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Callisto: The Barbara Walters Interview

transcription provided by G. Gaar, Ltd., and S. Despenich, Inc.

OPENING SHOT: the main set on "20/20."

HUGH DOWNS: For our next segment, we go out of this world - literally. Tartarus is the mythical realm of the Underworld, but there's nothing mythical about our next guest. She's terrorized much of the known world, yet she claims her marauding mayhem is simply her way of expressing her devotion to the woman she most admires. Barbara Walters talks to the woman who is simply - Callisto.

CUT TO close up of CALLISTO in full scream; pull back to stock footage of her in some battle or other. BARBARA WALTERS voice over.

BARBARA WALTERS: Of all the characters in the time of ancient gods, perhaps none has provoked such heated controversy as Callisto. From a young girl, living in the now-demolished village of Sirrah, to the Warrior Queen striking terror in the hearts of everyone she meets, Callisto's journey has undeniably been a eventful one.

END voice over. CUT TO BARBARA standing in a lush green field.

BARBARA: This is where Callisto's story began. Over twenty years ago, this was the bustling village of Sirrah, where Callisto lived with her family. But her idllyic country life came to a sudden end when Xena, and her army, came to town.

CUT TO footage of stock footage of XENA from her bad old days, in some battle or other. BARBARA's voice over continues.

BARBARA: Xena, at that time, was a fierce warlord, and her raid of Sirrah resulted in the death of most of the villagers - including Callisto's family. By the time Callisto was old enough to avenge her family's death, Xena had seen the error of her ways and now devoted her life to protecting the lives of those she would have previously destroyed. Callisto found herself torn between her admiration for the Warrior Princess' skill and her desire for Xena's death. (CUT TO footage of CALLISTO and XENA battling together) Callisto's failed attempt to poison Xena launched a series of battles between the two warriors, which ultimately resulted in Callisto being sent to prison. (CUT TO footage of CALLISTO and XENA racing chariots, CALLISTO's death) Months later, Callisto escaped, and returned to fight Xena again, a fight that ended in tragedy when Callisto drowned in quicksand. But even death couldn't contain her irrepressible spirit. Callisto soon escaped from Tartarus with help from Ares, the God of War, who also arranged for her to switch bodies with none other than her old nemesis - Xena.

CUT TO CALLISTO and BARBARA walking through Tartarus together, CALLISTO pointing out various sites of interest

BARBARA: The two were eventually switched back into their own bodies, and Callisto was returned to Tartarus.

END voice over

CALLISTO (points to her right): ...and over there's the bottomless pit of fire.

BARBARA: The bottomless pit of fire.

CALLISTO: Right. Fire's a pretty standard torture device down here. And of course, it has a lot of personal meaning in my own life. (they pass by Tantalus, up to his neck in the lake). Hi, Tantalus. Still thirsty?

TANTALUS: Every day, Callisto.

CALLISTO: Every day, every day! (laughs) That's a little joke of ours. Helps to make things a bit more bearable around here. (looks ahead) And now...we're coming up to might not want to look.

They continue to walk. CUT TO the interview room. They enter. CALLISTO sits in her beautiful throne, BARBARA in the usual overstuffed chair. A small table between them, with a floral spray, teapot, cups. BARBARA's voice over continues as they settle

BARBARA: Though scheduled to endure torture on a daily basis, Hades, God of the Underworld, granted Callisto a special dispensation from her usual regime so she could do this interview. I started by asking her about her unusual choice of where to sit.

END voice over

BARBARA: The chair you're sitting in. It's the exact same chair you were strapped to when you were in prison.


BARBARA: For months you weren't able to move your hands, your legs, even your head when you were in that chair - how can you possibly bear to sit in it now?

CALLISTO: Well, Barbara...I found confinement to be...something of a release for me. When I strapped Xena in this chair, and said it would bring her peace if she'd let it, I wasn't just taunting her. All those months when I couldn't move forced me to take a closer took at who I really am. I've always been a pretty physically active person, but being restrained like that really helped me learn that true empowerment comes from within. So when I broke out of prison, I couldn't leave it behind. It taught me a lesson I didn't want to forget.


CALLISTO (grins): You'd like to sit in it, wouldn't you?

BARBARA: Well...maybe.

CALLISTO: Oh, come on. I can tell you're interested!

BARBARA: You won't strap me down in it, will you?

CALLISTO: You never know! (laughs)

BARBARA: Well, Bob, my cameraman, will be sure to keep things from getting too out of hand...

They both get up. BARBARA gingerly sits down in the beautiful throne. CALLISTO stands behind, showing BARBARA how to position her arms.

CALLISTO: Put your arms rest your head fully on the back...close your see? It takes some getting used to, but as I say...this chair can really bring you peace of mind. If you let it! (giggles)

BARBARA: If I let it. Well. I think you really need to spend more time in it to get the full benefit....

BARBARA gets back up, returns to her own chair, CALLISTO settles in the beautiful throne again.

