18 July 2021
It is often said that newspapers contain the first draft of history, but not everybody wants to be a part of that history. Not Lucy Lawless. She does not want to be remembered.
Lawless reckons legacy is the pursuit of men. When she dies, she doesn’t even want a tombstone. She wants her ashes scattered somewhere, probably into the Hauraki Gulf. Whether or not anyone remembers her after that, well, she doesn’t really care.
But here we are anyway. “I don’t care,” she says, however her sentence is broken when she sees the camera about to shutter. She turns to look down the barrel. Laughs. There are lights and a camera, and I’m interviewing her in an old brick building in an affluent part of Auckland during the Sunday cover shoot. Working with cameras, talking, and “I don’t care what people miss of me. I’m quite happy to be forgotten. It doesn’t matter to me. I do these things because it’s a part of my job or to help someone with a cause.”
That’s the thing about Lawless, she has been familiar for 32 years. On screen, we’ve seen her play Xena, Lucretia in Spartacus, and Alexa Crowe in the comedy-drama series My Life is Murder. Off-screen, we’ve read accounts of her court appearance, her climate change activism, and the celebrity gossip that shadows people like her.
But she’s unsure we actually know much about her. She’s known to play strong female leads. Will we remember Lucy Lawless as an actor who pushed boundaries, to create roles for women as superheroes and genius detectives?
“No,” she says. “That’s what gets offered to me. I quite like a very passive, weak character. I love it!” She says playing “very passive” characters can be more fun than a bold hero. They’re more complex. The leading women she does play have been because directors seek her out for those roles. “I don’t seek anything out. I’m really, like, extremely passive. Maybe I’m not quite as passive these days, but I don’t really chase things,” she says.
Will we remember Lawless as an activist, who was fined and sentenced to 120 hours’ community service for climbing an oil drilling ship? “I don’t mind. At the time, in 2013, that’s what we had to do to try to wake people up to climate change. These days, it belongs to the kids,” she says. “The face of activism has changed a lot.”