Renee O’Connor saves the world (again)

In need of a Renee O’Connor fix? I know I am, which is why I’ll set aside my usual aversion to monster movies and tune into the SciFi Channel’s Monster Ark this Saturday night at 9 p.m. And it’s also why I turned up bright and early for a phone interview with Renee Wednesday morning, where she talked about the film, working with Xena co-star Lucy Lawless in the film Bitch Slap, and of course, how she feels about all of us at AfterEllen.com.

To be fair, it sounds like Monster Ark is quite a bit more than a monster movie. “I like stories with strong women characters,” Renee told us. “Women who change the world.” And in Monster Ark she plays Ava, an archaeologist who does just that while working on a dig to uncover Noah’s first ark, and inadvertently unleashing, well, a monster.

Ava is a deeply spiritual person, and her quest for the ark is part of her own journey of faith. Her ex-husband, Nicholas (Tim DeKay), on the other hand, is a hard-headed scientist, whose agenda is very different. “We have some friction between us, some unresolved matters,” Renee said, and then laughed. “And we try to resolve them while — yes — saving humanity.”

This all sounds suspiciously like a dynamic we’ve seen before, the one between Xena and Gabrielle on Xena: Warrior Princess.

“Xena the warrior was always pragmatic; it was about getting the job done,” Renee said. “Gabrielle was more about the open heart, and trying to save everyone … Gabrielle wants to save Xena, and Ava wants to save Nicholas.”

Speaking of Xena, are we ever going to see Renee work with co-star Lucy Lawless again? Why yes, Renee said; we are. And soon, in the wacked out babes-with-guns flick Bitch Slap, due out in December.

The brain child of some old pals from the Xena crew, the film was the first on-screen reunion of the two friends in many years. “Lucy and I had cameos where we played nuns,” Renee said, “and we joked around later that we were there to bless the set because they were all damned … It’s been a long time since I’ve actually worked with Lucy on a film set together, but it’s like picking up a bike again. She and I have a shorthand. We can literally say two words to each other and we know what we’re saying. That just felt really nice.”

Renee also said the film has something more for lesbian fans than just the cast of hot pistol-packing, butt-kicking babes. “The little cameos that Lucy and I played in Bitch Slap were a real treat directly for all you guys out there, you know,” she laughed. “I have a couple lines you guys are going to love.”

Renee said she’s also starring in an upcoming web series called Ark (no relation to the film), a sci-fi story from in which she plays a female hero trapped in an incomprehensible reality. The series is the result of a partnership between online content producer 60Frames and independent comic book publisher Oni Press. Created by Robbie Thompson and developed by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah of Freaks and Geeks fame, it’s scheduled to premiere next year.


Photo Credit: Lida Verner

If watching Renee on screen just isn’t enough for you, how about acting with her? Renee told us she’s producing and starring in a short film she describes as the “raw and emotional” story of a man who becomes reconciled with his estranged son while he’s dying. Renee plays his daughter, and if you’d like to be an extra and live in the Los Angeles area, send your photo and contact info to Renee at ROC Productions, 1601 North Sepulveda Blvd. #612, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266.

Some straight women with two kids might not exactly embrace being the idol of two generations of lesbian fans, but that’s definitely not Renee, who says she appreciates all of us at AfterEllen.com. “I’m constantly looking for projects they’re going to love, definitely looking for those little gems that will have them laughing and rolling and smiling,” she said. “I’m always talking about you all and how fortunate I am that you’ve been so supportive, so thank you. Thank you.”

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