14 October 2010

Austin Chronicle Article on Sandra Wilson from 1998


The Austin Chronicle has an old article about Sandra Wilson. Sandra is Renee's mum and this article was posted back in 1998. It refers to the Official Renee O'Connor Fan Club which Mrs Wilson created / organised. Unfortunately that club is no longer in operation (it produced fantastic newsletters which have become collector items)

Momma Rocs!
13 February 1998 - The Austin Chronicle

There was an air of excitement and anticipation among the little girls attending an ice cream social at Threadgill's restaurant. Some of the girls were shy about approaching their idol. A few were confused about the difference between the actress and her TV character. The young actress cheerfully chatted with each one, autographing 8x10 glossies and posing for snapshots while they stared, wide-eyed and breathless. It was the fall of 1996, and Reneé O'Connor had just participated in the first fan event of her acting career. Fast forward to October 5, 1997. More than 2,000 fans gathered in the Valley Forge Convention Center in Pennsylvania to attend the Official Hercules & Xena Convention. Many of the fans donned elaborate costumes, tattoos, T-shirts, and homemade tributes to their TV heroes and heroines. Members of the Reneé O'Connor International Fan Club proudly wore official ID badges decorated with their idol's picture. Participating in the fan convention gave the young actress her first real taste of the impact of the television series - her biggest career break.

"When Reneé was planning for her career, this kind of thing never occurred to us," recalls Reneé's mother, Sandra Wilson. In fact, O'Connor was just like many attractive, talented young actresses headed for Hollywood. But she had better luck than most. A featured role in Hercules and the Lost Kingdom brought her to the attention of producers who were looking for a young woman to portray Gabrielle, the plucky sidekick of the formidable warrior princess, Xena. The brassy O'Connor was cast opposite the dark, statuesque New Zealander Lucy Lawless and reported to Auckland, New Zealand to begin filming, hordes of fans were the farthest thing from her mind.

As O'Connor's following grew, the preponderance of fan mail and the proliferation of websites regarding her daughter concerned Wilson. Though she's the farthest thing imaginable from a "stage mother," Wilson felt compelled to get involved. So she created the Reneé O'Connor Official International Fan Club.

Known as "MommaROC" here in the states, Wilson has much more interaction with fans than her daughter and surely more fan contact than most mothers of people in the entertainment business. According to Wilson, younger viewers write asking Reneé to be their friend. Teenagers often seek career advice on how they, too, can become actresses. This touches Wilson, who is surprised and gratified that so many professional women also respond to the loving, supportive friendship depicted between two strong female characters, and she also welcomes the vocal lesbian contingent in the fanbase - the club membership currently numbers more than 2,000. Everyone seems to be interested in whether or not O'Connor has a boyfriend (she does, New Zealand restaurateur Steve Muir) and there are plenty of marriage proposals. Some fans are so ardent that letters just aren't enough. And while Xena and Gabrielle paraphernalia such as T-shirts, posters, and action figures capitalize on the avid fan market, Sandra Wilson will do her best to ensure that the public appreciates the talented young woman who brings one of those characters to life: Reneé O'Connor.

- Virginia B. Wood