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Actress 'Lucy Lawless' The Enduring "Coolness" Of A Free Spirit
by Bridget Petrella with additional editing by Sonia Satra

A 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 dynamic."

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 medium."

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 (laughs)."

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)."

UPBEAT 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 slot." 

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 my mind."

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."

UPBEAT 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 to it."

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 ‘Spiderman’.
Lucy Lawless
"It was actually a cameo."

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 Vegas."

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 industry?
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 job."

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 way.
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 broad."

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 does."

UPBEAT So, what type of role could you envision yourself playing on that show?
Lucy Lawless
"(laughs) The more outrageous the better."

UPBEAT 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 network offerings?
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 television." UB