Sunday Terriotorian (NT, Australia)
14 July 2019
Lucy Lawless stars in the new Australian detective series My Life Is Murder. She tells DANIELLE MCGRANE what sets this apart from other cop shows and why she was drawn to the role.
MasterChef spin off. “It’s a beautiful, lush, tasty, fun experience,” the actress said.
But she won’t be baking, whisking or chopping in her new series, instead she’ll be seeking out the truth and solving crimes. My Life Is Murder stars Lawless as a former homicide detective drawn back into the force on a consultancy basis by her former boss.
It’s described as a mystery series which Lawless links back to the quirkier styles of
earlier detective TV shows.
“This was written in the vein of Columbo and Miss Marple, so often there is that round up at the end of the episode,” she explained.
Her character, Alexa, also has a very distinctive method for getting to the bottom of things.
“While she’s hunting for the truth, she’s a bit of a liar. She’s the biggest liar in the whole show. And she’s caught out all the time,” Lawless said.
The New Zealander last worked in Australia on the drama series The Code, and was convinced to make this new series here by the show’s creator Claire Tonkin.
“I decided it was time to take a big punt and back myself, and back this woman, Claire Tonkin, who came to me to pitch the show initially. And I just liked her so I decided to get behind her,” she said.
She could see that she had the opportunity to be involved in the inception of a unique show.
“I was in Sydney when Claire wanted to meet me to pitch me the show and I said, ‘I’ve got an hour and a half and if she can see me in that window, I can talk to her’. And I just saw something about her. It was really a collaboration with Claire from the start,” she said.
Even though it’s been nearly 20 years since Lawless appeared in Xena: Warrior Princess, it was that iconic role that essentially brought Tonkin into her life.
“Claire talked about having been through a pretty significant longterm illness as a teenager and I thought, ‘Here we go, this is a fan thing’ because this is a story I hear a lot from fans, people who’ve watched Xena and got a lot of strength from it when they were going through a very tough time in life. Sometimes that means illness,” she said.
However, she soon realised that Tonkin wasn’t a typical fan.
“You have to be more than a fan to get me to do business with you, and she had this incredible work ethic. She had done the hard yards and achieved a lot and I liked that she was not only a survivor, she’d thrived and I was really excited to see where she’s going next,” she said.
“So it was really about me backing a woman and an idea.”
The actress saw a lot of light and shade in her character Alexa, and she has had some tragedy in her life.
“She gave up her career and retired after the untimely death of her husband, they were both cops, but she has been drawn back into the world by her former colleague,” she said.
“She reluctantly forms an alliance with a young data analyst called Madison.”
The other character in Alexa’s life is a cat called Captain Thunderbolt, who is not actually her cat but, like a lot of cats, he makes up his own mind and has decided to spend his time with Alexa.
It’s an interesting dynamic steering away from the “sad single woman with a cat” image and instead brings together two strong and independent characters.
The cat isn’t the only unexpected guest in her life: at one stage Alexa also hears from an old school friend played by a national treasure.
“You will get to go back in time and see Alexa as a child, as a 14 year old, and in the episode Magda Szubanski plays a friend I knew from school and is so hilarious,” she said.
“Because this was written along the Columbo mode, our guest stars get really big roles. So that’s how we could attract really great talent by giving them really great roles.”