Babe - Lucy Lawless Trades In Her Armor
For A Pink Ladies Jacket In Grease!
HX For Her
1 October 1997
Scanned by Roger
God, I've fallen in love with New York," says Xena: Warrior
Princess star Lucy Lawless, who is enthusiastically making
Manhattan her home through October for her stint as Rizzo in
Broadway's Grease! "It's so fucking great! Oh man, what a
place," she continues. "I love everything from the seasons to
the way the air feels, to the great food to the wacky people."
Lawless's appreciation for New York has certainly been
reciprocated. The statuesque actress has sent countless TV shows
and magazines clamoring for interviews, and the reviews of her
performance as the tough-talking Pink Lady, Rizzo, have been
glowing— even though the 29-year-old hasn't sung on a stage
since high school.
"We did South Pacific, Gilbert and Sullivan, that kind of
thing," she says. "But I learned some very bad techniques when I
was a teenager singing." Lawless says she works hard with the
director fixing the glitches and strengthening her voice for the
rigorous eight-show-a-week workout.
A Broadway musical may sound like an odd choice for this TV
star, but Lawless says that she grew up listening to show tunes
sung by the likes of Mary Martin and jumped at the opportunity
offered to her by the producers of Grease! "I try to take
risks," she says thoughtfully. "I mean, I could do a film, and
it would pay a gazillion dollars, of course, but it wouldn't
Lawless laughs and swears in a good-natured one-of-the-girls
kind of way. It's easy to envision her sitting at a table in an
Auckland pub, chatting up her friends over a few Foster's and
teasing the guys at the pool
table. In fact, talking to her is like talking with a good,
funny old friend.
There are many sides to her, however, and humor is just one of
them. Lawless is disarmingly honest, and her rich, velvet voice
can turn coarse when discussing a manipulative journalist,
tender at the mention of her nine-year-old daughter Daisy and
bubbly when talking about the cast of Grease!
"The company just immediately opened their bloody arms toward
me," she says of her current co-workers. "They are a very loving
bunch and as funny as all get-out. I thought Xena was the only
nice set in the world."
Xena is, of course, how her fans know her best. The new season
begins taping just four days after she leaves Grease! "I can't
bitch," she laughs. "It was my decision."
The warrior princess will get deeply dramatic in 1998. "Pretty
nasty, dark stuff coming up this year. This season's really got
to be screened if you've got kids," she warns. "Of course, it's
not really a kid's show anyway. It's for big kids like us."
Big kids like the ones who show up at Meow Mix for Xena Night on
the second Tuesday of every month. In an unprecedented move,
Lawless has shown up twice at the bar. "The women there are so
great," she says with genuine awe. "I've been twice now, and the
second time was amazing because it was Xena Night. These women
are so welcoming."
The show's huge lesbian following hasn't frightened Lawless into
overstating her heterosexuality. Just try pulling relationship
stuff out of her. Currently involved with Robert Tapert, an
American executive producer for Xena, she strives to keep that
part of her life private.
Lawless is not only comfortable with her lesbian following but
also thrilled by it. "Meow Mix is the only contact I've had with
the gay community as a whole," she says. "I mean, obviously I
have plenty of colleagues and friends who are lesbians, but
these two experiences were incredible."
One of seven children born to the mayor of Mt. Albert, Auckland,
New Zealand, and his wife, Lawless was a tomboy surrounded by
brothers and horses. After starting college, she left to travel
the world with now-ex-husband Garth Lawless. They married in
1988, the same year she gave birth to her daughter.
Daisy is "nine and divine," coos Lawless, who hates being away
from her child for too long. Despite her hectic schedule, she
still understands how important it is to "save part of yourself
for yourself," she says. It's a lesson she learned from her
mother, who, along with her father and Daisy, is in town
Lucy's acting career was a meteoric ride that began on a New
Zealand travel show. Roles in the Hercules: The Legendary
Journeys TV movies led to a part on the series and finally to
Xena. Along the way, she also co-starred in the lesbian-themed
independent film Peach.
Now that she's done Broadway, what's next? "Well," she sighs,
"four million years of Xena and then, who knows? Something that
keeps me moving forward, like Grease! did. Sometimes I come home
and I've found all new ways of screwing up. Every day I'm a
little better in some part of it, and then I find another way to
screw up somewhere else," she says, beginning to laugh. She gets
serious rather quickly. "But it's part of it, you know? It's all
part of it, and it makes me feel alive." •