Lucy Lawless Spills on Her Nudity-Filled Starz Drama, Spartacus: Blood and Sand
Written by Louis Virtel | 19 Jan 2010, 10:30 AM

With its two-punch powerhouse of Mad Men and Breaking Bad (which stars Pixar friend and Emmy champion Bryan Cranston), AMC remains the gold standard in television serials. But if Sterling-Cooper's chiseled sociopaths marked new creative vistas for basic cable, the pay-network Starz plans to splatter that view with entrails and bodily fluid via the new series Spartacus: Sand and Blood.

The show, which stars newcomer Andy Whitfield as the titular slave-cum-gladiator, is a fresh, "accurate" take on Ancient Rome, with all the frontal nudity and unscrupulous survival tactics of the time. Lucy Lawless, who war-cried for six seasons as the star of Xena: Warrior Princess, co-stars as the scantily-clad Lucretia. Movieline caught up with Lawless at the Television Critics Association panel in Pasadena to discuss the bold new series, which, despite not having aired yet, is already renewed for a second season.

Thanks to Spartacus: Blood and Sand's salacious hype, some might argue that its producers are trying to compensate for underwhelming scripts. Not so, says Lawless, who believes that the show would fail immediately if the show were just a bottomless bacchanal.

"We're asking you to buy into the rock 'n roll arena of fights, and to deal with the nudity"

"This cannot be ridiculous," said Lawless. "Then the whole premise of the show is blown. We're already asking you to buy into the operatic swirls of blood that hit the inside of your television screens every week. We're asking you to buy into the rock 'n roll arena of fights, and to deal with the nudity -- stuff that's historically accurate. So all the characters have to be really, really underplayed and really believable."

Furthermore, Lawless argues that viewers don't need to be told that a show is good. She says the quality is all there in front of them, amplified by sanguine explosions.

"If you take away all the blood and sex, the special effects -- you've still got a rockin' yarn," she said. "This is a great story and very gracefully told. People don't want to hear about how it's so well-written, but every character feels annihilation at any moment. And that's how it was in ancient Rome; it was not a kind society. They couldn't dumb themselves down with television. They were clawing for some kind of security or status."

As for embracing comparisons to Xena: Warrior Princess, Lawless says that being recognized is not a bad thing. In fact, even without her new show airing yet, people suddenly stop her more than ever.

"All I know is that now that my hair is this color again, I'm totally recognized," she said. "I cut my hair for a show. Now, all the sudden I'm in Florida [being recognized]. But I realize that's currency. Being recognized is not a bad thing in my line of business! I don't know why I didn't think of it before."