confirmed survivor, actress Lucy Lawless possesses a serene yet bold
confidence. She can thoughtfully seduce anyone with a pure candor that
comes from a untold place within the foundation of her soul. So what's
Lucy Lawless really like? She's a true New Zealander to the marrow, a
woman whose openness and unspoiled sense of sincerity are precisely the
reasons why she was able to come across to millions upon millions of
viewers as, "the real thing", an independent straight-shooter
who can look you in the eye, even when she's being somewhat evasive.
However, upon closer observation, Lawless turns out to be that most
surprising of celebrities, a truly modest woman with an intelligent wit
that's downright disarming. It's not necessarily what she says that
makes you pay attention to her; to the contrary, it's what she doesn't
say. In terms of honesty and compassion, she's not negotiable. A devoted
mother of two, she actually has a normal life and an inherent
understanding of how she's meant to live that life. And all of the
celebrity status in the world isn’t going to deter her from it, and
who she turns out to be. Regardless of the hype and hoopla attached to
her once "warrior princess" persona, she’s so much more than
the sum of her collective roles. Still, there's something indefinable
that’s a bit difficult to articulate at the very center of Lawless.
She is an extraordinarily diverse actress whose take on the world is
capricious and precise. She’s also positively mesmerizing to watch, no
matter what character she happens to take on.
One of the things I found to be especially endearing about this
exceptional woman is her complete understanding of the very nature of
being "human". She embraces her life with an ambitious energy,
an energy that‘s contagious if you talk with her long enough. Whether
it’s the power of her on screen presence or the unobtrusive nature of
her professed passion for acting, she is both entrancing and pleasantly
unassuming. Trust me, it’s all too rare in this business to discover
an actress who cares so wholly for humanity and doing something that
truly "matters" in the big scheme of things, both on and off
camera. Lucy Lawless is considered by many to be a pop culture icon and
perhaps a bit of an enigma of sorts, I simply saw her as sensitive and
caring, charming and funny... someone I could easily trust enough to
share a really personal story with, over a good cup of coffee.
UPBEAT Your 'X-Files' character Shannon McMahon— is mysterious,
elusive and for the most part... naked... Now is her need to be naked
symbolic in that perhaps she really has nothing to hide?
Lucy Lawless "I wish I had thought
of that. (laughs) I think it just makes her more hydra, not
UPBEAT All that we've been able to uncover is that she's someone who
served in the military with Agent Doggett, other than that, we can only
assume she had a few standing memberships at the local nudist camp.
Lucy Lawless "(laughs) She does
have information pertaining to Scully’s baby. She’s a considerable
threat, so essentially, they’re all a bit threatened by her, and they
don’t quite know what to do with her. She ostensibly, spells a whole
lot of trouble."
UPBEAT I noticed in the 'X-Files' ad teaser that she drove someone
off of a bridge and into the water.
Lucy Lawless "Water is her
UPBEAT Okay, let's get the "butt double" stuff out of the
way as quickly as possible (laughs), you had a butt double for your role
on the X-Files, correct?
Lucy Lawless "You betcha
UPBEAT Don’t you think it would be really cool if we could all have
butt doubles in real life? i.e. I can’t make it to the beach so I’m
sending my butt double...
Lucy Lawless "(laughs) Oh yeah,
that would be cool (laughs)."
Let’s talk about the Xena Series Finale. You recently went on record
saying that you never wanted to hurt the fans by killing off Xena... so
would you have changed the ending, knowing what you know now?
Lucy Lawless "The truth is, I
liked the ending. I really did. It was gutsy. It was dramatic. It was
bold. I mean, I’m not sorry about a lot of it. I am sorry that people
were hurt by it, because it meant something else to them... it meant
something that we really hadn’t counted on when we put it all
together. It was never our intention to hurt anyone. I do know that a
lot of people don’t quite understand exactly what it takes to actually
put a show like ‘Xena’ on the air each week. It’s a tremendous
amount of long hours and hard work. I mean, there are hundreds upon
hundreds of amazingly talented people, all lined up and working
relentlessly, just keeping everything moving in the right direction,
making sure we get everything out ‘on time’. And hopefully, in the
process, we’ll get all of the pieces of the puzzle to fit together
correctly— so that they make some sort of sense in the allotted time.
