There's a provocative exchange at the beginning of the first episode of My Life is Murder: A woman scrolls through images of glistening pecs and washboard abs while chatting on the phone. "I guarantee you, Alexa," says the voice on the other end, "this will be better than any boyfriend you have ever had." "Well, that sounds fabulous. And expensive," she replies. What she's really doing here, of course, is trying to uncover clues so she can solve a crime. Lucy Lawless stars in My Life is Murder as Alexa Crowe, a retired detective called back into police work as a consultant on some of the most baffling murders in Victoria, Australia. It debuts August 5 on Acorn TV.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
There's a provocative exchange - the beginning of the first episode of "My Life Is Murder" - a woman scrolls through images of glistening pecs and washboard abs while chatting on the phone.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MY LIFE IS MURDER")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) I guarantee you, Alexa, this will be better than any boyfriend you've ever had.
LUCY LAWLESS: (As Alexa Crowe) Well, that sounds fabulous and expensive.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) It'll be worth it. I promise.
LAWLESS: (As Alexa Crowe) Well, I have had a hard week.
SIMON: It turns out to be strictly business - crime-solving business that is. Lucy Lawless plays Alexa Crowe, a retired detective called back into police work as a consultant on some of the most baffling murders in Victoria, Australia. Lucy Lawless is also executive producer of the series about to premiere on Acorn TV in the United States. And Lucy Lawless, who will always be Xena: Warrior Princess to a generation of viewers and Diane on "Parks And Recreation" but especially Xena: Warrior Princess, joins us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.
LAWLESS: Aw. Scott, it's so nice to be back with you again.
SIMON: Aw, well, thank you for saying that.
LAWLESS: Thank you for having me.
SIMON: I enjoyed the episodes I saw. And Alexa used her skills and guile. But I want to reassure people, now and then, she gets to throw someone around, doesn't she?
LAWLESS: Yes - well, a little. I was - to be honest with you, I was a bit chagrined by that because that was never my favorite part of the job. But...
SIMON: Oh, in "Xena," really? Yeah.
LAWLESS: And you know what? And it hurts. No. I always hated it. But I didn't have any choice. So, you know, if you don't have a choice about something, you really oughtn't to invest in it emotionally. So I just get it over and done with. But it's always a shock when they say I have to run out of the way of a car, you know?
SIMON: But you know how to do that?
LAWLESS: Yes. I say, over to you, stuntwoman. But there is...
SIMON: (Laughter) That's how it's done. Yes.
LAWLESS: That's how it's done. But there is some amount of selling before and immediately after. So it doesn't get easier with every passing decade.
SIMON: We don't learn a lot about Alexa all at once. But it comes out in occasional lines. May I ask, what's the good luck charm, as she calls it, in her shoulder?
LAWLESS: It's the tip of a knife from a drug dealer. That reminds her that she got away scot-free from that bad deal, when that deal went down. And I think she's just been dry and tough, you know? And she pretends that's her good luck.
SIMON: Yeah. And she's widowed.
LAWLESS: She is widowed. Her husband was also a detective and died in the line of duty. And we explore that loss in a slightly lighthearted way when we go into the world of the undertaker because, every episode, we try to take you into another sector of life, you know, some party you've never been invited to. Some might be the world of the very beautiful people and PR and models where you get to see the ugly underpinnings of that business. And there are themes, which then are reflected back on Alexa Crowe herself. So you get - we're going to lift the veil a little bit and have some fun and pursue justice in those worlds. And it's really satisfying, you know? It's lovely.
SIMON: To pursue justice, you mean? - at least on screen. Yeah.
LAWLESS: Well, yeah. The verisimilitude of justice, when you spend an hour with people that you like on television in a very beautiful, vibrant environment and get this lovely sense of catching the bad guy - to me, it's a little bit of a chance to recoup because the news is a bit grim these days. And it's just nice to have a little bit of a - like, a psychic break.
SIMON: The series also shows off Victoria.
SIMON: Which is very picturesque.
LAWLESS: Oh, this town is incredible. Melbourne - I got city envy. I'd never been there before. And this town is such a foodies' paradise. And at one time, it was the richest city on Earth. During the gold rush, that's where they banked all the gold. And it was also - they're quick to tell me - not a penal colony - is where free men, free English people chose to settle. So they see themselves as being a little more genteel. And certainly, it is a much more sedate city, flat and beautifully planned with a wonderful light-rail system, which everybody uses. It's clean. It's efficient. And everything runs on time. And just miles upon miles of Victorian-Edwardian housing, which is very low rise - so it's a super sedate, charming, cosmopolitan town and very stylish.
SIMON: What - may I ask you, what do you make of the impression that Xena still seems to leave on a lot of lives all over the world?
LAWLESS: Oh, were you bored with Melbourne? Did I give you (laughter)...
SIMON: No, no, no. Not at all - not remotely. but...
SIMON: ...I know who I'm talking to so...
LAWLESS: OK. Right. Oh.
SIMON: If I don't - if we don't give the folks a Xena question - all right?
LAWLESS: OK. I'm sorry. Let's do that again. Go ahead.
SIMON: Enough about Melbourne, Lucy.
LAWLESS: Now back to me - that's enough about Melbourne - back to me.
SIMON: Well, what do you make of the impression Xena still seems to have with a lot of people?
LAWLESS: Well, I'm really delighted because people are so kind to me. I think I've been around long enough that everybody knows me from something. And it's like I'm a - like, a really cute, walking dinosaur or something. You know, they're really nice to me. They're not afraid of me. They're not cold to me. I don't know. I think I've got some - I must have some kempt luster about me that makes me - people feel friendly towards me. And I'm really gratified and delighted by that.
SIMON: You were one of the founding sisters of women superhero characters.
LAWLESS: I never feel I can really take credit for that. There was Sigourney Weaver in the "Alien" movies before me. And Joan of Arc and the real Mulan and some Indian warrior princesses. So I was delighted to be...
SIMON: (Laughter) I said one of.
LAWLESS: ...The - yeah - the '90s iteration.
LAWLESS: But certainly, it was new on television at the time. And people said it would never work.
SIMON: I'm going to guess you could have a happy life just slitting open your residual checks. What...
LAWLESS: No. You're wrong. They're like, 19 cents. It's like (laughter)...
LAWLESS: There was no fortune to be made in residuals and syndicated television. It's not, like, you know, doing a sitcom or something.
LAWLESS: But mustn't grumble - it's given me everything.
SIMON: Well, what do you still enjoy about working?
LAWLESS: Oh, my God. Everything - I love it. What's beautiful about television is that you have a very long list of tasks of the day. So all day long, you're just checking them off. So it's really satisfying. And you're problem-solving in order to make the day, getting it all done on time in as joyful, collegial way as possible. That's a really satisfying day's work. You know - and hopefully, you make something that people like. But even if they don't like it - well you're already paid. And you already had a good time. So that's that. (Laughter) Like, it - it kind of - it's incidental to me whether it's a success or not.
SIMON: Lucy Lawless stars in and is executive producer of "My Life Is Murder," a new Australian crime drama with comedic touches, of course, on Acorn TV. Thanks so much for being back with us.
LAWLESS: My life is murder.
SIMON: (Laughter) Thank you so much. Take care.
LAWLESS: Cheers, Scotty.
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SIMON: And "My Life Is Murder" premieres on Acorn TV August 5.