There is good and bad news for Xena: Warrior Princess fans who were thrilled about the proposed reboot on NBC. First the bad news — the reboot of the beloved series that captured fans’ hearts in the ’90s has been nixed in its present form, but the good news is that writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who was committed to fully exploring a romantic relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, played by Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor respectively in the original, exited the project in April over "creative differences." So at least the network isn't moving forward with someone else's possibly less queer vision.
NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke announced this week that the project was dead. "Nothing is happening on that right now. We looked at some material; we decided at that point that it didn't warrant the reboot," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I'd never say never on that one because it's such a beloved title, but the current incarnation of it is dead."
But Grillo-Marxuach (Lost, The 100) was intent on playing out the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle that was touched upon but never fully explored in the series that ran for six seasons, from 1995 to 2001. When he left the project in April he wrote:
“I’m heartbroken to have left the Xena project over insurmountable creative differences. The character is dear to me, and to millions of fans worldwide, and I truly believe that now — more than ever — a land in turmoil cries out for a hero. I truly hope that the alchemy of creative elements that has to come together to make possible either a reboot or revival of this amazing property will someday coalesce, and that Xena will return in a way that does honor to what came before while looking to the future.”
While he didn’t cite the queer relationship as a reason for his departure, in a 2016 interview he made it clear that the romance was central to his vision.
"There is no reason to bring back Xena if it is not there for the purpose of fully exploring a relationship that could only be shown subtextually in first-run syndication in the 1990s," Grillo-Marxuach said.
Grillo-Marxuach, who is a producer on the CW’s dystopian sci-fi series The 100 and who wrote the episode in which lead character Clarke’s female love interest was callously killed off immediately after the pair had consummated their relationship, was at the center of the backlash from that episode and vowed to do better in his depiction of queer characters moving forward.
“I think it was a failure to recognize the cultural impact that this would have outside the context of the show,” he said of the episode. “The systemic failure to recognize it as an event of the magnitude that it would have … is the real subject of discussion. Perhaps if we knew, why did we still go through with it? Why did it not register with us? I think that’s a bigger issue.”
So while a Xena reboot that would have starred a new actress in the title role was highly anticipated, at least there is no plan to move forward with a story that fails to acknowledge the love between Xena and Gabrielle in palpable ways.