And sometimes, when you finish it all, you’re ‘way over’ in terms
of what you can fit into a commercial hour, so then you have to go back
and hack bits and pieces out. And let me just tell you that it’s
pretty damn heartbreaking for the director, as well as the rest of us,
to make all of the necessary cuts, just to get it to fit into a time
UPBEAT Did you ever anticipate that perhaps the finale might not be
well received by the fans?
Lucy Lawless "I did know that some
people wouldn’t like it. But actually, you know, I really thought some
people would be pleased with it, in some aspects. Again, it was a
strong, tough, bold, dramatic choice. And we all worked so very hard on
it. We put our hearts into every last minute of it. We never took the
‘easy way’ out on ‘Xena‘, never. And in the end, we really
stayed true to that. But we all loved the show very much. And you know
as well as I do that they will eventually resurrect that character
again, she’s far too great a character not to resurrect. So they will
find a way to do that. Xena will return. But as of yet, there‘s been
no talk of reviving it, at least not at this stage. But I have to assume
that they will. "
UPBEAT So nothing definite has been discussed ?
Lucy Lawless "No. But it must
be a possibility. I mean, someone took out a full page cover ad in Daily
Variety to promote The Director‘s Cut, and for a TV Show that‘s been
cancelled to have a full page ad in a trade publication, that just blows
UPBEAT But again, I have to tell you, ‘Xena’ made a tremendous
impact on pop culture as we know it. 20 years from now, people will
still be watching ‘Xena’.
Lucy Lawless "Oh I agree. I think
they will too, because it’s campy and fun and a number of the themes
were so universal in their appeal."
You also said that you didn’t necessarily subscribe to the whole
‘soul mates’ concept. Was that just a personal statement as to your
own perspective on ‘soul mates’?
Lucy Lawless "I think that
personally, I don’t apply any of that concept to my own life. I think
that there are a number of ‘ideal mates’ out there, and when you
find one, you ought to stick with them because— if a really healthy
vital relationship was a 12 step program, and you somehow manage to get
to step number 8, why dip out when you’re having a rough patch— only
to go through steps 1 through 8 all over again with somebody else—
what are you going to do, keep repeating the steps? I guess that’s
always been my theory, I mean, like I said, there are a number of these
‘ideal partners’ on the planet for you, they’re just really hard
to find. In my opinion, two halves do not make a whole, but two
‘whole’ people can make a great healthy relationship. So the thought
of having another human being who ‘completes’ you, as Jerry Maguire
said, is a bit unrealistic, because, let’s face it, no one is going to
make you happy all of the time, that’s something you have to do from
within first. That’s why I don’t subscribe to the whole ‘soul
mates’ concept, because to me, it sounds like you’re waiting for
someone to come along and fill in all of the gaps in your psyche and
that’s just not possible. I’m afraid that it can become a bit of a
trap. I also don’t think we’re meant to be blissed out all of the
time, that would essentially stop us from growing and evolving."
UPBEAT TNT bought the rights to ‘The Pretender’, which was over
on NBC and they started making a series of original movies, because the
fans made such an outcry, so essentially, ‘The Pretender’ has been
resurrected. I wonder if the same thing might happen with ‘Xena’
over at Oxygen.
Lucy Lawless "I have to say that I
don’t really know."
UPBEAT TNT is obviously a much bigger network but I guess one should
never say never...
Lucy Lawless "Oxygen is definitely
smaller, but they’re a wonderful company. I like them so much. I'm not
really sure who owns the movie rights to ‘Xena’ at this point. So
I‘m not quite sure how that might play out."
