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"I am a terribly happy bunny!"

TV Week

9-15 September 2000

by Ivan Waterman

Lucy Lawless, star of TV's Xena: Warrior Princess, talks about being a mum again and how
her daughter Daisy is overjoyed to have a little brother...


Lucy Lawless, star of TV's Xena: Warrior Princess, talks about being a mum again and how her daughter Daisy is overjoyed to have a little brother...

NOTHING was more daunting for Xena: Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless than becoming a mum for the second time.

It's 12 long years since a 19-year-old Lucy brought her daughter Daisy into the world - and now the dark-haird star of the Network Ten series (above) is cradling a baby boy named Julius (left, with Lucy and her Xena: Warrior Princess co-star Renee O'Connor, who plays Gabrielle).

"Nothing is more frightening and awesome than giving birth to a child," says Lucy, who's married to the show's executive producer Rob Tapert.

"You wait and wonder if everything is going to be OK. You scan the result of every test. You tell yourself that you're as fit as an ox and you know you've been this way before.

"But you always have those niggling doubts, no matter how confident you are as a person ... and I'm pretty confident by nature."

Lucy quips that giving birth to Julius last October is "the longest journey Xena has faced", but that she (and her alter ego) came through it shining.

"Seriously, though, I am a terribly happy bunny," she adds. "My daughter Daisy is also overjoyed to have a kid brother. It's all too good to be true."

Lucy is hard at work on a new series of Xena: Warrior Princess, which is filmed in her homeland of New Zealand. In the last US series (which starts on Network Ten on Monday, September 11), Xena became pregnant by a force which may or may not be human and set out to acquire powers to protect her baby from danger. The identity of the father (man or beast) remained a mystery for a number of episodes.

"I was under pain of facing a real-life execution not to say more at the time," laughs Lucy, who lives near Auckland with her family in a fabulous, Twenties- style, five-bedroom property. "I would have been banished from my own kingdom if I broke that trust."

The amazing success of mythical, sword-wielding Xena has tumed Lucy into an intemational star with a huge following. Oddly enough, people in her own country fail to get worked up in the same way and the series doesn't make much impact in the ratings.

Click on image for a larger version

Nevertheless, it has grown from being a spin-off of Hercules: The Legendary Joumeys to a blockbuster in its own right. Official merchandising, comics and a mass of websites devoted to Xena make the series one of TV's biggest money-spinners.

The first action heroine since Wonder Woman even has a $US15 million theme park devoted to her at Universal Studios in Hollywood, and a Xena: Warrior Princess animated TV series is in the pipeline.

Nobody, least of all Lucy, could have predicted the almost miraculous effect the series has had on her career.

When she fell pregnant with her daughter Daisy (right, with Lucy, and inset, mum and baby together) and married her childhood sweetheart Garth Lawless, she totally lacked direction.

Lucy's agent, obviously unsure as to her talents, sent the statuesque 178cm beauty along to the Mrs New Zealand contest, which she won to gain entry into the Mrs World finals in Las Vegas.

"It was hilarious, but my agent thought it would be a good idea," Lucy recalls. "Daisy was eight months old and I was the only entrant with a child. The Russian girl, I believe, disappeared while in the US, never to be seen again!"

Lucy's marriage to Garth ended in 1995 and she fell for 45-year-old Rob (above, with Lucy) while appearing as Xena in an episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. They married in March, 1998.

"When I was a teenager, you got married if you were pregnant," Lucy says. "I was raised as a staunch Roman Catholic and there was never any question of me aborting.

"If anything, having a child that young, with all the responsibility, centred me and stopped me flitting around. My vision was that you have to keep your head up when it's knocked down so many times."

Lucy reveals that Garth, who now works as a computer operator, lives nearby and gets to see Daisy regularly.

"I think he knows that we were both too young to stand a chance," Lucy says. "He doesn't have any envy about me, either. He's very pleased for me, and it's great that he lives close by and sees Daisy.

"I did go through a bad patch when we got divorced, and I was a bit crazy. Then I met Rob. It took us a few months to get to know each other, and I didn't hold back once I knew I was in love with him."

One of the highlights of Lucy's career was starring in the musical Grease on Broadway two years ago and living in Manhattan with Daisy during her summer break from school.

But she's also a realist and knows that the good times with Xena: Warrior Princess and ventures like Grease won't last forever.

Lucy reckons she has one more year left in her before calling it quits as Xena, although her fans hope the convenience of making the series might encourage her to stay on.

The fifth of seven children, Lucy is very much a proud Kiwi at heart. Her father Frank Ryan is a former mayor of the Mount Albert district of Auckland, where he still lives with Lucy's mother Julie.

"It's great, isn't it, when your show is made literally around the corner," Lucy says.

"The series has always been made here. Rob calls Auckland and New Zealand his home now, and he is very happy here as well. When Xena ends, as it surely will one day, we have no intention of moving to California or anywhere like that."

Once voted by People magazine as one of the world's 50 most beautiful people, Lucy didn't feel much of a small-screen sex icon when she breastfed Julius. Despite that, Playboy recently offered her a handsome sum, believed to be $500,000, to take off her clothes and run through the hot springs on the North Island of New Zealand.

"I tumed it down without batting an eyelid," Lucy says. "They saw me as this purity thing, a kind of Joan of Arc figure ... get real!

"I suppose one day, when I'm 50 or so, I will say to them, 'OK, if you still want me, I'll do it'. Maybe when I'm Granny Xena. Can you imagine? I think my children will be able to deal with it by then."