The Lucy Lawless Files - Articles - Magazines
6 October 1997
Lucy Triumphs over obsessed fan (cover)
Lucy's Dark Side
New Zealand's biggest star may come complete with action dolls, t-shirts and a theme park
but she struggles to deal with the devil within.
Lusty and gorgeous Xena star Lucy Lawless has become an action heroine for the '90s to her millions of fans in America. Britain and at home in New Zealand. But Lucy's revealed some of her admirers are taking their obsession with her sword-wielding, leather-clad alter ego way loo far. "I was sent a nude poster recently by a video pom star," admits Lucy (29).
"It had her phone number and a little tag saying, "I only do girls and my husband. I love you'.
"And there's another woman who's moved to New Zealand and hangs about near this boat we use for filming to give unofficial tours. Frankly it's a little scary, but what can you do?"
With Xena: Warrior Princess now the number-one syndicated TV series in the US, after just two seasons. Lucy has rapidly had to learn to deal with the dark side of her fame. At times the home-loving Aucklander finds it a bit of a strain, but she's smart enough to cope with being viewed as a role model by millions of women.
"At first it really terrified me that people would be trying to copy me." she confesses. "But it hasn't turned out to be an awful burden. I get a lot of letters from women who have bought the Harley Davidson they always wanted or left an abusive relationship - gotten on with their lives. Got a life,
"Some people have a lot of trouble because they want to believe in the fantasy. Human beings love heroes and it's hard for them to let go of that. They believe I really am omnipotent, that I can help them in their lives. In reality, I'm just an actress and the best contribution I can make is to get on with my job. "I never had a star mentality, I still don't," she says. "Growing up, I did have a poster of Rowan Atkinson on my wall but he would be the closest thing to a sex symbol. You won't find me dressing up in leather or rubber at home."
But there's more than a little bit of Xena in Lucy. "Xena's a woman with a devil on her shoulder - a dark, mean chick, a very human hero - who knows all about the darker side of human nature since she must battle it within herself every day.
"It's parts of me taken to an extreme and she never pops out unintentionally, but she's there. So be careful," she laughs.
Obsessive fans aside, Lucy says the worst part of playing an action heroine is the atrocious conditions she must sometimes film in on Auckland's wild west coast.
"Mud, rain and wind at the same time. If we only have two of those things I'm happy, but when you get all three it can make a day just interminable. I crunch down inside my chariot and say, 'This must end, this too shall pass'.
"Last year while filming, I was crawling through this tunnel and there were so many rat droppings on the ground, I was slipping. Then they dumped all these rats on me. They were biting and scratching and getting caught in my hair. It was so vile, I had to get a tetanus shot."
Lucy is now New Zealand's biggest star-she's become a cultural icon with all the paraphernalia. She comes complete with action dolls, an animated movie and now her own $16 million theme park attraction at Universal Studios in Florida. There are nearly 200 Internet websites devoted to her, Xena and Hercules conventions are attended by thousands and she's the subject of regular theme nights in lesbian bars.
But unlike Rachel Hunter and Sam Neill, she still lives and works at home in New Zealand. "I get a very pleasant reception at home," she says. "Fortunately, people don't find me terribly approachable because of the intimidating character I play, and in modern clothes I'm often not recognised.
"I don't look that threatening in real life. People don't get aggressive as they're usually disarmed by the fact I'm not in costume. I don't know what I would do if I was faced with violence. If I was mugged... on reflection, I'd probably go into automatic Xena mode."
To Lucy's amusement, much of Xena's camp appeal comes from the Sapphic subtext on the show. Xena never smiles at men unless she really likes them, which doesn't happen often, reserving public displays of affection for her feisty, blonde sidekick Gabrielle. Even the new attraction at Universal Studios plays up to it - as Xena catches Gabrielle in her arms, they exchange a look that could start a forest fire.
"The fans seized on the lesbian theme because we were two females travelling alone through the world with no apparent male company," says Lucy.
"What they do around the camp fire after hours is open to conjecture, which we refuse to confirm or deny. For a while we thought it was very funny and played along with it but I never wanted to shove it down people's throats.
"We like pushing the boundaries a little. This is a love story between two people. What they do in their own time is none of our business. Now I think the show has transcended all that." Xena began as a spin off from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys but has quickly surpassed its creator in the ratings. There have been reports of intense rivalry between the two shows, that Xena gets the best stunts and special effects, but both Lucy and Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) deny it.
"We're part of each other's franchise," says Lucy diplomatically, though she can't resists adding, "And besides my boyfriend, Rob Tapert, is the executive producer. Hercules is my partner's show so it's my show, too."
Lucy's own agenda is very different to the traditional star route followed by Kevin Sorbo, who's taken time out during the series' shooting hiatus to star in his second Hollywood movie. Lucy, meanwhile, is on Broadway for seven weeks playing Rizzo, the bad girl, in the musical Grease. Any longer away from Auckland, she says, will disrupt her daughter Daisy (8) too much. "Kevin is single while my priorities are slightly different," she explains. "Daisy comes first. It's not that I'm naturally such a great mother but it will be my everlasting regret if I don't pay as much attention to her as I could."
She also dismisses any talk of doing a Hercules and Xena movie. "It may be heresy to most actresses but I say what seems true to me," she insists. "I don't think they could pay me enough. Everyone has their price but my price is so exorbitant it isn't going to happen.
"I'm doing Grease for hardly any money because it's rewarding and it will make me a happy, old woman. I have always been aware of my mortality so I make all my decisions based on that."