BARBARA: Let's talk about Xena.

CALLISTO: I'd love to! (giggles)

BARBARA: What was it that attracted you to her?

CALLISTO: Oh...she had a real aura of self-determination about her, you know? When I was growing up, I followed her exploits avidly.

BARBARA: Really?

CALLISTO: Oh, yes.

BARBARA: This was when Xena was a warlord.

CALLISTO: Yes. I didn't really focus on the destruction she caused. It was more that she seemed I mean, she traveled the world, she did whatever she wanted. Sirrah was a nice place, but it really didn't offer much in the way of excitement. I longed for someone - like Xena - to take me away from it all.

BARBARA: And then Xena does arrive and she destroys it all.

CALLISTO: And she didn't take me away with her - she didn't even notice me.

BARBARA: But Callisto - your family was dead. You witnessed the woman you admired murdering your family!

CALLISTO: That's true, but you have to mother. We were never exactly close, and to tell you the truth, I resented the fact that we stayed in a place like Sirrah. I mean, we could've moved! I felt that my family, and particularly my mother, were holding me back. I used to wish my mother was dead....

BARBARA: You did?


BARBARA: Really?

CALLISTO: Yes. So while I mourned my family's death, it was also...liberating in a way. Suddenly *I* was free. And I could do whatever I wanted to.

BARBARA: So why didn't you go and follow Xena?

CALLISTO: Well, I did feel some guilt.... I was very young, remember - I was terribly confused. I couldn't work out what to do. There was a part of me that had amazing guilt, and a part of me that was just like - forget it!

BARBARA: But though you may not have followed Xena, you did end up following in her footsteps. Callisto, you lived through the devastation of seeing your entire family killed, your village destroyed, you know the pain and horror of warlord violence - why do you kill?

CALLISTO: Hmmm. Well, I felt betrayed by Xena, but I still longed for a life like hers. And I guess the only way I could see doing that was to model my life on hers. And I thought that if I was ostensibly killing for a reason - to avenge my family - that would somehow make it all right. But I certainly didn't expect killing to be as much fun as it is!

BARBARA: It's fun?

CALLISTO: Oh yes! Well, there's real artistry in it for one thing, real precision. Did you know, Barbara, that just the simple act of slitting a throat involves moves most medical students don't learn until they're interns? Hmm? Let me show you....

BARBARA (nervous laugh): Show me...?

CALLISTO: Yes. What's your little man's name - Bob? Bob, demonstrate for us that you're not a complete idiot and go and get us a couple of melons, please. I want you to try it too, Barbara. You'll see how challenging and satisfying it can be.

BARBARA: Well, I just don't know....

CALLISTO: Oh, come *on*. Be a sport.

BARBARA: Maybe later.

CALLISTO (stares at her a moment, then shrugs): Whatever. Anyway, the act of taking a life can be pretty exciting too. I mean, it's such a rush! I've never felt more alive than when I'm killing someone - kind of ironic, don'tcha think?

BARBARA: That brings to mind something your mother said....

CALLISTO (sharply): My mother?


CALLISTO (snorts): Hmph! Well, what did she say, then?

BARBARA: I know she once confronted you and said, "Every time you killed, you were killing me." What do you think she meant?

CALLISTO (through gritted teeth): That was my mother's way of getting back at me.

BARBARA: Was that hard for you to hear?

CALLISTO (seething): mother had *nothing* to do with what I've done with my life. Nothing. If it were up to her, I'd have been nothing more than some little farmer's wife, can you imagine? No thank you! She refused to recognize my potential...held me back at every turn...(she begins to sniffle)...she wouldn't let me...*express* was so hard for me in Sirrah...I wanted to leave so badly...(she dabs at her eyes with kleenex)...I'm sorry....

BARBARA: Let's talk about something else, all right?

CALLISTO: No! No. Let's finish it. It's what everyone wants to know. (takes a deep breath, regains her composure) I became a warrior for one reason - to be close to the woman who's inspired me above all others. Xena. And nothing - and nobody - is going to keep me from that. Especially not some small-minded know-it-all in a two-bit town with no *idea* of who I really was. People want to know why I did the things I've done? It's very simple. Everything I've done, I've done for Xena.

BARBARA: But Xena's reformed.

CALLISTO: Oh! That reform is only skin deep. She's still got that bloodlust in her.

BARBARA: You think?

CALLISTO: Oh, yes. Once you're tasted it, you never forget.

BARBARA: Some people say Gabrielle has soothed Xena's bloodlust.

CALLISTO: Gabrielle! (snorts) What that irritating little blonde could possibly know about anything...let alone bloodlust...I simply *can't* imagine. (rolls her eyes, shakes her head) Now, that's an attraction I really don't understand. Especially since Xena knows, by now, of my devotion to her. I mean, a *staff*. The girl uses a *staff* when she "fights." I'll admit it's something you can derive some pleasure from, but there's really nothing like the feel, the sound, the *smell* of metal piercing flesh. Oooh, yes. (she leans back in the beautiful throne, clenching her hands, stroking her throat, etc.) It's such a visceral delight....

