Renee O’Connor, best known for her work as Gabrielle on Xena: Warrior Princess may have put down her staff and sais, and no longer fights gods and demons, but these days she’s staying busy with diamonds, guns, and the boogeyman. After a break from the spotlight, O’Connor has a slew of projects in the works, and she just released her first film from her own production company, Diamonds and Guns. Five years in the making, the movie is now available on DVD. Says O’Connor, “I’m so thrilled that it’s getting out there now. It was a long journey for me and along the way you wonder if it’s ever going to end. You wonder if anyone will ever see it. You wonder if anyone will ever enjoy it [laughs]. So, now to be able to look back on it all on film, the real story of how difficult and how pleasurable the whole thing was; it’s so relaxing. It’s so much fun for me.” O’Connor personally autographs every one sold through the movie’s official website. It is precisely this dedication to both her craft and her fans that earns her such praise and respect. Also on DVD is Boogeyman 2. After her extensive work both in front of the camera and behind the scenes with Diamonds and Guns, Boogeyman 2 was, “such a thrill.” Continues O’Connor, “I felt like I was playing hooky from work. My kids were well taken care of, and I could go and play with my friends. Of course, I did all my homework as an actor, but after being in your head, and intellectualizing a creative project for so long, it was really nice to switch that part of my brain off, and really just explore a whole different environment, and a completely different genre.” Next up is a Sci-Fi movie called Genesis Code, in which O’Connor will play a character named Ava. She explains, “I read the script, and I just loved this character [Ava]. I just loved her determination, and the way she was written. I also met with the director and he and I just hit it off immediately. He had me laughing [laughs], and I just thought, oh, I know that this will be a wonderful experience with him. I had no idea the cast was going to be so good.” As for those rumors about an appearance on Army Wives, O’Connor clarifies, “I think anything can change in this industry as well. You look at the strike and you think of all the people who have been warned about losing their jobs or who have already lost their jobs, and you realize that nothing is permanent. So, even though there is a plan for me to go on Army Wives, you can’t take anything for complete face value. I only say that just because of the strike. If it were to go Katherine [Fugate]’s way, and my way, and the really sweet writers on Army Wives, I hope that yes, I do get to do this funny, very cool character that Katherine [Fugate] has thought up on her show.” For those who are not familiar with writer Katherine Fugate, O’Connor notes, “Katherine Fugate is the creator of Army Wives. She also wrote an episode on Xena in our last season. She and I just hit it off. We’ve become very, very close, good friends. We just are very similar people. It’s nice.” Though O’Connor will again work in front of the camera, she also discusses her plans for theater: “What I’m trying to do right now is secure dates to put up “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” as a play. It just depends. That’s a character I love. I love Maggie, crazy Maggie. That’s something I’d like to do, if not by the end of this year, then early next year.” She adds, “I will be acting…but I will produce it, because it’s easy for me to put it all together.” This interest shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who’ve followed her career; O’Connor played Lady MacBeth in the “Shakespeare by the Sea” production of MacBeth in the summer of 2002. But that performance was nearly five years ago, and since, O’Connor has spent plenty of time with hobbies, one of which is painting. “The painting brings me such joy. I love it. There’s never a moment where I’m painting that I don’t feel really good. Even if I’m having difficulty trying to get something across in the painting, it still feels so wonderful.” She’s also busy with her recently acquired activity, Taekwando, saying, “I just started taking Taekwondo again, so I’m starting to feel like I’m getting back into my body. I’m starting to feel like I’m getting my strength again. I love it. I really love it. I was talking about that the other day, just wondering, why do I have such a fascination and desire to know martial arts? It’s more than knowing self-defense. To me, it just feels good having the discipline of something that is part of another culture and is part of an art. It is an art to me, it’s a dance, and it’s a sense of respect.” Of course, one immediately wonders if her years on Xena are beneficial to her latest interest. O’Connor says, “I’m starting with the basics again. I’m learning the first set of kicks and jumps. Right now, I have this wonderful instructor who is teaching me foot positions, hand positions, the Korean language for things. That detail is not what I learned on Xena [laughs].” At the mention of the extremely successful show, one almost immediately wonders if the infamous Reneé O’Connor will ever take on another series. She muses, “I think anything is a possibility…I don’t think I would rule anything out now. It just comes down to looking at the whole picture and seeing what’s really worth it. [A] TV series; some would work, some wouldn’t work. I just don’t know. It’s so hard to have one general rule of thumb because I don’t think you can do that. There’s so many options out there now. You might have a series that’s an ensemble piece, and the writing is so great, you would be stupid to turn it down [laughs]. So that wouldn’t make sense. But, there are the projects it wouldn’t be worth losing the time with your family, or just losing the time period now. I am trying to option a movie. There’s so much that I want to do, don’t get me wrong. I know what I want to do. But when it comes to other people’s projects…let me look at that, because I have no idea what people are thinking or have out there.” As for the parts she takes, O’Connor explains that “you choose the roles you do and you put your real emotions and your real feelings into the characters. That’s what I’ve been doing all these years. Now, I don’t know. I haven’t really had a role come up for me that can match all the colors and feelings that I have to bring out.” On the same subject, she also says, “I love everything. I love obviously the comedies, and I love the dramas, and the epics, and the action. So, to me, it just comes down to the story.” Speaking of stories, it is thus only fitting to conclude with as much sincerity and respect as Reneé O’Connor gave in this interview: her story is, without a doubt, exceptional, and so is she. All quotes in this article were given in an exclusive interview with TheStarScoop.Com
