When Xena first showed up as a character on "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys," there was no way anyone could have predicted that audiences would still be talking about her, decades later. How big of a phenomenon was "Xena: Warrior Princess"? Well, Lucy Lawless, who portrayed Xena with inimitable charisma, has since added many credits to her resume, yet her Encyclopedia Britannica entry mentions Xena before any of her other roles.
"Xena: Warrior Princess" debuted on September 4, 1995, and ended on June 18, 2001. It aired in over 100 countries, and generated a dedicated fanbase that has kept the show in the popular consciousness for many years. Fan sites such as Xenaville are still being updated, while Whoosh.org, which deems itself the "Birthplace of the International Association of Xena Studies," remains available for all your "Xena"-related needs. Looking for some real-life fun? "Xena" conventions are still happening, complete with archery lessons and hiking. Want to contemplate the historical importance of your favorite chakram-wielding princess? Xena’s duds can be found in the Smithsonian Institution. "Xena: Warrior Princess" is such a phenomenon, Subaru once referenced the show in a ground-breaking ad campaign.
What is it about this show that has led to such fan devotion, even after all these years? We’re here to answer that very question. This is the untold truth of "Xena: Warrior Princess," from the real-world history of chakram to the unforgettable bond between Xena and Gabrielle.
Xena was supposed to be killed off
The character of Xena made her first appearance on "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" as a villainous warlord, out to kill Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules. Her arc was supposed to end with her death. Instead, the character proved so popular that she earned a spin-off.
In the "Hercules" episode "The Warrior Princess," Xena’s fighting prowess is on full display, though her outfit is not yet the iconic one worn in her series. Xena’s goal is to seduce Michael Hurst’s Iolaus, Hercules’ best bud, in order to get close enough to Herc to kill him. In her next episode, "The Gauntlet," she finally gets close to Hercules, but in the final episode of her trilogy, "Unchained Heart," Xena reforms herself and goes off to make amends for her treacherous past.
This wasn’t Lucy Lawless’ first time on the show, believe it or not. She’d already appeared in a smaller role as Lyla, the wife of a centaur, in Season 1, Episode 6, "As Darkness Falls." Before that, she’d popped up as Lysia in the 1994 "Hercules and the Amazon Women" TV movie. When the actress originally cast as Xena, Vanessa Angel, became ill, Lawless got the part. The rest is television history.
Xena might be a demi-goddess
Like "Hercules," its parent show, "Xena: Warrior Princess" is steeped in Greek mythology. Though it’s never said outright, it’s certainly implied that Xena might be an outright demi-goddess. Her mother, Cyrene, shares a name with a legendary water nymph. Moreover, it’s hinted in "The Furies" that Xena’s father is Ares, the Greek god of war. Considering the often-flirtatious nature of Ares and Xena’s interactions, that would be, um, not great by current standards, but totally in line with Greek myth.
Xena being a demi-goddess would certainly explain her beyond-human fighting feats, and her ability to hold her own against the various gods and goddesses she encounters and frequently defeats. Granted, doing things like running on top of other warriors’ heads with apparent ease may merely mean Xena is super-agile, and possibly a wuxia master. As producer Rob Tapert once told The New York Times, Xena’s fighting style is based off Brigitte Lin’s, star of the 1993 Hong Kong martial arts film, "The Bride with White Hair." However, Xena routinely kicking divine butt puts her on par with a fully-powered Hercules. Some godly parentage would make that a whole lot more plausible.