When it comes to acting, dying is easy, but comedy is hard — so says the old expression.
Playing Joxer the Mighty for six years on Xena: Warrior Princess, actor Ted Raimi got to do both.
The “lovable loser” character, not to mention Ted’s pitch-perfect comedy timing, were surely an essential element in Xena’s break-out success — and the inspiration for some of the show’s zaniest flights of fantasy.
But starting around the fourth season, the character deepened, and it was hard not to be touched by his unrequited love for Gabrielle — and his eventual death in the six season.
Ted’s brother is, of course, uber-director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, The Evil Dead) — also one of the producers behind Xena: Warrior Princess. As kids, Ted famously acted in Sam’s Super-8 movies — and he still pops up in bit parts in his older brother’s films such as last year’s Drag Me to Hell.
We caught up with Ted at the recent premiere of Spartacus: Blood and Sand and managed to pull him aside for a few questions about his time on Xena, his genre-intensive acting career, and his reoccurring guest spot on Legend of the Seeker.
TheTorchOnline: How did the role on Legend of the Seeker come about?
TR: I was asked by my old pal Rob Tapert who cast me in Xena if I wanted to do Legend of the Seeker, so I said yes. Rob has a great eye for TV shows naturally, so I just jumped at it. I didn’t even look at the part – he really knows where my strengths are, and it was a blast.
Sebastian is this creepy map salesman who also peddles magic, and it was a great part. It was a hell of a lot of fun.
[This season] I went back to New Zealand to do another episode [airing February 20th], and I can’t reveal what happens in it, naturally, but suffice to say that he causes a lot more trouble than he did in the first episode. He does come in contact with the wizard, and this time I actually had a scene with Bridget and Craig, and it was fantastic. I had a wonderful time.
TTO: If they asked, would you do the show full-time?
TR: Oh, sure, if they asked me to Legend of the Seeker full-time, I wouldn’t hesitate to say no!
TTO: When you and Sam were kids out making your movies, did you really think you’d be able to do that kind of stuff as adults?
Ted Raimi: I can’t say for Sam, naturally, but I didn’t think these genre movies that I loved so much would ever be so popular. When I was a kid, this was only B-movies. This was only second-reels and stuff you see on TV. It never really reached the theaters in such massive amounts.
I think it’s a wonderful departure from movies in the 70s and 80s. We’ve gotten away from the harsh realities of the 70s, the goofiness of the 80s, the sort of blasé “removedness,” if that’s a word, of the 90s, and now we’re in sort of a fantasy play-world.
For me, this is sort of the golden age of movies and TV, and I’m very lucky to be living through it.
TTO: Are you particularly drawn to fantasy and genre projects, or is it just the crowd you’ve fallen in with, so to speak, that keeps bringing you to these projects?
TR: The former rather than the latter. I do sci-fi and fantasy, because I love it. I excel at the auditions because I think the producers can see I don’t think it’s just an alternative to porn. I actually really, really love the genre, and I’m really enthused about it.
When I go in to do sci-fi, I’m not just there performing it — I’m asking them where these concepts come from — are they scientifically viable? And as far away from Tolkien as you can get, fantasy-wise, is always mind-blowingly incredible. That’s one of the things I really love about Legend of the Seeker – Terry Goodkind came up with a wildly original set of characters. That’s what appeals to me about that.
TTO: How disappointed were you when they killed Joxer on Xena.
TR: I wasn’t disappointed. I knew it was the sixth season, and it was pretty much time for Joxer to go. But I was sad to see him go. I’d enjoyed my time there. It was a wonderful six years of my life – I’ll never forget it as long as I live. I made friends that will last me a lifetime.
TTO: What are you working on next?
TR: I just finished directing my first web-series. It’s an eight-part web series, it’s calling Playing Dead. I’m very proud of it. It’s got some excellent talent that I’ve known in LA for a long time, and I’ve got the coolest bands from Detroit, Michigan.
A gal named Suzanne Keilly wrote it. I thought it was hysterical and could be done on a budget. It’s very cinematic and bitingly funny, so I couldn’t say no.