Evil warriors surround a group of innocent farmers. A sharp war cry can be heard nearby. The villains look scared. A warrior jumps and flips in the air, her form worthy of a gold medal in gymnastics at any official competition. There’s a clash of steel, blood is spilled, a throwing disc flies around knocking down her enemies and our hero comes out victorious. Of course, we are talking about Xena: Warrior Princess, a TV series that aired for six years (from 1995 to 2001) and certainly became a cult show in the universe of television.
That breastplate made more than one fan pine for Xena, but behind it there’s an actress who is very different from the iconic character (as she said herself in the tenth Halloween special of The Simpsons: “I am not Xena. I am Lucy Lawless”) and who is fighting a very important battle. Lawless actively supports Greenpeace’s campaign Save the Arctic, which is threatened by oil drilling and industrial fishing. Her commitment took her to board, together with some fellow activists, a drilling ship bound for Alaska in 2012. She was arrested, sentenced to complete 120 hours of community service and fined $5,210. One body, but two warriors fighting for their principles. After her role in XWP, she appeared in series like Battlestar Galactica (playing the cylon D'anna Biers) and more recently in Spartacus, where she’s played the very smart and tantalizing Lucretia. Since Lawless lives on the other side of the planet trying to make the world a better place, we have talked to her via email about her environmental concerns and her acting career, which has taken her to play warriors and skilled, manipulative women who have seduced viewers all over the world.
Answer. I have always been involved in issues concerning children’s rights and children’s health. I think that if we ignore climate change, we are committing a crime against this generation and the oncoming ones. Our fight against Big Oil is a fight for all the children in the world.
Q. Which is the best way to protect the environment without having to give up on the technological advances that make our life more comfortable?
A. The transition to move away from fossil fuels will take some time and the sooner we start the safer it will be. We simply can’t afford to keep burning coal until oil runs out.
Q. You were one of the very few female miners in Australia; how did a woman listed among the 50 most beautiful women in the world end up working in the mines?
A. I collected samples in the Australian desert, but I didn’t work exactly as a miner. I’ve changed lots of truck tyres though.
Q. In Canada you attended William Davis’ acting school (he played the role of ‘The Smoker’ in the X Files). Was he your best teacher?
A. He was a wonderful teacher. Although when I went back to Los Angeles I studied with Kate McGregor-Smith.
Q. You played the role of Lysia in the film Hercules and the Amazon Women, and years later you were Xena, in Xena: Warrior Princess. Are you interested in mythology?
A. No, not really. I think that archetypal characters lack shades and nuances. However the script is everything, isn’t it? Maybe that’s the next best project.
Q. What was your biggest challenge: wielding the sword, perfecting your memorable war cry or becoming a sex symbol for legions of fans?
A. Yes, becoming a sex symbol is always a challenge. I worked very hard on that... Actually I didn’t do anything to deserve that title. It’s all in the fans’ minds, not in mine. That’s the nature of a celebrity. It took me about five minutes to master my war cry. Wielding the sword and fighting? That was definitely the hardest to learn.
Q. What was the worst thing about playing Xena? Did you get tired of the role at some point?
A. I never liked the fighting, but I never got tired of the role. It was a great time and we all got along wonderfully. I always jumped out of bed in the morning ready to go to work.
Q. Talking about the cast, are you still in touch with Renée O'Connor (Gabrielle in the show)? The ambiguous relationship between Xena and Gabrielle was one of the most characteristic things about the series. Do you think that your fans deserved that loving relationship to have been fulfilled somehow? Did you know that you were an iconic couple for lesbians?
A. We are still great friends. And yes, I am aware that lesbians loved the show. I think our fans would have loved it if we had opened a Bed & Breakfast on the coast, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Q. Did you know that Condoleezza Rice was known as the Warrior Princess? What do you think about US politics?
A. Yes, and so was Madeleine Albright [American politician who was the first female Secretary of State in the US]. I don’t have a general political view about the United States, just as I don’t make general assumptions about Spaniards. I approach everything from a level of human decency and according to my own sense of justice.
Q. After six successful seasons as Xena, you played the cylon D'anna Biers, known as Number 3, in the science fiction series Battlestar Galactica. Admit it, you are a bit of a geek, aren’t you?
A. No, I’m just very fortunate.
Q. In 2010 you played Lucretia, the scheming wife of the owner of the ludus, Batiatus (John Hannah in Spartacus). Would you say that Lucretia is very different from Xena?
A. They are completely different.
Q. You probably made thousands of fans very happy when you had to appear naked in some of the scenes in the series, was it hard to do those scenes?
A. Yes. I hated it. But as an artist your job is to tell the story right.
Q. Your roles as Xena and Lucretia have something in common: Sam Raimi produced both series. What is it like to work with him?
A. Sam is a wild man. You never know what he is going to do next.
Q. After Spartacus, you’ve played Diane Lewis, the assistant principal at the school in a few episodes of Parks and Recreation (starring Amy Poehler and also Rob Lowe or Aziz Ansari). How would you describe Poehler?
A. She’s lovely.
Links on AUSXIP Lucy Lawless
Find out more about Lucy's roles on Xena, Battlestar Galactica, Spartacus, Parks and Recreation, her role as Eco-Warrior and more Press articles and interviews
Xena Warrior Princess - Australian Xena Information Page
Press: For more Lucy Lawless articles, visit the AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Press Archive
Save The Arctic: See more on the AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Save The Arctic Support Page for more news, photos, video and other multimedia
Lucy as Eco-Warrior - Lucy's role as an Eco-Warrior and Greenpeace Ambassador
Battlestar Galactica - AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Battlestar Galactica Subsite
Parks and Recreation - AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Parks and Recreation subsite