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Renee O’Connor: From ‘Xena’ Sidekick to Director, Read About What She’s Up To Now!

She's much more than just an actress!

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Born in Houston, Texas, a young Renee O’Connor knew she wanted to be an actor, attending Houston High School of Visual and Performing Arts in recognition of her love for the craft. One teacher there realized her student’s potential for acting, and even got an autograph before Renee graduated, knowing that she’d become a star someday.

O’Connor began appearing in commercials, which segued into a film career at age 17, starring in the serial Teen Angel, which was a regular feature on The All New Mickey Mouse Club.

She stayed within the Disney family to appear in The Adventures of Huck Finn, which was followed by a few guest appearances on different shows and about a dozen TV movies, including The Rockford Files: A Blessing in Disguise (1995). The year before Rockford, she starred as Deineira in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

MUST-READ: Kevin Sorbo Brought Hercules to Life Like No Other — See What He’s Been Up to Since!

Renee O'Connor, Kevin Sorbo, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Renee O’Connor, Kevin Sorbo, Hercules: The Legendary Journeysjasonhart/MoviestillsDB

A turning point for the actress

Her venture into Hercules’ world caught the eye of director/creator Sam Raimi, who immediately cast her in the 1994 film, Darkman II: The Return of Durant.

Then came Xena: Warrior Princess, where O’Connor made a name for herself while playing the role of Gabrielle, Xena’s trusted sidekick, on the popular series from 1996 to 2001. The scene-stealing role created a huge worldwide fan base for her that’s active to this day.

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From innocent babe to skilled warrior, this was Gabrielle’s evolution on Xena. At first, the character was there to counter Xena’s bad temper, but as the series progressed, Gabrielle learned how to become an actual Amazon while discovering new aspects of her own life.

Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor, 2001
Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor, 2001Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

When the producers of Xena became aware of how athletic O’Connor was — the actress had actually scaled Mount Kilimanjaro — it prompted a new costume for the second season, the running joke being that the costume continued to shrink as the seasons went on.

MUST-READ: ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’ — See the Cast of the Hit Action Series Then and Now

Renee O’Connor can do it all

Parlaying her star recognition into other creative outlets, O’Connor formed her own production company in 2002, ROC Productions, with the first project being the rom-com Diamonds and Guns. She wrote, directed and produced the award-winning short film Words Unspoken in 2010. In 2017, O’Connor produced her second feature film, Watch the Sky.

Renee O'Connor, 2007
Renee O’Connor, 2007Valerie Macon/Getty Images

While raising her two children back in Los Angeles, Renee occasionally starred in several indie films, including Boogeyman 2 opposite Tobin Bell, Monster Ark, Alien Apocalypse, Beyond the Farthest Star and the highly acclaimed A Question of Faith, which screened before Congress.

She never gave up her passion for acting and directing, delving into professional and community theater groups such as Encore, Little Fish Theater, Shakespeare by the Sea and — her personal favorite — performing the role of the Nurse with the Southern Shakespeare Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet in Tallahassee, Florida, where her son Miles performed as Romeo.  

The actress in 2018
Renee O’Connor, 2018Che Rosales/Getty Images

Renee O’Connor continues to shine

After a brief hiatus from the stage due to the pandemic, O’Connor relaunched the House of Bards Theatre Company in 2022, producing and directing The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet and the stage adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.

The year before, she enjoyed collaborating as the director with Encore Theatre Group, as she brought the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast to life on stage at the iconic Warner Grand Theater and the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Last Fall, O’Connor directed the same production.  

MUST-READ: The ‘Beauty and the Beast’ 1987 Romantasy Series Cast, Then and Now

The actress in 2013
Renee O’Connor, 2013Joe Kohen/WireImage/Getty Images

Now at 53, O’Connor’s creativity extends to being a talented artist, with many of her paintings being exhibited in numerous art shows and having been auctioned off for charities, as well as to help finance projects under her production company. 

It would seem that she’s the true Warrior Princess!  


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