The Man Room

19 February 2004

Armchair Interview: Lucy Lawless

Armchair Interview: Lucy Lawless

February 19, 2004

She is known infamously worldwide for her portrayal of Xena: The Warrior Princess, a role that redefined sexy and powerful women during the television show's six year run. But lately Lucy Lawless has been laying low so we invited her to take a seat in our guest armchair for a little chat. Lucy came sans Xena outfit, but we think we've convinced her to consider otherwise for her next visit.

TMR: So what is Lucy Lawless up to nowadays?

LL: I am publicizing a movie that is coming out next week, and taking a lot of meetings about new television shows, and films, and it’s all very exciting.

TMR: How fun, or painful, is it to revisit Xena, your co-stars, and the series to record the audio and video commentaries?

LL: It’s not painful; I look back on Xena very fondly. Xena was very good to me, and I love all those people still. Renee and I still talk on the phone all the time, and Ted and Bruce, a few of the other New Zealanders when I’m in New Zealand…they’re good personal friends, so it was like school days. That’s how I can best sum it up. It’s like friends from school; even the bad times were hilarious.

TMR: So, what is the best memory you have from your third season as Xena: Warrior Princess?

LL: Oh heck…I wish I had a list of all the episodes in front of me. Tsunami is a good example of “even the bad times good” That’s the one with Tony Todd in it. I think.
A lot of these episodes have guest stars of people who are now on major series, like Kathryn Morris from Cold Case. There’s a little girl in “Forgiven” who then went on to be on Roswell, and she’s a fine little actress and a lovely human being. I guess the nice thing about the third season was meeting incredibly talented people from around the world. I think we were on a bit of a “high” on the third season, and working with Bruce and Ted is always a scream.

TMR: Any experiences you would like to forget?

LL: There are a couple in there that are just kind of stinkers. I think King Con was not one of my favorites. There were no terrible experiences there. There was just one that I thought was a bit of a stinker (laughs), which was King Con, because it was such a small story. If you only buy it to see Lucy doing some really questionable tricks, there are lots of them in season three.

TMR: Some actors and actresses hate to be typecast or best known for a single character they portrayed, while others appreciate being recognized for their work in a memorable role. Which side of the fence does Lucy Lawless sit? Do you want to go down in history as Xena: Warrior Princess?

LL: The latter I think. We should be so lucky to have such a problem really. It was a tremendous experience, really great. I’ll always be grateful to all the people that made that show happen.

TMR: It’s rare to find an episode of Xena where every woman in the show wasn't drop dead gorgeous. What was that like and was there much competition between the girls? Any mud wrestling?

LL: No... Was there any mud wrestling?! Only after hours. (laughs) Earning a bit of money on the side, we’d go mud wrestling. There was no competition between the women, that was one of the good things on the show. It was a great environment for women. As long as you were a good human being doing your best, we totally accepted you. You’d have to be a complete pest and make a real nuisance of yourself to be unpopular down there. It was very inclusive.

TMR: I guess we won’t get any names out of you. When starting work on Xena, did you ever imagine it would run for 6 seasons and become a pop culture classic by the start of its third season? What do you attribute to the show's success?

LL: I think the reason the show was successful is that it always knew what it was. It was unashamedly good cheese. The tongue was always in cheek. We tried to play the drama straight, but we never thought of ourselves as being highfalutin, and I think our fans appreciated that. I’ve always thought of it as a dumb show for smart people. Even brainiacs want to take a night off from time to time.

TMR: Is there one episode, scene, or incident from season three that is memorable to you above all others?

LL: Warrior, Priestess, Tramp. No... Fins, Femmes and Gems. There were just some incredibly funny moments in that. I loved Renee, when her character is under the spell, a vanity spell. She falls in love with herself, and she just becomes an incredible minx. Renee can play five hundred shades of minx, she’s just a scream. She’s so funny in that, and Ted in the pink negligee, that’s one of my favorite episodes.

TMR: We’d prefer to see the naked Gabrielle triplets over Ted in the negligee. How much Three Stooges research did you do for episode 1, when the Furies struck Xena with madness?

LL: I had never seen the Stooges. Maybe as a child I had, but it wasn’t part of my television or film history growing up. The only exposure I’d had to it was hanging around Bruce, Ted, Josh Becker, and Rob, who are like the four stooges when you get them together.

TMR: Sounds like a day in TheManRoom. Once the series hit its stride we were treated to either drama or comedy in any given week, and sometimes both in the same episode. Did this come as a challenge to jump tracks so often or was it refreshing to switch it up every once in awhile?

LL: It was a great education; it was a wonderful opportunity to really practice your craft in both. I love comedy, that’s where I feel my home is, and it was just a golden role. They don’t come along but once in a lifetime and I know it, so I’ve been very blessed. I think we all loved that, switching it up and having different directors with different fortes. It was just an honor to work with so many talented, diverse people.

TMR: Xena can really kick some ass. Was that all special effects or am I in danger of getting my tail kicked if this interview goes awry?

LL: Well, there are times when I channel Xena for taking care of business, but there were a lot of special effects in there. It was really ambitious; you don’t get that many special effects on television shows. The one where Alti turns into a skeleton, I don’t know if that’s even season three actually, maybe I shouldn’t talk about that one. Or in “The Way” which is in a later season, those have so many special effects. I think audiences are so accustomed to seeing wiz-bang effects on movies that they really don’t question it on Television. Audiences have gotten very demanding, but the number of special effects that we would do on our budget surpassed, I think I can safely say, everybody else in television. You’d have to ask Rob specifically about that sort of thing, but we did far more than other people. Especially considering the money we had, a lot of value went on the screen.

TMR: We're big fans of lesbians here at TheManRoom. Xena had a huge lesbian following, borderline obsessive. Did that make you uncomfortable or did you find it more on the flattering side? Any memorable incidents?

LL: I’ve never been uncomfortable with that. We love all our fans. Any memorable incidents?... No. The only problem is sometimes when I meet lesbians they’re very, sort of, withdrawn around you. So you just think “Ah they’re not interested in me at all, as a human being.” Later on when they get used to you they’ll say “we just couldn’t deal with the ‘Xena’ factor.” But I never think of it myself, so I just think “this person thinks I’m an idiot” or something. I have friends that are a lesbian couple, and when I meet all their gay friends, there’s always a two week waiting period before they can actually talk to me.

TMR: Silly Lesbians! Our website was founded on the concept of a "ManRoom" - a separate room in the house guys like to call their own. Do you have a "ManRoom?" Maybe somewhere where you screen movies, shoot pool or something similar? Or is it a sewing room?

LL: I wish I had a ManRoom! I’m sitting in my husband’s ManRoom at the moment because the rest of the house is completely taken over by rug rats. So no, there is nowhere for me to get away.

TMR: Can Xena kick Hercules' ass?

LL: (Laughs) Yes!

TMR: Since there are three more Xena box sets on the horizon, does this mean we get to talk three more times? We're practically dating!

LL: I am always absolutely thrilled to be admitted into “TheManRoom”.

TMR: Ok, one more important question... Is the Xena outfit retired or can we find you prancing around in it as the Warrior Princess when the right mood hits you?

LL: I bring it out on very special occasions. Next time I come to TheManRoom I’ll wear it without fail.

TMR: And our members would very much appreciate that. Thanks for the chat!

For more information on Xena or Lucy Lawless visit the Xena Official Site or check out our reviews of seasons 1 through 3 in the DVD section.