ImageQ&A: Lucy Lawless of 'Spartacus: Blood and Sand'

Lucy Lawless, on the blood, sex and gore-filled 'Spartacus,' and her former life as Xena.

Lucy Lawless says it's true: She was cast in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, an audacious new TV series for Starz, after sleeping with the producer. But don't get the wrong idea. "I've been married to him for a long time," she says with a laugh, "and he doesn't put me in anything he doesn't think I'm right for." Lawless, whose enduring claim to pop-culture fame is as ,em>Xena, Warrior Princess, is back on the airwaves in another stylishly made swords-and-sandals drama.

But Spartacus is so different from Xena, the 1990s TV sensation. Xena was campy and cartoon-like; Spartacus is brash and brutal, a marriage of soft-core sex and hardcore violence. Also, Lawless is a villain this time, not the hero. Set in the days of the Roman Empire, when gladiators fought to the death as entertainment for the masses, Spartacus is the story of a warrior slave who must survive not only his bloody battles in the arena, but also the deadly schemes of those around him.

Andy Whitfield, a British-born actor who's well-known to Australian audiences but a newcomer to the U.S., plays the title role. Lawless plays Lucretia, the cunning wife of the man who owns the gladiator camp where Spartacus is imprisoned. She is a wicked, wicked woman and will stop at nothing to gain status and ensure her survival. It's a different kind of character for Lawless. But her producer husband, Rob Tapert, who she met during the Xena years, was correct: She is right for it. "And I'm really grateful to have this second 15 minutes of fame," Lawless says. Spartacus: Blood and Sand premieres at 9 p.m. CT Friday, Jan. 22.

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