BARBARA: Er, yes, I think we've covered that previously....

CALLISTO: ...and I never *can* decide whether I prefer delivering a quick or a slow death....

BARBARA: Ah, if we could just move along here....

CALLISTO: ...a quick death is a sign of skill, and a job well done, but with a slow death you really get to experience life in all its agonizing glory...quite's an incredible sensation, Barbara.... (closes her eyes, inhales sharply, then exhales) Ahhhhhh....

BARBARA: Yes. Well. You often talk about your mother, but we never hear you mention your father.

CALLISTO (her eyes pop open. She glares): I don't talk about him. Ever.


CALLISTO: That's my decision. End of discussion.

BARBARA: Okay...let's talk about the other men in your life. (CALLISTO smirks) Theodorus was one of your most loyal soldiers, yet you had no difficulty slaughtering him in cold blood.

CALLISTO: Ah, Theodorus.... (a pause. She shrugs) Whatever.

BARBARA: Then there was your dalliance with Ares....

CALLISTO: Well, that was primarily for Xena's benefit. (giggles)

BARBARA: What do you mean, "benefit"?

CALLISTO (laughs): Oh, Barbara! We're both girls here!

BARBARA: Well, on a similar theme, you once said, "Love is a trick that nature plays to get us to reproduce. I want no part of it." Do you still feel that way?

CALLISTO: That's seriously your question?


CALLISTO (yawns): Of course. Next?

BARBARA: I want to ask you a question I ask a lot - what's the biggest misconception about you?

CALLISTO: That way down deep, I'm "sugar and spice and everything nice." That somehow I could be "reformed." Or that I'd even *want* to be. (laughs).

BARBARA: You know that these are the things people say about you....

CALLISTO: And to them, I say - don't think you've quite got the whole picture there! (laughs) This is who I am. Why should I be ashamed of that? I worked hard to get here. Very hard! It's not like I went around randomly laying waste to the countryside, you know. There's a great deal of thought involved in pillaging. Where to go, how many to kill - there's a lot of decision making to consider. I'm not going to curb my (smiles) "appetites" because of what a few nay-sayers might think. Committing murder has always given me...satisfaction. (grins broadly)

BARBARA: Is that over?

CALLISTO: Oh, no. I don't think so! (laughs)

BARBARA: One of the most curious episodes in your life involved your switching bodies with Xena. This was your way of - what?

CALLISTO: a way, I suppose I was just trying to get closer to her.

BARBARA: But you still fought with each other.

CALLISTO: Oh, well, that's just part of the ritual. After that preliminary skirmishing, I'm sure we would've settled down to have a nice chat.

BARBARA: Hadn't you kidnapped Xena's entire village at that point? And threatened to burn the villagers - including Xena's mother - in retalliation for your family's death?

CALLISTO (waves her hand dismissively): That was just to get Xena's attention. Purely for effect. I mean, no one got hurt, did they? I admit sometimes I can get carried away... (she looks off in the distance, drums her fingers together, smiles) ...but after all, I'm only human. In spite of what you may have read about me, folks! (laughs)

BARBARA: Callisto, your life reads like a novel that no one would believe.

CALLISTO: It's true!

BARBARA: Where do you think you will be in five years?

CALLISTO: Hmm. Well, I'm always striving to perfect my, ah, "technique." (smiles) Sure you don't want to have a go on those melons? You won't have any problems asking for a raise again, believe me....

BARBARA: Err, no thank you.

CALLISTO: Tsk-tsk-tsk! Barbara, I am so disappointed (shrugs) Your loss. Oh...I do hope Xena and I can come to some sort of an understanding.

BARBARA: Here in the Underworld?

CALLISTO: Oh no. Back on earth. I do hope to get out of Tartarus again one day. With or without the help of the Gods. Hope springs eternal!

BARBARA: Are the Gods really that easy to manipulate?

CALLISTO (laughs): Oh, Barbara - of course they are! A wink here, a smile there - that kind of thing gets around them every time. The Gods are just like you and me, you know. Except they don't die.

BARBARA: And apparently, neither do you!

They laugh

CUT to the "20/20" set.

HUGH (chuckling): Very interesting!

BARBARA: You know, when I met Callisto, I was expecting a cold, unfeeling, psychotic killing machine. Well, you know her reputation.

HUGH: Oh, yes.

BARBARA: But I found she's really a very misunderstood young lady, with a great deal of charm, poise, and sophistication.

HUGH: She certainly seems to be! So, what's next for Callisto?

BARBARA: Right now, she's still serving time in Tartarus for her many crimes. But, as I think you can tell from tonight's interview, there are many more pages in Callisto's story still to be written.

HUGH: She's one impressive woman!

BARBARA: She is indeed!

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