01 August 2019 Issue
Fighting The Good Fight
Written by Charles Parcell
She is best known for her breakout part, the feminist icon Xena: Warrior Princess. Now, actor Lucy Lawless is enjoying playing an ex-detective helping to clear the streets of Melbourne of bad guys while hanging out with middle-aged men in lycra.
Lucy Lawless is recovering from a cold. Fresh from fighting crime on the mean (and terribly chic) streets of Melbourne in her new dramedy My Life Is Murder, the star says she caught the “obligatory post-production cold”.
Crimefighting is actually good for one’s health, she claims. It’s when you stop that the ‘lurgies’ actually hit you.
I sympathise. No-one thinks about what happens to these heroes and heroines after they’ve had their adventures, do they?
“I know. You’re not thinking about us at all,” she laughs.
For example, one would hope Xena: Warrior Princess – the iconic role that Lawless is indelibly connected to – might have retired with her sidekick Gabrielle at the end of her adventures. Perhaps to grow organic produce on a farm somewhere? Instead, the female role model to millions of fans died in a grisly manner.
“But we’re not allowed to talk about that because it upsets the fans so badly. Which is understandable.” Unlike Xena, Lawless’s career is again on the rise as she plays the complex, contrary and compelling investigator Alexa Crowe in My Life Is Murder.
Following the death of her husband, Alexa has retired from the police force, but is called back by her former colleague, Detective Inspector Kieran Hussey (Bernard Curry), to investigate crimes the police can’t – or won’t – solve.
“I appear to have entered the ‘Miss Marple’ phase of an actress’s career. It’s partly my own doing because I’m a lover of true crime and law. In between jobs, I go and sit in the courthouse and watch the murder trials.”
Is that a joke?
“No, it’s true. If I find myself with a few days off, that’s where I can often be found.” The crimes in her six-part series take place in some unusual locales: everything from the world of male escorts and cooking schools to the world of the ‘MAMIL’: the “middle-aged man in lycra”.
“Yes – I had never heard that term, but it’s real, isn’t it? With men in lycra, we get to discover something about what turns my character on.” Intriguing.
Lawless raves about her co-stars: “the wonderful Bernard Curry, who is such a divine fellow”, as well as Ebony Vagulans – “I think she is such a star and the minute I met her, I knew she was the right girl to play [data analyst] Madison”. Lawless also fell in love with the city of Melbourne itself, with all its great buildings and public art. But now, the star of stage and screen is back home in New Zealand and sitting out on the steps in the cool winter sun as we speak.
New Zealand enjoys an international reputation for being an unspoiled paradise removed from the troubles of the world, but it has seen its share of suffering lately. “Christchurch has been through a great deal,” agrees Lawless. “Earthquakes and instability and what that does to a community. Insurance nightmares and then the mass murder of 50 innocent people minding their own business.
“I think it opened up a much better dialogue between New Zealanders of all faiths, if you’re to look for a silver lining from a really dark cloud.”
Are New Zealanders resilient? “I think all humans are resilient, but you never know until you’re tested. That one scarred us pretty bad.”
Today, the former warrior princess is fighting to save the planet as a climate ambassador for Greenpeace, spreading the world about climate change.
“For 30 years I have known about what’s coming, but it’s just been hushed up. I’m glad that your average person is starting to understand it a little, understand what climate change means … more frequent and more ferocious catastrophic events and that it can touch all of us and challenge all of our society structures, redefine boundaries of countries and statehood and cause untold refugees. It’s a very, very serious conundrum.”
Find out more about Lucy's role on My Life is Murder by going to the AUSXIP My Life is Murder subsite