"Xena: Warrior Princess" stormed TV screens across the world from 1995 to 2001, breaking new grounds for female TV characters. Lucy Lawless embodied this fearless warrior and enchanted a swarm of fans, who continued to be loyal long after the sixth and final season aired. How did this character come about in the nineties, before there was such a thing as a fight for gender equality in Hollywood and a conversation about diversity? We caught up with show writer and producer Steven L. Sears at an Infolist party in Beverly Hills, celebrating the Cannes Film Festival that is in full swing in France.

"It’s hard to say I was inspired, I just thought that’s the way it should be written," says Sears, reflecting on the enduring legacy of his "Xena." "I didn’t realize until much later that writing real female characters reflecting the strong women I knew in my life was unique in the business," he adds. Indeed. "Because for the longest time, women were portrayed in film and television as plot devices, contrivances, or they had to do something that made the male character look really good."

One of his favorite characters was "Wonder Woman," portrayed by Lynda Carter. As someone who produces television, he could see the things that they had to do to appeal to the network. For instance, Wonder Woman was very strong, smart and independent, but then she had to become a little feminine and giggle a little, on every episode, trying to apologize for that strength by reassuring the guys that she was still their girl.

"We’ve come very far from that," he asserts.

TV in the 90's

"Xena: Warrior Princess" came about in 1995, when teenagers were still longing for Jordan Catalano in "My so-called life," Elaine didn't give a damn in "Seinfeld," and everyone wanted to have Jennifer Aniston's hair in "Friends." There were plenty of female characters to go around, but Steven L.

Sears thinks most of them had problems.

"A lot of shows were trying to take advantage of the female market by doing characters with two mistakes," he explains. In some cases, they were putting them together incorrectly: if a woman could beat up a guy, she was a strong character. "But it’s much more than physical," the producer argues.

"For the people writing female characters, all they were doing was writing guys with breasts. They were not exploring the characters." That's because television back then was based on advertising income, so the shows needed to appease both the network and the advertisers. "The majority of the audience had not yet transitioned into the idea," says Sears, "and women were programmed like that as well. Women accepted that. We all did."

The princess lives on

Sixteen years after its final season, "Xena: Warrior Princess" still has a cult following. Xena was an inspiration to many women, not only because of her physical abilities – strong and thick, kicking ass – but also because of her mental strength, with all the flaws that made her a different heroine, and her relationship with Gabrielle (an icon for the lesbian community).

The show has been credited with inspiring a slew of other series and characters, such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and Beatrix Kiddo in "Kill Bill."

Steven L. Sears knows how powerful fans can be: he says Xena followers still gather, even though the last Xena Con was held in 2015, and together they have raised tens of millions of dollars for charity. "It's amazing."