UPBEAT If they approached you a couple years from now, to do a
‘Xena’ movie, would you be open to do it?
Lucy Lawless "I don’t know,
I’ll tell you then (laughs)."
UPBEAT I guess it would all depend on whether or not the butt double
was still available (laughs).
Lucy Lawless "(laughs) Yeah
(laughs) I want you to upgrade me to a five star butt double (laughs).
But like you said, one should never say never. I can’t say never,
‘cause it’s such a cool role. And I‘m sure as time goes by and
I‘m finally feeling some normalcy in my life, I'm sure I‘ll be open
UPBEAT I would imagine you want to finally take a break right about
now, you’ve been working pretty consistently since you left
‘Xena’, haven’t you?
Lucy Lawless "Not really, I did
‘X-Files’ and I’ve also been doing a lot of work for The Starship
Hospital, but for the most part, I’ve really just been recuperating
from ‘Xena‘. I mean, at some point, my brain just shorted out
(laughs), it was exhausting for me."
UPBEAT How many hours a day were you working on ‘Xena’?
Lucy Lawless "12, sometimes 14,
but the thing was, from the minute I got there, I was going, constantly,
non-stop. There was never somewhere that Renee and I didn’t have to
be, all the time. I mean, we never got a day off. But at the same time,
we loved it. It was a really great family and there was no distinction
between cast and crew on our set. I mean, we ate together, partied
together. We’re all great friends."
UPBEAT You recently did a small stint for Sam Raimi, in
Lucy Lawless "It was actually a
UPBEAT So if we blink, we might miss you (laughs).
Lucy Lawless "You might miss me
even if you don’t blink, it might have been edited out by now
(laughs). I did it because I happened to be in New York at the time.
Actually, I stepped out of my hotel room and they were filming right on
the sidewalk, so I went up to say ‘Hi’ to Sam and he says, ‘Go get
into costume‘ and at first I was supposed to be this high society
lady, and I said, ‘What about a punk rocker? You know, they‘re
reviving that whole movement‘, and he said ‘Cool’ and we just had
a lot of fun, with my tiny little 2 second spot (laughs)."
UPBEAT Say you had the next two years off, with substantial pay. What
would you do with all that time? Would you hang out?
Lucy Lawless "I seem to be doing
just that (laughs). My life is so full of doing nothing right now, I
hardly have a moment (laughs)."
UPBEAT But you’re a Mom, so that’s pretty filling...
Lucy Lawless "Yes, being a stay at
home Mom is plenty filling (laughs)."
UPBEAT Tell us your favorite Elvis movie.
Lucy Lawless "(singing) Viva Las
UPBEAT Name something New Zealanders eat all the time that people in
other places might find odd.
Lucy Lawless "Vegemite."
UPBEAT Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Lucy Lawless "I would like to be
doing a sitcom or at least two movies a year, two movies that I really
‘dig’ a year, that would be really cool."
UPBEAT Have you ever considered producing your own television show?
Lucy Lawless "Developing my own
television show, yes. I don’t know that I would ever want to produce.
I’m a pure actor by nature, that’s the truth, so if I did anything
else, I would probably write. It’s one thing to develop your own show,
but the day to day producing, is not something I would be passionate
about. It’s basically a lot of people management and story management,
that sort of stuff— it’s just not my cup of blood."
UPBEAT What is your hope for the future of the television and film
Lucy Lawless "I would like to see
more mature actors at the top of their game on screen. And I don’t
just mean mature in age necessarily, but also in ability. I recently saw
‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo— and
Rene Russo just blew my mind. I mean, they were both great, but that she
was so wholly the master of her art, I mean, I can only aspire to be
like Rene Russo in that film. I had no idea that she was that incredible
from seeing her previous work. But I’ll tell you this as well, whoever
directed ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’, they got up close and personal
with Rene Russo. The director also did a phenomenal job in shooting the
two leads as equals, and God Bless him for it. I don’t remember the
last time I saw a film that I was so drawn in to the characters, and not
just because they were both brilliant actors, but also because of the
way it was shot."
