Many thanks to Wendy for the scans
Transcribed by MaryD

Lesbian News

Volume 28: Number 6

January 2003

For those interesting in buying a copy of the Lesbian News magazine with Lucy on the cover. You can order it by calling 1-800-4589888 (or if you are in Australia 00111 800 4589888). The price is $7.00 (US) and that includes shipping within the US
(you will need to check for other countries)

Lucy Lawless

In an exclusive interview the actress talks about life after Xena,
love, and her lesbian fans

by Lori Medigovich

For six long years, lesbians around the nation looked to any clue that theirs was a lesbian relationship. They teased us when they gazed lovingly, even longingly into each other's eyes. They teased us even they gently and tenderly embraced. They teased us when they talked so devotedly about each other. When we thought we could finally prove that, yes, they are lesbians, we ran to the Internet to pore over the latest evidence with similarly devoted fans.

Finally, as our heroines shared one last, dripping kiss, we thought that certainly they had proven their lesbian love on national television for the world to see. And yet, when Xena, the Warrior Princess and her comrade, Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor), ended their reign on the small screen, we still weren't completely sure about the full nature of their relationship. Until now.

Because now, Lucy Lawless, the actress we loved to watch while dressed up in the amazing Xena chest plate, short skirt and other revealing accoutrements, has outed her former alter ego. When asked during a recent exclusive telephone interview from her home in New Zealand how she would characterize the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, Lawless is quick and simple in her reply to Lesbian News. "Gay, Gay," she says, "Definitely."

Lawless admits that even she wasn't sure about Xena's sexual orientation until the last episode. But once Gabrielle had to revive Xena by passing water into her mouth, Lawless says it was clear that these two characters were more than just close friends. "There was always a 'well, she might be or she might not be' but when there was that drip of water passing between their lips in the very final scene, that cemented it for me," she says in her thick New Zealander accent. "Now it wasn't just that Xena was bisexual and kinda like her gal pal and they kind of fooled around sometimes, it was "Nope, they're married, man."

During a follow up telephone conversation with the Lesbian News (while Lawless was in Los Angeles scoping out her next project), she more fully explored Xena's sexuality and her past loves. during he final episode of the series, we are introduced to Akemi, who needs Xena's help in slaying a spirit-gobbling ghost. Akemi and Xena met years earlier, when Xena was still an evil Warrior Princess. Lawless says it was Akemi who turned Xena around, in more ways than one.

"Akemi was Xena's first love, her coming out relationship," Lawless says. "She was the one who turned her on to her true sexuality. I don't know what she (Xena) was doing with all those guys in the first season."

When Xena introduces Gabrielle as her soul mate to Akemi in the final episode, Lawless says it almost made her feel like she had lied about the nature of her characters' relationship while doing numerous press interviews throughout those years. "People would ask me and I would hedge because she's had all those boyfriends and I would say "I don't know, whatever they do in their own time is nobody's business," Lawless explains. "Had I known about Akemi before the last episode of the sixth season, I would have gone "Yeah, I think she is. I absolutely think she is." But not until then would I say that."

If the woman who played the character herself wasn't completely sure about the relationship, no wonder it kept so many of guessing and so intrigued. But Lawless says that the more she thought about it, the more she realizes that Xena changed for only two people, Akemi and Gabrielle. "the change for Akemi was she redeemed herself ultimately." Lawless explains. "She was making amends. I think she came out of the closet for Akemi. the change she for Gabrielle was she became a much fuller, better human being.

While it might seem over the top to talk about a television character as if she was real, there are some lesbian who were heartbroken at the way the series ended. In a bloody, yet emotional, final show, Xena's body was decapitated and the Warrior Princess was left as a ghost to travel the world at Gabrielle's side. whether it was the decapitation itself or Xena's death that was most upsetting to her viewers is unclear, but Lawless seems genuinely sorry that some fans came away from the final episode so angry. Lawless admits to never taking the characters seriously and to simply enjoying the acting, the people she worked with and the fun of the project. Yet once she realized that the ending upset some fans, she began to reconsider her stance.

