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Saturday, May 25, 2002


By Rob Allstetter/The Comics Continuum

TORONTO -- When the Witchblade pilot movie first aired, John Hensley was with the rest of us, watching from home on TNT. Little did he know then that not only would he be appearing on the show, he'd become a regular cast member.

Hensley was brought on as a recurring guest-star in seven episodes of the first season, playing Gabriel Bowman, proprietor of Talismaniac and an expert on the Witchblade who becomes friends with Sara Pezzini. His insights and Internet knowledge helped Pezzini on many cases and dire situations throughout the first season.

For the second season, which starts on Sunday, June 16, he's back as a lead cast member -- although he says it wasn't always a sure thing.

"Did I anticipate it being a full-time role?" Hensley says. "You know, I didn't know that I did. I really did not know what they wanted to do with the character until they let me know. All I knew, honestly, at the end of last season was that I had a great time doing it and I certainly wanted to come back. So it just worked out well that I got to."

Hensley was an avid comics reader growing up, but didn't know much about Witchblade.

"How I became familiar with the show was that I was the guy who was sitting at home and started seeing these promos on TNT about this thing called Witchblade," he says. "While I wasn't too familiar with the comic book, I was a legitimate audience member at home that got roped into it, just on the two-hour movie. That was before I had any inclination I was working on it."

So, when Hensley's manager came calling about appearing on the show, he was quite familiar with it.

"She told me it was going to be developing into a series and she described the role to me," he says. "We basically then went through the normal mode of things. I was interested in it and they apparently wanted to see me about it, and I basically went in and read for the role -- and that's where it started."

Hensley's Gabriel adds to the elements of intrigue and mystery of Witchblade.

"Obviously, with what I do for a living -- I'm an artifact dealer who is very knowledgeable about the Witchblade -- I'm very in on the situation that Sara has found herself in," Hensley says. "I would say that really, when it's all said and done, as of the end of last season, Gabriel developed a relationship with Sara where, initially he was intrigued by the fact that this woman had the Witchblade, but that sort of switched from caring about the bracelet to caring about the woman who was wearing it.

"I think he and Sara developed this relationship where she was probably the first person in a long time that showed any sense of strength for him, and vice-versa."

With Sara using the Witchblade to rewind time at the end of the first season, Sara and Gabriel will be meeting for the first time again.

"It's really interesting," Hensley says. They do have to start the relationship all over again. Although I sort of feel as though that there's an unsaid and unknown familiarity between the two.

"I don't think that it's anything that's necessarily emphasized where it will be exaggerated as a plot point. However, it's definitely there between them, a sort of underlying feeling that perhaps these two know each other.

"That's kind of a neat thing. Gabriel and Sara's relationship, I describe them to people, in regards to them meeting again, is that it's immediately more intimate and that there's sort of less of a guard between the two of them as they encounter each other again."

Although he says he went through a Punisher phase, Hensley favored the X-Men in his younger years.

"I was really into Gambit," he says. "I kind of liked the fact that he really didn't ultimately know if he was a good guy or a bad guy. He was definitely my favorite; there was something about him being from this clan of thieves from Louisiana. I was really into it, man. He was a cool character."

Hensley went to the world premiere of the X-Men movie at Ellis Island in New York City a couple of summers ago.

"I was blown away by it," he says. "I was really impressed with the movie. I thought they did about as good of a job as they could in bringing those characters to life and making them believable.

"They did a really good job. It's funny, because while I'm an actor, when it comes to something that's based on a comic book, I'm viewing it much more as a comic-book fan in terms of something like that."

Hensley says that keeping the fantastic somewhat real has been a key to recent comics-to-film translations.

"So much has to do with the fact that today the technology is available to bring these stories to life," he says. "Even 10 years ago, it would have been much more of a challenge to bring these stories to life and have them be believable.

"It's definitely the challenge with Witchblade, too. I think we've done pretty well."

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