UPBEAT What inspires you as an actress?
Lucy Lawless "You know, I went to
an amateur play reading recently in New Zealand, and the discussion
afterward was so vibrant that I came away feeling so inspired. I mean,
it was really scintillating and I thought to myself, my God, I haven’t
felt that way in years, so excited by the nuts and bolts of acting. And
a couple of days later an offer came to do ‘The Vagina Monologues’
down in Auckland—"
UPBEAT That’s a really cool play, very empowering for women.
Lucy Lawless "Yeah, it is cool,
and for me, it was about getting back to the roots of acting, about what
I fell in love with in the first place, because it’s about the acting
for me, it’s not about being a star. It’s about doing your damn
UPBEAT So would you prefer to do theater work?
Lucy Lawless "It’s not that I
prefer the theater really, I mean personally, I love film, but you can
get so caught up in the ‘star making’ aspect of a career, certainly
in Hollywood, because that’s very important here— that’s the main
thrust for a lot of people— and in doing that, it’s easy to forget
what acting is really about— and it’s all about the humanity and the
emotion... and bringing that all to life somehow."
UPBEAT Wow. Now that is really inspiring. Not many actors feel that
Lucy Lawless "Thank you.
Eventually as an actor, it comes down to the fact that you have to make
a choice as to what you really want. And I guess in some aspects my own
career focus has shifted a bit. I want to be a fine actress. I want to
make a difference with my work, touch people."
UPBEAT What kind of roles would you like to take on?
Lucy Lawless "I love the complex
roles— I believe every character should have a lot of layers.
They’re often not written that way, but as an actor, it’s your job
to flesh out all the layers of a character... As for a particular role,
I don’t know about anything specific really, I’d just like to do
them all, every sort of role (laughs). A ‘Burning Bed’ type
character, Rene Russo‘s character in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’. I
like to scare the bajeebers out of people, I love to make them laugh,
make them cry— I want more than anything, to make people feel
something, to walk away having been moved by it."
UPBEAT We heard through the grapevine that you are a huge ‘Sex and
The City’ fan, who is your favorite character on that show and why?
Lucy Lawless "Oddly enough I would
have to say that Miranda is my favorite. She‘s a no nonsense kind of
UPBEAT The cynical red head.
Lucy Lawless (laughs) Yep, that's her.
UPBEAT She does have most of the best lines on that show.
Lucy Lawless "(laughs) Yes she
UPBEAT So, what type of role could you envision yourself playing on
Lucy Lawless "(laughs) The more
outrageous the better."
Speaking of shows like 'Sex and The City', what do you think it is that
makes them so successful, more so say— than your typical
Lucy Lawless "I think it’s
because the typical network viewer is still ‘shockable’. There are
still a lot of taboos about sex, things we're taught not to discuss or
explore. Getting back to the play I’m doing in February, in Auckland,
‘The Vagina Monologues’— how few people can say the word
‘vagina’ without hesitation— we’re not used to it. We’re not
taught to feel that vaginas are fantastic, powerful, wonderful objects
that brought us all into the world, that it’s literally the seat of a
woman’s power. Somehow we’ve all been hoodwinked under the guise of
religion. We can say ‘penis’, but ‘vagina’, oh no, that’s
taboo. Anyway, doing Eve Ensler‘s ‘The Vagina Monologues’— I’m
starting my own little movement this February (laughs). And you asked me
what my hope is for the future of television and film— as an addendum
to my previous answer— I also wish they would stop making shows and
changing the dynamics of established shows based on network focus
groups. When I think about it, I guess we were all pretty damn lucky
with ‘Xena’ in that they really left us alone for the most part. I
really don’t think we could have done ‘Xena’ on network