"The outcry afterwards perplexed me in some ways because Xena was never real to me or to those of us who were making it," she says. "You know, this was just some crazy game we were playing. That's really how it seemed. And yet now that I've had a little more contact with some fans of the show and I understand that they had taken those characters to their heart, they had really identified very strongly with them. So for that, for them, I am sorry.

"I'm sorry that they felt so cheated by the ending," she adds. "And perhaps it wasn't just having her head cut off, perhaps they wanted Xena and Gabrielle to walk off I into the sunset and continue with their lives and somehow magically raise some children together. But if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. That was always a career hazard in this business and life is real tough."

"So if Xena was a lesbian all along, why the teasing between her and Gabrielle? Why didn't the writers and the producer, Lawless' husband, Rob Tapert, allow us to revel in the glory of two larger than life, lesbian mythic heroines? Or perhaps the lesbian subtext was exactly what was needed. Perhaps the friendship and the devotion between Xena and Gabrielle didn't need any further explanation. Perhaps those characters showed that there is much more to lesbian love that just sex.

"The show wasn't about "let's sit down and watch two people make house," Lawless says. "It's not about that. It's about human endeavor and good and evil and all those big, universal themes. It's not a bloody day to day let's make house sort of thing and see who pulls out of the frying pan. That's somebody else's show.

"I think what they're {lesbians who would have liked the characters to be clearly out} expressing is a need to see themselves represented on television generally. But remember, this is a fantasy show. It's not about the mundane aspect of life. Maybe they wanted to see a gay Thirtysomething, you know?"

Perhaps we long for any chance to be represented in the mass media by a couple of strong, kick-ass characters like Xena and Gabrielle, living their lives without men and slaying all sorts of demons, both figuratively and literally. Lawless hopes that, despite the years of teasing and the way in which it ended, the lesbian fans were not disappointed in the program.

"I don't know, we're just one little show, guys," Lawless says. "And it got way bigger than any of us ever dreamed and I guess it could never live up to everyone's expectations."

Perhaps the expectation on had about this fantasy program had a lot to do with their perspective. While may of us saw the Xena/Gabrielle relationship as containing an obvious lesbian subtext, others never saw it that way. Lawless says that when O'Connor went to Texas one Christmas to visit friends and family, she alluded to the lesbian subtext and they didn't understand what she was talking about. Lawless thinks this is a positive thing. "Each demographic took something different from it," she says. "It had a really wide demographic appeal. So if it pleased a lot of people in different ways that's not a bad thing."

Not that Lawless had any problem playing a lesbian Warrior Princess. The 34 year old actress says she's never been uptight about anyone's sexuality and attributes that to her parents. Although they were Catholic, on of her mother's best friends was gay, so she learned at an early age to accept people for who they are.

"I embrace all people," she says. "I just like people. It makes no difference to me whatsoever. I feel sorry for those people who haven't got an open mind to gay people or anyone else. They're missing out on a wonderful lot of human beings, a lot of fabulous people."

Lawless laughs when asked if she had any gay or lesbian friends because she seems to think that the answer is so obvious. "Yeah, of course I do," she says. "My doctor and my midwife happen to be a lesbian couple. Of course I do. Plenty of people do, maybe they just don't know it."

Since leaving Xena: Warrior Princess, Lawless has been keeping that doctor and midwife relatively busy. Last May she gave birth to son Judah, who joined 3 year old Julius and 14 year old Daily. Daisy was a product of her first marriage to Garth Lawless, who gave Lucy her heroic last name. In fact, if one of her three children eventually comes t her and tells her that he or she is gay, Lawless says her response will be: "Great! Have you met anybody? I want to meet them."

Despite the apparent final ending of Xena and the series, Lawless assures her fans that if there is a way to resurrect the character, she and Tapert will do so. "The ol' girl aint dead yet," she says "Of course there is a way for her to come back. My husband loves Xena so much and he's the leading proponent of Xena sequels and prequels and blah, blah. He would love to do that so much."

She's open to reprising the character and hopes to do so within the next three years because she's not sure she wants to be running around in that Xena outfit when she's 40. This time, though, she would like to see Xena on the big screen and in a modern day setting. "I would like to see Xena and Gabrielle running about in modern day New York," she says "There's a lot of trouble these days for super heroes to solve. I think there's a real sense of people wanting a hero at the moment. It could be a slightly lighthearted way to have a bit of escapism and something's that gonna make you feel like the world's gonna be OK. We always wanted the show to be about the triumph of good and ultimately that the good stuff wins out. We're all drawn to that, we all want to believe that, especially these days."