a person, everything else has fallen into place, and makes sense for me to be able to work, to be who I am, to be creative, to be as eccentric as I am [laughs], and embrace it, instead of trying to hide that. That includes being an actor, so I’m trying to now just be a little bit of everything without losing any one part of myself. I don’t think you can be a superwoman, where you can do everything for everybody, but I think you can definitely shuffle around your priorities, so that you can feel fulfilled. THE STAR SCOOP: With a lot of the work you’ve done recently, you’ve worked with people that you’ve worked with before. What draws you again and again to these same people? RENEE O’CONNOR: My manager, who I’ve been with for years; I met her when I was 18 years old; we didn’t work together the whole time. We took a break from each other for a little bit, but she’s one of my best friends, so ultimately we decided when I wanted to get back into acting, we came back together; that’s a side note. She has this joke, that if I work with someone, more than likely, I’m going to work with them again [laughs]. She just thinks it’s because I have a great work ethic. I’m not someone who draws drama to me. I’m more prepared and that tends to make me go back around and work with the same people again, which I love, I love, because it just makes it more fun. I’m very thankful that I have a group of people who do call and say, Hey, you know, do you want to come out and play again? THE STAR SCOOP: On her writing: RENEE O’CONNOR: I think it’s scarier for me to tell my own story, because it’s all me, and it’s right out there, exposing all of who I am, and all that I’ve seen, which is why I guess I’m not putting any sort of result on what I’m going to do with the material. I don’t know. I have a feeling what I’ll do is, as I keep writing, is take little kernels of stories and then put them in other things that I’m working on, so it ends up probably being a mesh of fiction and real moments that I’ve experienced as well. The writing is more difficult because I’m trying to write about a lot of my childhood, and my childhood was filled with all these awful situations, and everyone pretending to be a certain way, when the truth was the opposite. So, for me to write about that, I’m trying to hold it lightly, so I’m looking at it out of curiosity, and not out of judgment. A lot of those feelings come back up. Anger, hurt, and disappointment, you know? Those feelings, gosh, who wants to relive those [laughs]? But you do, as you’re writing, just like you do when you choose a certain part as an actor. I still think it’s great, even if again, no one reads it. I don’t know what I’ll do with it, but I think it’s good for me…It’s a huge step for me to share it with people. So if I do, decide to do that, then I know that I’ve really let it all go. THE STAR SCOOP: On her official website: RENEE O’CONNOR: It gives me an avenue to have communication with the fans that are all over the world. I can say something, and I know it will get to them quickly. I can share a video with them, and I know it’s going get there pretty quickly. That’s just fantastic. I am going to step it up, so probably again, by the next time we talk, it will be completely different! My goal would be to have the type of website where I can offer original material that I’ve helped create. I know I’m not the only person that wants to do that. That’s definitely an interest I have. I hope that [the fans] are still involved, and with me, and my career, and that they’re able to see what I want to do. There’s so many questions I have, and that’s what I’m researching right now. THE STAR SCOOP: On her fans: RENEE O’CONNOR: People don’t expect me to recognize them, or to know their names [laughs], and when I do, I think it throws them a little bit. I have a great eye for knowing faces. If I’ve met someone, I will usually keep that imprint in my body. I get a sense if I’ve met someone before. I’ve never been that great with names, even as a kid, so that’s probably a little bit more difficult for me. If I meet someone, their name is somewhere under my peripheral memory, but I won’t know immediately what it is. You get a sense of their essence so quickly. I have had opportunities, sometimes, to get moments with them, and you can just feel right away the essence of who they are. When I think of charity work, I try to take on things that, just lately, that are ways that I can reach out to my fans. For instance, just trying to work with more organizations that deal with child abuse. I thought this might be a great way to resonate with maybe some of the experiences my fans have gone through. I receive a lot of letters; I hear a lot of stories. I thought, maybe this will ring home for them, and that’s my way of reciprocating their presence. I feel them in my life, so when I do things, [I try to] find ways to sort of mirror their interests or their sense of goodwill. THE STAR SCOOP: Is there anything that embarrasses you, makes you nervous? RENEE O’CONNOR: I think there’s always an element of, self-consciousness that comes up at the very beginning, or it floats in and then it floats back out. I don’t usually hang on to it, though. I try not to let a sense of fear overcome my desire to do something [laughs]. If I do start to hesitate, or if I start to question it, then I usually try to let that go. It’s not going to help me. I tend to try things pretty easily, you know, even if I probably shouldn’t [laughs]. For instance, dancing with Lucy, when she was doing her cabaret shows. If I hadn’t said yes, I wouldn’t have had the ball that I did dancing to Ray Charles in a go-go outfit. That was so much fun. Those are the things, that you just have to say yes to life, and take it by the balls and go for it, and jump off that mountain.” THE STAR SCOOP: The message Renee O’Connor wants to get out there: RENEE O’CONNOR: Just to constantly seek knowledge, and listen to your own intuition…it’s something that I still practice every single day.