Xena, Lucy Lawless seemed to disappear. Now she's back with a
new look and she's swapped sword swinging for singing. Merryn
johns catches up with Lucy Lawless on the eve of her rock
concert debut in
For some of us you seem to have dropped off
the map since Xena.
I kind of did drop off the map. I wanted to have a couple of
extra kids and that means that my focus was really not so much
on career. To come back and reintroduce yourself takes a lot of
doing and I've had lots of opportunities to be more famous than
I am and I turned them down for my own reasons. I'm not sorry
that I'm not doing network television in the States. It's always
about being offered this seven-year contract. Being a single
lead means you work really super-long hours. To do seventy,
eighty hour weeks is standard. I think you have to have a
crushing need for attention to want to cultivate that sort of
career. Celebrity seems to be its own currency, or else how
could you explain somebody like Paris Hilton? But because I had
chosen to have kids I wanted them to have a real mother. If my
kids are miserable, I'm miserable. I guess I don't value other
people's opinions of me more than I do my own. It doesn't help
your career to go away but I'm not sorry. I just knew that it
was important to me to have kids. I didn't want to wait too
long. My daughter was already eleven by the time my second child
was born. I knew I had to knock it off quickly and just let the
chips fall where they may. Having kids was something I'd regret
not doing. Whatever I'm doing seems like the best thing I've
ever done to me. The TV critics have always been fond of me and
didn't like me doing the crassly named Vampire Bats (2005). But
I was so attracted to living in Louisiana I just had to take the
gig. It was fantastic. I got to see New Orleans at its best
right up until the time of the hurricane. I just see it all as
part of a rich life.
Perhaps your major comeback appearance has
been on the US reality TV show Celebrity Duets. Not many people
know you can sing. How did you get the gig?
They rang my agent who said, 'No, Lucy doesn't
do reality TV, she can't stand it, don't even bother coming
back.' I didn't hear about it till my friend rang me and I said,
'Are you kidding? I would totally be interested at the chance to
sing with someone like Smokey Robinson, the greats of
Motown...'. My agents and lawyers were giving me such a hard
time saying, 'Don't do it, no-one will ever take you seriously.'
And I said, 'I don't care! Just make the deal.' For me it was a
really life affirming choice and the chance to challenge a
phobia of singing. I'd sung as a teenager and then stopped for a
very long time. I did play Rizzo in Grease which was more like
play acting to me. This was a chance to get through that. I
didn't think I had any time to waste being neurotic. That was
the impetus to do it. I'm so glad I did.
You got to sing with Dionne Warwick and Bonnie Tyler.
Bonnie Tyler - oh my god!!! How's that! Didn't we all do that at
thirteen - sing along to Bonnie Tyler! It was a childhood dream!
Would your Xena fans in Australia be shocked
at your physical transformation?
You know what: I don't know about appearance. I never judge
other people on their appearance. I just assume it's all
showbiz. But the one thing I'm a little disappointed in myself
about, and I think this is something that Xena fans could
rightly chide me about, is that I didn't tell Marie Osmond to
f*** off. (Laughs) After you've performed in front of an
audience with Smokey Robinson, for example, you're on such a
high you can't even hear what the judges are saying. But because
Marie would always speak first, I could see her mouth moving but
I didn't know what she was saying. When I saw the footage, she
was kind of snide about me. She had a growing problem with me. I
wish at the end I'd said, "Look Marie, you had your chance
sweetheart, just go back to Utah and do what you do there." If
I'd been a little bit more bolshie I probably would have won.
But I was being a good guest, which is to be a gracious person.
The crowd seemed to love you.
There were a lot of Xena fans in the audience. Iknow a lot
of them by face. The ones I've come to know are terrific. These
people are amazing and loyal and I try to be loyal to them.
You're nothing like Xena any more yet they're
still with you.
Yeah, how about that.
But you're still 5 foot ten and a half inches?
(Laughs) Yes, I'm still the same height.
As an actor, is that an obstacle for you?
