Lucy’s Fascination With Crime and Justice
New Zealand Herald
7 August 2019
Written by Mark Kennedy
The next time you find yourself in a courtroom, look around. There’s a chance you might spot Lucy Lawless there, too.
The actress is fascinated by trials and on days when she’s not working will often go to court as a member of the public.
“It just teaches you so much about life and your own society and justice and about yourself,” says Lawless.
Lawless, 51, attended a murder trial in New Zealand, jury selection for a grisly case in Louisiana and was at Jeffrey Epstein’s bail hearing in New York last month when the financier faced sex trafficking charges.
On that rainy day, she watched Epstein “shamble in”, acting shaky. “Sedate is not the right word. It was sombre. And methodical. And meticulous. And all over in 20 minutes,” she says.
Lawless’ fascination with crime has filtered into her latest project, the new crime TV series My Life is
Murder, coming soon to TVNZ. “This much more closely mirrors my own personal interests,” she says.
Lawless plays Alexa Crowe, an exhomicide detective who bakes bread, loves Crowded House, speaks German and corrects people’s grammar when she’s not chasing baddies. She is a fully realised modern woman — unfiltered, sexy, funny and prone to giving advice.
In a typical scene, a villain holding a knife orders Alexa to stand up. “Get up slow,” he snarls. She responds calmly: “I think you’ll find ‘slowly’ is the adverb.”
There are differences between Alexa and Lawless. One is the character’s love of bread, which on the show is a symbol of new life. Lawless is gluten intolerant.
“It’s kind of a joke that I’m always up to my elbows in flour. But I sure
earned my intolerance. For 40 years, I ate bread like a mad thing and I know what it tastes like alright.”
The show, set in Melbourne, Australia, explores closed worlds — undertakers, models, escorts and even bicyclist enthusiasts nicknamed MAMILs (middle-aged men in Lycra). The show also tweaks conventions, casting a woman as a mob boss or making Alexa’s neighbour a millennial rather than a crusty older woman.
“I just want to give people a little psychic holiday from all the grim stuff so they can recharge the batteries and go back out there and fight the good fight,” Lawless said.
Creator Claire Tonkin wrote Alexa with Lawless in mind. “There’s a lot of me in the character and that’s the advantage of having writers build something around you. I’m a very lucky woman,” says Lawless.
Matthew Graham, the general manager of Acorn TV, which specialises in offering British and Australian TV shows, says Lawless’ show continues the push for strong, relatable female leads.
“We love Lucy Lawless. We love her strength, her vivaciousness, her intelligence and her sense of humour. We think that My Life is Murder is the perfect vehicle to showcase all of that,” he says.
Lawless’ strength and humour were present when she burst into the public’s consciousness as Xena in a show that mixed dark mythology, action, campy humour and sly sexuality. It aired from 1995 to 2001.
“It was fun. It was about universal themes, of the triumph of the human spirit: love, courage and, of course, hate and fear underneath that,” Lawless says.
Lawless constantly hears from fans about how the show empowered them, especially from people who feel marginalised — minorities, invalids, and gay men and women. She once asked an African-American woman why it resonated with black women. That woman’s response: “African-American women feel that they need to be warrior women every day of their lives.”
Activism is something she takes seriously and calls the environment “my No. 1 commitment”. She was arrested in 2012 for protesting Arctic oil drilling with Greenpeace and says the movement needs to keep going.
“You get compassion fatigue. You go, ‘I’ve only got so much bandwidth, and this is making my heart hurt’ and the world’s really heart-hurty right now,” she said.
“So to keep us buoyant, we’ve got to start hearing about the great innovations and people who are doing good work and there’s tons of it out there.”