Karl Urban Isn't The Lord Of The Rings' Only Connection To Xena: Warrior Princess

Before Karl Urban was in "The Boys," he played characters who love swords and shields as much as Billy Butcher loves killing supes. There's his role as Skurge in "Thor: Ragnarok" and as Éomer in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, as well as the box-office dud "Pathfinder" or any of his various appearances in the Riddick films as Vaako. The reason for Urban's casting in this niche probably has something to do with the two television series that make up a large part of his early career: "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess." 

Although Urban first appeared in "Hercules" as Cupid in the season 3 episode "The Green Eyed Monster," he's better known for the recurring character Julius Caesar in the spin-off "Xena" (the character also appears in a later episode of "Hercules," which ran concurrently). The actor also played two other guest roles in "Xena": the father-drugging psychopath Mael and the nomadic human Kor. 

Urban's experience working on "Hercules" and "Xena" led to his pivotal casting in "The Two Towers," which was a breakout role for the New Zealand actor. Yet, Urban isn't the only connection between "Xena" and "Lord of the Rings": the popular '90s series helped develop New Zealand's status as an ideal fantasy landscape for film and television — a sentiment Peter Jackson would ultimately cement by filming "Lord of the Rings" in his home country, changing the lives of many New Zealanders in the process (Karl Urban included).

New Zealand becomes a fantasy filming destination thanks to Xena and Hercules series

While scouting for locations, "Hercules" and "Xena" co-creator Robert Tapert soon realized that New Zealand was a "production gold mine" and even looked like "different land in time."  The reverence for New Zealand's landscape that started with Tapert's decision to film episodes of "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess" has only continued to grow since. It's the same reason Peter Jackson would set his heart on using his home country as the staging ground for his "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, using twenty different locations to bring Middle-Earth to life.

Making "Hercules" and "Xena" in New Zealand had a huge impact on the country's film scene. "And that was an incredible experience for a multitude of reasons," Urban told GQ. "It was the first time that a show of that production value had really been shot in New Zealand. And it really upskilled everybody, not only just actors, but also the crew." 

Peter Jackson cherry-picked from Xena and Hercules crew for The Lord of the Rings

As Urban told GQ, Jackson effectively "cherry-picked" the cast and crew from "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" for his ambitious trilogy. He points specifically to costume designer Ngila Dickson who, alongside Richard Taylor (leader of the New Zealand special effects company Wētā Workshop), rightfully won an Academy Award for the 19,000-strong wardrobe they created. But there's also Christian Rivers, who created the fantastic storyboards for the trilogy; Grant Major and Dan Hennah, the architects who turned the storyboards into reality; and jeweler Jasmine Watson, who made everything from Arwen's Evenstar to Galadriel's ring of power. 

Urban also wasn't the only New Zealand actor onset: the roles of Sauron, Lurtz, Haldir, and Isildur were also played by actors from the country. "So, that show was really vital for the New Zealand film industry in a lot of ways," he said. "And was an incredible learning experience for all of us. I really always enjoy playing villains."

And with Urban's devilish charm — who wouldn't enjoy a good villain? But speaking of villains, turns out his "The Boys" co-star Antony Starr aka Homelander has his own link to "Xena: Warrior Princess." As one Reddit user recently discovered, the New Zealand actor has a cameo in the episode "Giant Killer" from the second season and he even flashes one of his characteristic grimaces in it!