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SYFY WIRE Lucy Lawless

Did You Know Xena Was Originally Supposed to Die Before Getting Her Own Show?

Episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess will air on SYFY over the next week in honor of Women's History Month!

By Josh Weiss

It's been almost 23 years since Xena: Warrior Princess left the airwaves following an impressive six-season run between 1995 and 2001. Now that Women's History Month is upon us, SYFY will show some love to the one and only Lucy Lawless by airing episodes of the beloved fantasy series between today and next Friday (March 15).

But did you know that Xena was almost killed off after a 3-episode arc as a villain in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys before she could get her own TV show? This was confirmed by Entertainment Weekly, which put together an oral history on the series for its 15th anniversary back in the summer of 2016.

Why Xena Was Saved From the Chopping Block & Given Her Own Series

According to Xena co-creator Robert Tapert (who has been married to Lawless since 1998), the decision to spare the titular princess for her own redemptive saga was intended as a response to the dearth of "female superhero shows" on television at the time. 

"Bionic Woman and Cagney & Lacey were the two most identifiable female-driven shows that had been on. While they had been somewhat successful, they had never repeated in syndication very well," he explained. "The guys at Universal quickly said, 'You know what? You should rip yourself off before somebody else does and try and make a spin-off out of that character.' At that time, the head of the studio gave me a lecture about why he was going to do this. He was concerned that female heroes don’t really work well on television and never to take my eye off the ball of Hercules."

Thankfully, he didn't listen and forged ahead, though it wasn't easy to find an actress to lead the spinoff. Once it became clear that Vanessa Angel (Weird Science) and Kim Delaney (Tour of Duty) would not be able to take on the role, however, Universal agreed to "get the woman who had been in that last Hercules [aka Lucy Lawless] and dye her hair black," Tapert said.

"It fell to me when everybody else turned it down," Lawless added. "I was the lucky local kid on the spot who got the gig."

For More on Xena: Warrior Princess:

Lucy Lawless' iconic genre roles go far beyond 'Xena: Warrior Princess'

'Xena: Warrior Princess' writer on Xena, Gabrielle, and what it takes to make a centaur

Lucy Lawless on the time she had to double check to make sure she wasn’t in a Xena reboot

Xena couldn't outrun her fate forever and was killed off for good in the series finale (titled "A Friend in Need: Part 2") that aired on June 23, 2001. This didn't sit well with a great many fans, but Tapert — who directed and co-wrote the final episode — stood by the outcome during an interview with E! Online (via The New York Post) at the time.

"We certainly have taken the heat," he confessed. "I have a friend who sends me emails, and I've gotten some faxes from people and letters. And people have had a very mixed reaction. But the finale was really based on where the series started, and it seemed to complete her journey looking for redemption."

Episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess will air on SYFY between today and next Friday (March 15) in honor of Women's History Month. Click here for complete scheduling info!