"Playing Xena`s younger, blonder sidekick on the syndicated series, Renée O`Connor keeps the fantasy world spinning with her portrayal of whip-smart Gabrielle. "She has the mentality of a poet but the capabilities of killing a man like a warrior," says the 29-year-old O`Connor, a surprisingly soft-spoken Texan. Fans have seen her character evolve from peasant girl to pin-up. "I have matured over the years, and as I have felt sexier, [the producers] have allowed Gabrielle to show more skin," she says. Gabrielle`s very close bond with Xena has led to speculation about her character`s sexual preference. "I can look back ... and not be surprised that people thought [they were lovers]," says O`Connor, who`s engaged. I believe they are soul mates."
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