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Wedding Bells for Lucy

NZ Woman's Weekly

27 October 1997

Lucy's heading down the aisle. She said yes to her producer's proposal - marriage,
that is - but apparently a pay rise isn't part of the contract.

Marriage a second time around holds no fears for New Zealand's best-loved international TV star, Xena princess Lucy Lawless. Nor does she think being hitched to the top producer of her hit series is going to be any problem.
In fact, if she wants a salary increase, she won't be asking TV executive and husband-to-be Rob Tapert for it. She says he'll get a call from her lawyer who does all Lucy's financial negotiating. "We know how to keep things separate. We're both pretty driven people who do our respective jobs," says the Auckland actor, who's also become a singing and dancing hit as Rizzo in the New York Broadway production of Grease.

"I'm not really interested in the machinations of the TV industry. We don't talk about that kind of stuff at home - even though, technically, he is my boss."

Lucy, who's divorced from her first husband Aucklander Garth Lawless, concedes she's lucky to have landed handsome Rob, who's the executive producer of Hercules, Xena and a number of other TV shows. "Hed never gone out with an actor before he met me. Actors were a breed he didn't really cotton on to," she chuckles. "But I managed to change his mind. I'm not your typical acting type, you know. I was drawn to him from the first day we were introduced. He's just the funniest, finest man I've ever met - so, of course, I'm going to marry him."

"My first marriage was unfortunate, but that didn't sour me on the institution forever. I'm looking forward to becoming a wife again. All we have to do now is sort out the time and place.  Lucy says the problem with her forst marriage was simply she and Garth "got married too young". "I was 19 working as a gold miner in the Australian outback when I discovered I was pregnant. We went home to get married and Garth got a job in a bar. I always wanted to act but I just wondered how the hell I was going to manage it with a baby on the way and no visible means of support. But becoming a mother meant I
didn't have so much time on my hands so I couldn't go off the rails.  Having Daisy really focused me, and kept me on the straight and narrow."

Lucy, using swords, staffs and martial arts, against human and supernatural villains, is now a world-class star - leather-clad beauty who fires both male and female imaginations.

After 50 episodes and two years on American TV, the show is fast overtaking the top-rated Baywatch in the number of stations carrying it and the millions of viewers it attracts worldwide. The warrior princess has also won the hearts of Americans with her amazing Kiwi frankness. "I'm really happy, really honoured and very proud of my work and our show. It's a fun show. It's campy, but we work bloody hard to make it the best we can."

Asked about Xena's big lesbian following, Lucy explains, "It's because, for the first time, there's a show with two female heroes. It's about friendship between two women. They're both strong and they don't rely on a male sidekick to get them out of sticky situations.

"I think it's very empowering for a lot of women and women's groups - not just the lesbian community."

At first, it wasn't appealing to Lucy to be stuck with the label of feminist icon. "I was very taken aback at first and wanted nothing to do with it. I felt I was being politicised. I thought they were putting me up as a counter Barbie and to combat "Barbie-ism" they were going to put forward Xena - a big, puff chick. I really hated that but it hasn't proved to be a burden at all. "I'm very happy my character fills a niche. I hadn't realised there was a shortage of strong female role models. If I help women to feel strong and confident, that's fine with me."

Lucy says taking a singing role on Broadway was a major achievement for her because she had always been insecure about her singing ability. "I sang as a teenager. I studies quite seriously and I think it really shut me down. To study anything so seriously as a teenager is possibly a mistake. I really wanted to get back to a time when I just sang for joy,
for the love of singing. I developed a phobia. But my friends would ask me to sing at their weddings and I felt compelled to do it. I gave really crummy performances. So this Broadway role was therapy for me.!"

Her parent, Auckland City councillor Frank Ryan and his wife Julie, her grandmother and two aunts went to the US to meet Rob's family and see her perform on stage.

Lucy was thrilled everyone got on so well. "It was like they'd known each other all their lives. I must admit I was nervous at first, but everything was great."

Always concerned to look at things in a positive light, Lucy says even her accident earlier this year, when she was thrown from a horse and injured her pelvis during an American talk show skit, had a positive effect on her life. "I've finally learned to slow down. Even as a kid, I was always rushing everywhere. The teacher at school would complain and my parents were always moaning about my terrible hurry. "That broken pelvis slowed me quite a lot and gave me plenty of time to
think. It made me pay attention to my family, to my daughter Daisy and to my partner.

"I discovered a lot about myself as I lay there in that hospital bed. I realised everything in life is about making lemons into lemonade. Nobody gets out unscathed. You have to press on."