I think being tall is an obstacle to working in Hollywood
because men don't want to be seen with a woman who's towering
over them. Since most roles are for love interest that can be a
problem. I don't care, I'm having a wildly great life, and I
never spend a second worrying about what I can't have.
Tell us about being blonde.
I have been blonde for the last year and a half. I would
like to go dark again except it's really hard to maintain.
Because I'm not all about my hair I find that a pain in the
What's your natural colour?
Ash blonde, which is what we used to call Mousey. (Laughs)
Xena was a welcome portrayal of female strength - how much
did you put into the aesthetic of warrior princess?
The costume was about functionality. It took us ages to get
the bugs out of it and make it workable for a stunting life. But
I had a lot of input into Xena's colouring: the dark hair. I
wanted her to be like Gabriella Sabatini; and
bronzed, like those statues in Madrid. My hair did stay like
that for a while ... whatever. Who cares? The hair conversation:
Americans always want to talk about the hair! But being from
Australia or New Zealand, talking about
your looks is like - what???
Readers might wonder why you look like you do on our cover!
Are you putting me on the cover? Oh, good on you, mate!
What do you think attracts lesbians to you?
(Thinks) I don't know. If I have to guess I think because
I'm a pretty courageous person. It seems to be that the things
that scare me I move towards, rather than run away from. I think
that when you're somebody who does
things even though they scare you there's a certain honesty that
comes with that. I think [lesbians] can relate to someone
without artifice. They're not really relating to my hair - put
it that way.
Xena was strong and courageous, but also
funny. Is it true you were the class clown?
That's how I could get by. I could skive off if
I was funny. And it happened really by accident. The teacher was
Miss Moss, and I was nattering away to somebody, and the teacher
said, "Are you listening Lucy Ryan, are you listening? Lucy
Ryan!" And I looked up and said, "I'm sorry Miss Moss, I wasn't
listening, what was that?" And everybody laughed. And she
laughed. And I got away with it. I learned that I didn't
necessarily have to bow to authority if I was funny. And that
started a whole chain of events of getting away with things just
because you could tell a good joke. I come from a family with a
lot of boys - a very quick-witted family and pretty damned funny
so you had to be quick on your feet to not get pummelled.
Does being a Kiwi set you apart from the women of Hollywood?
Yes. We are quite a different breed. We're quite low
maintenance, and active and strong and don't wait for somebody
to do things for you. I'm not waiting for somebody else to make
my dreams come true. And I think that's something that's really
got me through a lot in Hollywood. The impetus has to start with
How does a no-nonsense antipodean function in LA?
LA is like being on a treadmill all the time. So
I often come back to New Zealand, fall apart, and get sick
because I can. It's kind of delicious, really. Get fat, relax a
bit then you get back to LA, immediately drop ten pounds. It's
something about being there.
What is your health fix?
Yoga, running, hiking's my thing and that's plenty. I'm not
a gym girl.
You appear at Dinah Shore Weekend in March.
I'm singing on the Friday night. It's a really great way to
commune with the fans in a very joyous setting. It's a great
celebration. It'll be good. My lesbian fans have been extremely
loyal and great friends as well. I hope they feel it's
When will you be back in Australia or do we have to go to
I would love to come to Aussie -I just need a reason to go,
and an event so I can carve out time in my schedule.
What are your future career plans?
I have no idea but I think that's what I like. Knowing where
I'm going to be in seven years time would depress me. Some
people like that stability. I need things to be spicy, mixed up
and just an adventure. I'm going to Africa this year with World
Vision. All of this is just part of this thing people call a
career. I just call it my life.
LUCY & DINAH.
The largest lesbian gathering in the world, Girl Bar Dinah
Shore Week, March 28 - April 1, offers five days and nights of
lesbian in the beautiful desert setting of Palm Springs,
California. Events happen within a few blocks from the official
host hotels in downtown Palm Springs, all connected by constant
free shuttles. Friday, March 30 at the Pure WHITE Party
Lucy Lawless brings things to a boil with an exclusive live
performance at midnight. For a full list of events and packages