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Twenty years after it first premiered as a Hercules spinoff, Xena: Warrior Princess could be returning to television.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that NBC and NBC Universal International are prepping a reboot of the beloved Lucy Lawless action-adventure drama. The drama is in the extremely early development stages and a search for a writer is currently underway. Original executive producers Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi are also involved in the project, which is considered to be a “modern reboot.” It’s unclear what, if any, role original star Lawless would have, though sources tell THR that insiders would like the original star to have both a role onscreen and behind the scenes. The drama is eyed for 2016. It’s too early to know if Xena 2.0 would be a limited 13-episode run similar to Fox’s revived 24 or a more standard full-season order. Insiders say the hope is for the new Xena to be an ongoing (read: renewable) series.
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Sources say the new Xena would have to have the charisma and charm of Lawless and the smarts of The Hunger Games‘ Katniss as producers are said to be looking for a sophisticated and smart superhero for a new generation.
The original series was produced by Studios USA and international producers Universal Worldwide Television and was distributed by Universal Television. Xena ran in syndication for six seasons from September 1995 to June 2001 and originally started as a spinoff from Hercules after producers realized how popular the Xena (Lawless) character was and opted to launch a new series built around the Amazon warrior on a quest for redemption and her trusted companion Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor).
Xena was created by John Schulian and Tapert — Lawless’ husband — and produced by Tapert, Sam Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell‘s Renaissance Pictures, Studios USA and Universal Television, the latter of which distributed the series in more than 108 countries around the globe. The drama was a cult favorite and ratings hit, ranking in the top five syndicated programs during each of its six seasons.
An extension of the Xena franchise comes as Lawless recently signed on to co-star in Starz’s Evil Dead sequel Ash vs. Evil Dead, reuniting her with Xena — and Spartacus — alums Raimi and Tapert.
For her part, Lawless recently told HitFix at Comic-Con — where she was supporting Ash — that “they’ve got to bring [Xena] back.”
“I’ve been pitching that show … because … there’s a swell of interest still,” she said. “I’m always being peppered with questions [about] when the Xena movie is coming. Guys, I’m pitching my ass off to make it happen, whether it’s with me or not. I think it’d be funny to have a reboot like Ash vs. Evil Dead — like middle-aged Xena in a muumuu with a bad attitude and a smoking habit. … Bring [actor] Ted Raimi [who played Joxer] in … [and maybe] Bruce Campbell.”
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“I don’t know what the hold-up is; it’s about who has got the rights,” she added. “But that’s a piss-poor excuse anymore. Find who has got the rights, freakin‘ pay it. It’s better to have 80 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing. Don’t waste this opportunity; reinvigorate that franchise!” she said, stressing the show’s international appeal. It’s an insane international character. They’re fools not to bring it back. It’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s action.”
The actress also has been vocal about wanting to play the character again — despite the fact that Xena (spoiler alert) died in the series finale.
For NBC, a Xena reboot could give the network a perfect companion for fellow genre player Grimm on Fridays. The network in recent years has attempted to launch several shows on Fridays at 9 p.m. after Grimm — Constantine, Crossbones, Dracula — none of which have made it to a second season.
Revisiting Xena comes as reboots continue to be in high demand as broadcast and cable networks alike look to proven commodities (and fan bases) to cut through the clutter in an increasingly competitive scripted landscape. Key to their success is having the original producers involved. For its part, NBC is also readying a Coach follow-up with star Craig T. Nelson. Fox, meanwhile, is bringing The X-Files back in January and has plans to produce another run of Prison Break after successfully reviving 24 on top of its film-to-TV take on Minority Report. Over at CBS, the network will launch a TV remake of Limitless with Bradley Cooper attached and will bow its Rush Hour adaptation come midseason.
Would you watch a Xena reboot? Sound off in the comments section, below.
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