Hudson Leick

hudsonside2aHudson’s given name is Heidi Hudson Leick.  (Pronounced “Like”).  She had it legally changed to her middle name, Hudson.   She has a May 9th, 1969 birthday and was born in Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hudson Leick’s dramatic roles have ranged from an angel on the CBS series Touched by an Angel, to Callisto, who seems the devil’s own creation. She took Hudson as her first name because it is her grandmother’s maiden name, “and my roots are important.”

Leick modeled in France after high school but, she said, “I wasn’t very good and wasn’t getting a lot of work.” On returning to the States she took an acting class at Nazareth College. For her “improv” she played a mentally-challenged person, and it taught her the power of acting:

“Everyone started laughing at first because they thought it was really funny. But it wasn’t funny to me, I had such a terrible time in high school and it was actually how I felt. And I portrayed this person as having a speech impediment and she was very slow. and she kept saying, “Don’t, don’t,” because these people were throwing rocks at her. And as soon as the audience realized that she was being harmed, it changed everything. People who had made fun of someone because they’re different suddenly saw another human being harmed by their laughter. and it was beautiful for me to be able to share that one that level.”

At the age of 20, Hudson started acting at the Community Theater in Rochester, New York. Between the ages of 21 and 23, she worked in a play called “Neighborhood Playhouse” in New York City. She also worked on a series of after school showcases called “Sexual Considerations”, where the shows focused on teenage issues. Hudson played the role of an 18 year old.

Heading for New York, Leick spent a year as a makeup artist and then two years with a renowned actor’s workshop called the Neighborhood Playhouse, which she loved for its high standards but loathed for its “abusive” criticism of students. She went on to appear in an ABC After school Special and Law and Order. In the TV movie Hijacked, she played a terrorist, and in the series Melrose Place she was a psychotic mischief maker-good training, it turned out, for her recurring role on Xena. Casting director Beth Hymson-Ayer recalled why she went to the unusual step of courting Leick to try out for the part of Callisto:

“I needed a nemesis for Xena who was a total opposite but with the same strengths and the same ferociousness that the old Xena had when she was in Hercules. And Hudson is just a real gutsy lady. She’s very confident and you know she can stand up for herself.”

At her audition for Callisto, Leick was in a mood to rebel against the whole system of casting calls, when she felt were to impersonal:

“It was a very small office, there were tons of other actresses (just outside). And I felt no one understood what it was like to be me, to perform in front of all of them. I just didn’t like it. And I thought, “You will respect me. I am a human being and I am here.” I remember looking at every human being in the room and shaking all of their hands and saying, “Hello, and what’s your name, who are you?” That kind of ruffled everyone’s feathers. Not that they were upset, they were just, like, “Whoa! What is this? What is she about?”

Producer Liz Friedman recalled the session:

“When Beth Hymson-Ayer said, “Any questions,” Hudson said, “Yes, I have a question. Who is everybody?” And she went around to each person making incredibly close eye contact! It was spooky!”

Later R.J. Stewart confided to Leick, “When you came in, everyone was so afraid of you! But I said, “Well, if we’re scared of her, she should get the part of Callisto!’ “

Remarkably, Leick later won the part of Xena as well. In an episode called “Intimate Stranger,” Callisto escapes from Tartarus by switching bodies with Xena. When Lucy Lawless suffered a riding accident, the ending was reedited to keep Xena in Callisto’s body long enough to let Leick portray her in the next episode, “Ten Little Warlords.” Leick delivered a fine, controlled performance as Xena, though she looks back uncomfortably on this unique interlude in the series and her own career:

“It’s something I just do not want to remember. I just showed up and tried to imitate something. I kept my voice at a lower octave, staying in more of a monotone, because I imagine Lucy as like John Wayne, you know? And Renee would help me. I’d say, “What would she do, what would she do right now? Because I had no clue what to do! and she’d put her arm on me and she’d show me. But I felt there was not a lot of spirit in my performance, and I kept thinking, “No one’s going to like it. They’re all going to say, “Well, she’s no Lucy Lawless.’ ” And I’m not.”

Leick was less surprised by her casting call in 1997 for the series Touched by an Angel, despite her reputation for flamboyant villainy:

“I’m really spiritual. I don’t have a religion but i believe in some thing much greater than myself. I believe in soul-searching and finding kindness and love with another human being. And myself, for that matter. So when I went in for this role. I didn’t just treat it as another role……Because there’s a part of me that is like Callisto and full of rage, but there’s a part of me that is really angelic and….. really soft. So I just connected to that part.”

Leick considered one of the best aspects of working on Xena to be the strong presence of women in the cast and crew, which she said strongly influences the atmosphere on set:

“The women on Xena are amazingly kind, and we’ve bonded together. The testosterone level on Hercules is just so much stronger. You don’t get the same feeling when you’re working on Xena. You don’t think, “O.K., I’m in this leather bikini”- but when I was doing Herc, I did feel that way.”

Off the set Leick relaxes with her dogs Griffin and Zu (short for Zulu), goes dancing, and enjoys yoga. Asked about her ambitions, she said:

“I’ve had material things: money, men, beauty, some success. But there has to be more spiritually. More than people ever talk about on a group level, except maybe the Native Americans. Their idea of religion helps connect them to the earth. That’s important to me.”

Leick’s charisma as Callisto led the editors in Los Angeles to dub the blond actress “Malibu Xena,” much to Leick’s amusement. Others on the production have called her “Xena Junior.”

Lucy Lawless went further still in praising Leick:

“Well, I think we got something better than that. We got a much stronger foe because she was different and weirder and very strong.”

Asked whether Leick would continue to bedevil Xena as Callisto, Lawless said,

“Well I certainly hope so. When you get a great foe, you don’t want to lose them!” She will always be welcome here with us.”

Hudson still does conventions. She’s been practicing yoga for over 20 years, is a member of the California Yoga Teacher’s Association, and she currently is an instructor with Healing Hearts Yoga. She just finished authoring a cookbook, called “Yum!”. You can read more about Hudson’s life today over at her website.

Read Whoosh’s Interview With Hudson Leick.

Read’s 8/27/98 chat transcript.


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