If you were a lesbian in the 1990s, it’s virtually certain that you remember actress Renee O’Connor. She played Gabrielle, the ass-kicker with a heart of gold and trusty sidekick of Xena (Lucy Lawless), the title character in the cult television show Xena: Warrior Princess. Since then, she’s started her own production company (ROC), played various roles in movies and plays, been divorced, re-married and had two children. She’s also written and directed films.
But, of course, for our purposes, let’s begin with what’s important: She’s a Texan.
You might not know that from Xena. Born in Houston and raised in Katy, O’Connor moved to New Zealand, where Xena was filmed, in the mid-‘90s, and she notes the experience distilled both the good and bad of growing up in the Lone Star State.
“The expansiveness of the country … I remember growing up and everyone said Texas is its own country,” she says. “I never quite saw the irony of that statement until much, much later, especially when I lived overseas for such a long time, during a very pivotal time, the 1990s. To be brutally honest, there were times I lived overseas that I was kind of unwilling to say I was from Texas.”
She got over it (more on that in a bit), and it’s a good thing, too, as O’Connor returned home to take on a primary role in the indie film Beyond the Farthest Star, a feature filmed entirely in Texas. The faith-based movie’s plot revolves around a preacher who must choose between his family and fame as a TV evangelist. O’Connor plays Maureen, the preacher’s wife.