The following article was published in the Sunday Star Times 17 May 2015. Find out more about Lucy's new recurring role as Countess Marburg in Salem by going to the AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Salem Subsite



For once, Lucy Lawless isn’t playing a hero — and she’s really enjoying the change, she tells

SHE ONCE offered the ultimate in female heroism, now some 20 years later Lucy Lawless is playing the most diabolical villain of her career – and loving it.

Lawless’ latest project sees her join a cast including Janet Montgomery, Shane West and Seth Gabel in the second season of the hit supernatural fiction series Salem.

It’s a dark, horror-fiction reimagining of the infamous Salem witch trials, in which Lawless’s character, Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, is the last witch in an ancient German line.

‘‘She’s quite awful, I’ve never played a character that I would perceive as a villain but she is, and she’s completely thrilling to play,’’ Lawless says gleefully.

‘‘She does things that are not only morally corrupt, but that give me ethical concern while playing them. I’ve played some pretty blimmin’ wacky stuff, but this takes the cake, utterly.’’

Her CV boasts roles in everything from her breakout role as Xena: Warrior Princess, to spots on CSI, Battlestar Galactica, Spartacus, and, more recently, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The one thing her major roles have in common? They’re all strong female characters – easily a testament to the legacy of Xena, who Lawless says ‘‘gave me everything’’.

Lawless takes my call from what she calls ‘‘the buckle of the bible belt’’ – Louisiana – still answering with a Kiwi-as ‘‘gidday’’.

She talks about the horror of the show with vigour and a kind of admiration. ‘‘It’s a juggernaut. Even I can’t stop it. Sometimes it’s like, ‘oh my god, I can’t believe you thought of that’, and I’ll question Adam Simon – our writer – who says, ‘well, actually that comes from a historic account’. The weirder it is, the more likely it is to have actually happened.’’

It’s a disturbing example of art imitating life, but Lawless is no stranger to the darker side of humanity, having taken to spending spare time in courtrooms – just watching.

‘‘I’m a person who wants . . . to see the truth of it – what’s really going on. It’s not even just cases. I go to jury selection which other people find tedious and I find fascinating,’’ she says.

‘‘One woman had not only a son who had gone to prison for rape as a minor, but also had an aunty who was kidnapped and murdered the year before, and she was a very upright, wonderful, gentle, elderly woman, and they picked her for the jury. I was so shocked.’’

It’s something she says can get dark at times but, on the other side of the coin, she’s also learning a lot about southern hospitality which provides the lighter side to balance her new life. She says she’s learning to drink beer like the locals, after not having touched it for near 30 years.

‘‘Here it’s just what you do, and I always want the authentic experience so it was just, like, bring it on. We had a party the other day and about 400 locals showed up and some local musicians came on board, they’re calling it Xena-polooza and they’re having it next year,’’ she laughs.

It seems Xena will always follow the actress around – something she’s proud of, but she’s ready to pass on the mantle.

‘‘They should definitely remake it, it’s a bloody fantastic franchise. Two cool females moving through the world righting wrongs and singing songs. Why not?’’

She reckons she’s ‘‘too old to play her now, but someone should’’, and besides, she’s having a great time playing the dark side.

‘‘Right at the time when I thought my career would be fizzling out, it’s really taken off again. [The Countess] is absolutely the most intense person, she’s pretty diabolical. Everything I learned by being razzed by my brothers and sisters goes into this role, because she’s just such a terror,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s really, really naughty and we just laugh all day long; it’s a pretty weird gig, man. But I love it.’’ Salem airs on Wednesdays, 9.30pm.


Find out more about Lucy's new recurring role as Countess Marburg in Salem by going to the AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Salem Subsite