XPOSÉ #48: Ted Raimi talks to Ian Spelling

(Beware, S5 and 6 spoilers)

Author: Ian Spelling
Source: XPOSE #48
Date: August 2000

He`s been a friend, ally, confidante and irritant to Xena and Gabrielle for five years, but no longer. Ian Spelling mourns the passing of Joxer, as brought to life by Ted Raimi.

JOXER IS DEAD. Long live Joxer. Hard as it may be to believe, the longtime pal of Xena and Gabrielle went out like a light in Eve, the next to last episode of Xena: Warrior Princess` fifth season. He went quickly, without fuss, and at the hands of Eve, Xena`s own daughter. And with Joxer went Ted Raimi, the popular actor who brought great humor and warmth to a role he`d played so often not just on Xena, but also on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The character had, of course, factored into so many Xena episodes, from Callisto, Girls Just Want to Have Fun and For Him the Bell Tolls to King Con, The Play`s the Thing and Fallen Angel, and from Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire, Kindred Spirits and Married with Fishsticks to Looking Death in the Eye, Eve and Motherhood. "It was partially my choice and it was partially the choice of Rob Tapert," the affable and energetically chatty Raimi says, referring to the show`s executive producer/ writer/ co-creator. "Rob wanted something very dramatic for my last contracted episode. I`ll probably be back. For a little bit, anyway. But he wanted something dynamic. He said, `Well, what if we maybe killed Joxer?` I said, `That would be cool. If we do it, let`s make it a big deal, a really big bang ending.` And so it was Rob`s idea to have me killed by Xena`s daughter, which I thought was very good."

Shooting the death scene itself, the actor recalls, was a "weird" experience. Raimi figured that the mood on the set might be somber, and it most definitely was. But it wasn`t quite as somber as he anticipated. "We are all such hardworking folks that it went off like a normal day," he says in a slightly bemused tone of voice. "We shot it around 11 o`clock, not long before lunch, and it kind of went off very mechanically. By the end of the episode, everybody started to realize, `Oh my God, this is Ted`s last episode. He`ll never be back again, maybe.` Towards the end of that week, it got a little teary-eyed for me and for everybody else, but the day we shot the death scene was pretty damn mechanical. Everybody was looking at his or her watch, going,`When`s lunch?` But it was great to shoot it. I tried out a new thing for me as an actor. Initially in the script, when Joxer died, I had about two pages of death. I was on the ground and I`m saying, `Xena, Xena, you meant so much to me all these years. Gosh, all the things you`ve done and all the things I`ve tried to do. And Gabrielle, I really loved you and all the love I have... blah, blah, blah, etcetera, etcetera.` It was really long. "I just took a black pen and did something that most actors never do, which was to cut all my lines. I cut 90% of all my dialogue. I kept 10% and I asked the writers if I could put in another two or three lines. So it turned out to be very short. I did that for two reasons. One, I always find it personally a little phony when people have a lot to say when they`re dying. My brother Ivan is a doctor. I`d called him up and said, `When people don`t expect to die, what are they like?` He said, `They don`t ever think they`re going to go. That`s what it`s like. If they`re young or old and get hit hard and fast, they don`t think they`re going to go.` I thought that was a very interesting place to start. So when you see Joxer, he just says, `I don`t feel so good. I think I`m a little `cold.` And then he just dies. I also thought that was the most tragic way to go, and I wanted to go for maximum tragedy. That whole holding hands and stuff never really did it for me."

Of course, it`s highly unlikely that Joxer is really dead-dead-dead. After all, come on, who really ever dies on Xena? Hell, in the episode following Eve, namely Motherhood, Joxer promptly returned as a ghost. So don`t be too terribly surprised if Raimi were to turn up next season as the ghost of Joxer or perhaps as one of Joxer`s two still very much alive brothers, Jace (the flamboyant one) and Jett (the murderous assassin), or as Joxer in flashbacks or old Joxer or Jacques S`er/Jack Kleinman (from The Xena Scrolls) or Harry (from Deja Vu All Over Again). The choices are endless. Still, Raimi will no longer be a part of the daily grind, a member of the ensemble that churns out show after show in the wilds of New Zealand. And he`ll miss that. "I will miss Lucy and Renee`s fine company," he notes, referring to Lucy Lawless and Renee O`Connor. "It`s a rare thing to be on a TV show and to be with actors who you truly respect in every way. That`s a lucky thing. You either get luck or you don`t, and I got lucky. I`ll miss Lucy and Renee as friends and I`ll miss their acting ability. They`re both very talented. I won`t miss the food in New Zealand. I won`t miss the travel to New Zealand. Twelve hours on a flight, man, that`s for flight attendants and pilots, not for me. I like to keep my feet on the ground."

And he likes to keep busy. Since he finished his final bit of business on Xena, Raimi has been earning frequent flier miles via shorter flights to cities around America for what he jokingly calls his "summer job." In other words, he`s been on the convention circuit, meeting the fans of his work in Xena, Hercules, seaQuest and any number of horror and sci-fi films, which include Wishmaster, Skinner (his personal favorite), the Evil Dead films (directed by his brother, Sam, who`s about to helm SpiderMan), Maniac Cop 3 and Candyman. He`s also directed two rock videos for local Los Angeles talents, kept tabs on the lowbudget psychological horror film The Attic Expeditions (in which he co-stars with Seth Green and Jeffrey Combs), and sat down with pal Bruce Campbell (another Xena alumnus) to discuss a possible film project. Whatever else the future may hold, however, Joxer will always be a part of Raimi`s past. Really, how could one ever escape that crazy song - Joxer the Mighty anyway? And that`s more than OK with him.

"I think there are two reasons why Joxer is so popular," Raimi suggests as the conversation comes to an end. "Once in a while, sometimes only once in an actor`s life, an actor can do what he or she is bestat doing. I think I was very fortunate to be given a role, in Joxer, that I was capable and happy and excited to do. It was a good part at the right time. Number two, I was the default lighthearted aspect of Xena. Xena can be a very serious show, and Joxer - who also stands out because he was the only regular male character, was a comedy character. Joxer is interesting to me because he`s a classical tragic character drawn in very broad strokes, which you don`t see very much at all on TV You see tragic characters, but none as broad as Joxer, in that nobody tries as hard and fails as often, but tries again like he does. Or did. I think that people responded to that and, I don`t know, they really took to it, to him. Whenever I see a fan who is a guy, after they tell me they thought a scene was funny or that Joxer was funny, they also say, `Thanks for being the everyman.` That`s a very, very flattering thing for an actor to hear."

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