'Lost' writer plans to make his Xena happier, and maybe fans too

Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the man behind quirky "The Middleman," shares his vision for NBC's update of the woman-led campy-action series.

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
3 min read

It's hard to imagine "Xena" without the original warrior princess, Lucy Lawless.

Universal Television

"Xena: Warrior Princess" was full of slapstick and suffering, skimpy armor and sly subtext. It was the kind of show where the heroines returned from the dead multiple times -- and now they're being revived again for modern TV.

The classic TV series, a spin-off from "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys," ran for six seasons from 1995 to 2001. It traced the haunted heroine's search for redemption and amassed a passionate and long-lasting fandom. Lucy Lawless, the actress who defined the title role, has been vocal on Twitter supporting a reboot. When a "Xena" reboot first started sounding like reality in August, fans everywhere speculated whether the show's original stars would reprise their roles as Xena and her sidekick Gabrielle (Renée O'Connor).

It's now known that Lawless is not part of the reboot, though the show's original executive producers, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert (Lawless' husband), are attached to the new production. Without the chemistry between the two original leads, what can we hope for from the reboot? A lot, it sounds like.

On December 14, NBC named the show's executive producer and writer: Javier Grillo-Marxuach of "Helix," "Lost" and "Charmed." He was also the creator of the TV version of the comics series "The Middleman" -- a campy sci-fi send-up with a buddy relationship and a female action hero. He spoke with us about what he has in mind for the update.

"I watched the original 'Xena' as well as 'Hercules' during their initial run," Grillo-Marxuach told CNET's Crave blog. "Remember that was kind of a golden age for first-run syndication sci-fi at a time when the networks had precious little to offer us true believers. All of which is a long way of saying that I am VERY excited, both to be working with the producers of the original, as well as to be working on material that spoke to me from a time in television history that I remember very fondly."

Fans are often concerned that a reboot will change a beloved series beyond recognition. Even though Grillo-Marxuach couldn't reveal any juicy details yet, he did suggest one major change.

"Let me give you an itty-bitty peek at the store by telling you a few words you won't be hearing from me: Grim. Gritty. Dire. Depressing," he said. "What I want to do is to make something that is both fresh and new but that is also respectful and evocative of that feeling of fun and adventure that was so perfect in the original. I believe I heard it referred to somewhere as 'the power, the passion, the danger.'"

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What made the original show successful was the friendship between Xena and Gabrielle.

Universal Television

That phrase from the original show's intro may strike a promising chord for nostalgic viewers.

The strong bond between Xena and Gabrielle also made Grillo-Marxuach a fan of the original series, he said.

"These two characters were super-heroic women who appealed to me as a fan of sci-fi, fantasy and horror, as a fan of the sword-and-sandal genre, and as a fan of characters whose lives and struggles I found inspiring," Grillo-Marxuach said. "There were a lot of action-adventure shows in first-run syndication in the mid-'90s, but the ones that endure are the ones whose characters truly spoke to the audience."

Intriguingly, he added, "If we don't get that central relationship right, and evolve it to where it can go in our modern televisual landscape, then we are sunk. And I don't want to be sunk."

The proposed "Xena" reboot is expected to debut in 2016.