that, but she was

obsessed, she was so much after Caesar she ignored what was going

on with Gabrielle.

 

[174] Now the question has come up that we just basically changed

stories midway through. We got to a certain point and what

happened with Caesar? "Xena just walked away! What happened to the

battle?" My answer to this was that the story was never about

Caesar, it was always about Gabrielle. But those who asked "What

happened to Caesar" were just as obsessed with him as Xena was.

But the moment Xena realized Gabrielle was in grave danger she

dropped Caesar and left. She didn't care what happened to Caesar

at that point. Boadicea had her army in place and everything was

ready to go. But she left, and for me, that was the story.

 

Parts Excerpted

THE BITTER SUITE

 

[Oh, great, do you know how hard it is to get blood and grassstains out of white chiffon?]

 

Gabrielle is much the worse for wear after the Gabdrag.

 

RUDNICK:

[179] A couple of episodes after THE DELIVERER (50/304), we get to

THE BITTER SUITE (58/312). Many people regard this as a

masterpiece. Yet we also get a lot of criticism, perhaps from the

same people who were in the "rape" camp in THE DELIVERER, about

the so-called "Gab-Drag" in THE BITTER SUITE. I was wondering what

your take on all that was.

 

SEARS:

[180] I thought the Gab-Drag went on too long, to be honest with

you. We had a lot of discussion about that. Here was the point to

it, and maybe we tried too hard to make this point at the

beginning -- for Gabrielle and Xena to reach a point where they

could start to redeem each other, they had to reach the absolute

darkest part.

 

[181] This gets into psychology and gets very hard to explain. If

there was any question as to whether they hated each other, that

question would have rippled through the rest of their

relationship. In other words, we wanted to clear the grounds

completely. We wanted to start right from the bottom, scrape every

bit of love away from them and rebuild, as opposed to scrape most

of it away and leave a little bit of expectation somewhere. The

healing couldn't be true if it had to rebuild around that. So

obviously the way to get to that is where they both want to kill

each other.

 

[182] That's what we had to do, that's where we had to get them.

That Xena would attack Gabrielle and try to kill her obviously

shows her hatred. But the moment Gabrielle says "I hate you!" and

charges at Xena, Gabrielle's slate is wiped clean. She is

completely down to a base level. In doing the episode later on,

yeah, I think the Gab-Drag did go on a little long. In fact I

think most people here feel that.

 

[183] But at the time, we put it together so we could make that

point. We didn't realize people would get the point three quarters

of the way through it. You have two characters starting it off

whose worlds have been so destroyed that they're questioning

everything. And they realize the only thing they have left in all

their questioning is hatred. Now they're directing it toward each

other.

 

[184] Xena is crying for her son. Ares wasn't there to manipulate

her, Ares was just there to talk to her. He was her therapist in

that scene and she realized where her hatred lay. Gabrielle, in

the sweat hut, having visions of Callisto, was the same thing. She

was focusing in. You'll notice in the sweat hut she's focusing in

on herself. She begins to blame herself. But that changes before

they go into Illusia. She focuses it back on Xena. So that was the

whole point of the Gab-Drag, to demonstrate, very brutally,

obviously, the fact that these two people would kill each other.

We had to wipe the slate clean.

 

RUDNICK:

[185] Apart from the fact that it was a monumental task by its

nature, did you find it hard to write this episode? The reason I

ask this is because there is an awful lot of deep emotion and

difficult issues that I imagine would bring someone to a new level

of clarity about themselves or others, or drive them nuts.

 

SEARS:

[186] [laughs] I think it was a little of both for us. This movie

-- movie, I refer to it because it came out that way -- this

episode was a tremendous amount of work on everybody's part. Chris

[Manheim] and I wrote it together. Toward the end of it, just

before production, Chris was doing all the production rewrites. I

was off working on something else. I can't remember what it was,

I'm sure *you* remember what it was, but I had to get off onto

that.

 

[187] We had to decide what our format was going to be very early

on. Chris and I, along with Rob, R.J., Liz, and everyone else, sat

down and tried to chart through the progression of their healing,

realizing, as everyone should realize this, by the end of the

episode they are not healed. But they're to a point where they

want to help each other heal. Which is the most important thing.

That's an altruistic thing, that shows caring. So we wanted to get

them to that point, to the forgiveness point. When we charted

through it, we originally came up with -- I think five points --

of psychology that they had to deal with.

 

[188] The first one was "wipe the slate clean", which was the

Gab-Drag. The second one was "fulfillment" which is fulfillment of

your hatred. Since the series is called XENA it was Xena's hatred,

she kills Gabrielle. That was the fulfillment of the hatred.

That's why Callisto had the line "Did that work? Did that help to

kill your little friend?" Because Xena is sitting there thinking

"No."

 

RUDNICK:

[189] How very poignant when we see SACRIFICE II later on.

 

SEARS:

[190] Right. Then we had to have "cooperation" which in this case

wasn't as highlighted because of how little time we have to tell a

story, to accommodate a song. But cooperation was basically then

working together to get to the next step. Not that they loved each

other, it was expediency.

 

[191] I believe in one version of the script there was a door that

they approached and the door was very wide. I'm paraphrasing what

we had in there because we had so many different images. But it

was like one side had a handprint and the other side had a

handprint and they were different sizes. What you realize is that

to open the door, you had to both put your hands in there at the

same time, symbolic of cooperation.

 

[192] Then we had another thing that happened during it, a wall of

fire which prevented Gabrielle from doing what she had to do and

Xena had to do something to help Gabrielle but the rationalization

was she just wanted to get through. Anyway, there was a whole

complex thing there. As it was, it went away. [laughs] It was too

time-consuming to shoot it.

 

RUDNICK:

[193] As it happens, judging from everyone's comments, it worked

out very well in the end.

 

SEARS:

[194] Yeah, my favorite scene from the psychological points was

the echo chamber. This was something that I came up with very

early and kept it in every draft because it's an extremely

important thing. The idea is very simple. If you're angry with

someone, anyone who's been in a relationship and had an argument

with somebody, at a certain point, you aren't hearing what they're

saying. You're only taking the words they're saying so they can

make you angrier. So you can turn the words back on them. You're

in a total defense/attack mode. You're not trying to understand.

So you can't hear each other. All you have is the argument. You

don't say what you really, really feel. You just say enough to

attack.

 

[195] We tried to symbolize that in the "Hall of Echoes". The

moment you start rehashing and blaming, the echoes become

impossible, you can't hear. But the moment Xena says to Gabrielle

"Tell me what you're feeling right now," and Gabrielle says "I

hurt." That is the totally honest moment. And there's no echo. So

these are all psychological points we were trying to achieve so

that they could get to the point where they could forgive each

other, and more importantly, where Xena could forgive herself.

 

[Image]

Previous Index [Image]

Section Next Section

 

[Return to Top] [Return to Index]