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Laying Down The Law With Xena's Lucy Lawless

by Ian Spelling - Syndicated Column

23 February 1996

Nobody, it seems, is ``Xena''-phobic.

``Xena: Warrior Princess,'' the syndicated series which stars Lucy Lawless as the rough-and-tumble, sword-swinging battler of all things evil, tyrannical or unjust, ranks high atop the ratings. It has whisked men and women, boys and girls, into its wildly entertaining world of mythos, action and offbeat humor.

``Everyone tells me the show is a huge hit in America, which is great, but we're shooting in New Zealand, and it's not even on here,'' says the friendly but groggy Lawless, 27, calling from her Auckland, New Zealand home at the break of dawn her time.

``We're excited, but we don't really feel it here. We're all reluctant to get carried away,'' she says. ``There's no guarantee it will last, but we're thrilled it's a hit. We're quite proud of the show, and it's a bonus that it's doing so well.''

The soon-to-be divorced Lawless, whose parents live within a mile of where ``Xena'' shoots, and whose 7-year-old daughter Daisy is a frequent set visitor, credits the series' prosperity to luck, timing and the fact that ``Xena'' features a TV rarity: a female action hero with brainpower and a complex personality.

``There's definitely an appeal to that,'' she says in her gravelly Kiwi accent. ``The last female action hero was probably
Lindsay Wagner (from ``The Bionic Woman''), and that was back in the 1970s.

``I think people were ready for a show like ours. It's fun, campy and it's got cool special effects,'' Lawless says.
``What's not to like?''

The 6-foot-tall actress was born in Mt. Albert, New Zealand, and raised there with her four brothers. While she acted in a few school plays as a teen-ager, Lawless was soon working as everything from a grape-picker to a gold miner before once again trying her hand at acting.

By age 20, Lawless was performing in commercials and soon after in guest spots on New Zealand TV shows. Then, she landed a job as co-host of a travel magazine program. Finally, in late 1994, Lawless was cast as Xena in the syndicated series ``Hercules,'' starring Kevin Sorbo as the title character.

Initially, Xena intended to kill Hercules, but by Lawless's third episode Xena realized the error of her ways and turned a new leaf. Thus was born the unstoppable spin-off, ``Xena: Warrior Princess.''

Lawless won't reveal any upcoming ``Xena'' plot threads. ``You'll have to tune in to see them,'' she says.

A Hercules-Xena reunion thrilled fans in November, and Lawless reports that another crossover episode may be produced way down the pike.

``Kevin is busy enough with his show,'' she says. ``But we'd love to have him back on `Xena' any time he's available.''
While savoring her ``Xena'' success, Lawless is also thinking ahead.

``I love this show,'' she says. ``I'm surrounded by a wonderful, creative cast and crew, and we're all having a great time.
``I'd eventually love to work in America, but I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now, though, `Xena' is so
all-encompassing, I can't even think about anything else.

``I need to, want to, devote all my energy to `Xena.'''