The beating heart of cult series Xena: Warrior Princess was the relationship between Xena (Lucy Lawless) and her faithful sidekick Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor). Over the course of six seasons (1995-2001), the two became best friends, but despite the love they obviously felt for each other, they never officially became a couple. Now we know why.
Following the show’s debut in 1995, fans of the syndicated series — especially those within the LGBT community — fast became champions of Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship. Talking to Entertainment Weekly, Lawless explained what that friendship meant to the community and why:
“The name Xena means ‘stranger. She felt she was irredeemable. That friendship between Xena and Gabrielle transmitted some message of self-worth, deservedness, and honor to people who felt very marginalized, so it had a lot of resonance in the gay community.”
So, why didn’t Xena and Gabrielle officially hook up on the show despite the heavy subtext hinting that they were a couple, or at the least, intimate? Executive producer and co-creator Rob Tapert opened up on the reasons why the two women never became a thing. And the first one has to do with a certain handsome and witty, über-charming but ruthless God of War, played by the late Kevin Smith.
“We didn’t really ever want to get them 100 percent together for a very strange reason. There was Ares [Kevin Smith], God of War, who we loved. We did not want to give up the hold that character had over Xena and the enjoyment we had with telling stories of Xena and Ares. So as much as we liked that Xena and Gabrielle were two people who were the best of friends, and perhaps intimate friends, we never wanted to give up Ares.”
In a 2002 interview with The Independent, Smith said of Ares’ relationship with Xena:
“They had this idea for the God of War. They wanted a foil for Xena - someone who could beat her in battle, and a former mentor. The weird thing is there's sympathy for the character, because he's done terrible, terrible things and yet, at the bottom of it all, the only way this works is if you believe he truly loves Xena. Of course Ares did admit his love for her and Xena never said it but she loved Ares.”
Besides Ares, there was also another reason why Xena and Gabrielle never became a full-fledged couple, and it had to do with studio politics. Universal Television became aware of the dynamic between the two badass women, and it became a big no-no for them from the start.
“Before we started shooting Xena, we shot the material that we were going to use to create the opening title sequences with,” Tapert says. “The studio was so concerned that it would be perceived as a lesbian show that they would not allow us to have Xena and Gabrielle in the same frame of the opening titles.”
With Renee O’Connor adding, “We were very aware that there was only so much we could do, because it was a show on network television. So anytime Rob would push the envelope as much as he could, he had to work within certain guidelines.”
There you have it. What do you guys think of the reasons why Xena and Gabrielle never got together on Xena: Warrior Princess?