While the project simmers on a backburner, Lawless is in Los Angeles working with writers and network executives on a new television program. This time she wants to try a half hour sitcom Although she refuses to name the network, she admits to having enough backing that the show could appear in the Fall 2003 lineup. "We've got some awesome support out there, but we just want to make sure that we've got an idea that's worthy of doing."

In addition to this project, you might have noticed Lawless is a cameo role in the recent Spiderman movie. You can also catch her in a guest appearance in the New Zealand film "I'll Make You Happy", recently released in the States on DVD (Ariztical Entertainment). She also did the Vagina Monologues and a few other gigs here and there. Mostly though she's been raising her children in what she fondly calls the "boondocks" of her native New Zealand. She says she needed the break after six grueling years of starring in an hour-long drama. She's even taken the time to let her hair grow back to it's natural ash-blond color. While she admits to enjoying the time off and reconnecting with her children, Lawless seems rested and ready to get back to fulltime work.

"I guess I feel that I brought these kids into the world and they deserve to have my attention," she says about her time off. "But I'm not a good martyr and I feel that if I don't work in some way, my kids are gonna hate me because I'm gonna be a twisted-up old lady. There is just this general conflict between having a career and raising kids that I feel so terribly guilty when I'm not there with them all the time. I've got to strike that balance and I think this (sitcom) is a good one. It means that I can provide well for my kids and be with them at the same time. But it has to be the right idea."

As for what type of role she might play this time, Lawless admits to going for strong characters who have some depth and complexity. She says she likes to "break people's heart" by bringing to life characters who struggle with such issues as life and death, pain and joy. "I like the tart with the heart or the good girl with the slightly subversive turn of mind," she says. "Insofar as you're watching King of the Hill or The Simpsons which is wildly popular, but it's also awfully smart and sly. I like a little bit of sly humor. I love Will and Grace. Something that's ironic."

There's an outside change she might go back to a one-hour action series, but Lawless says that would have to be a really awesome character, with a really awesome production and writing crew around it. "You really need somebody who's a complete sucker, who doesn't know which way is up, to sign up for six years to do that," she laughs. "Hey, I've done that. It takes up your life. For Xena, it was worth it. I'm not sure it would be worth it for me to do it again or with a lesser character, unless that character was in some way different and new and exciting and the people I was working with were extraordinary."

About the only thing she misses from her years on Xena: Warrior Princess are the people she worked with, including O'Connor, but she keeps in touch with them and looks forward to working with them again one day. "I don't miss the lifestyle, she says. "Truly, I haven't missed it one second. I've never gone, "Oh God, I wish I was working again," It was a full experience. Those were the good ol' days and going back there is going to pale by comparison. Wishing you were back there -- it's never going to be the same.

Despite her absence from the small screen of nearly two years, Lawless is amazed by her continued strong fan support, especially in the lesbian community. She seems genuinely overwhelmed that we have not forgotten her or her heroic character. "It just floors me, really," she says of her loyal fan following. "Wow, after all this time. I feel like I've been gone a long time and I feel really honored that my fans are still there."

In many ways, her fans are as devoted to Lawless as Xena and Gabrielle were devoted to each other. What that program meant to use could explain why so many would take a television character to heart and why they would honor the flesh-and-blood woman who brought Xena to life. Perhaps Lawless is right when she suggests that the show was about much more than just the adventures of a strong, courageous Warrior Princess. "I guess the show was really about friendship and courage," she says, "Not just courage against the enemy outside, but courage against the enemy within, you know, your own demons. It was also about rebirth and forgiveness."

Until we see either the rebirth of Lawless as a different character in the half hour sitcom or the rebirth of Xena in a move the actress from New Zealand doesn't want to hang up the  phone until she makes sure she thanks her loyal lesbian following: "I have always been grateful to the lesbian community because they were the first ones to seize on the show and to love the show and they have it a hip following," she says. "I've always been incredibly grateful to them. I just thank them so much for taking that show to their hearts and me and Renee. I feel very supported. I feel at home with them.



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