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22 August 2005
Lucy Lawless Sheds Light on Battlestar Galatica
From Julia Houston,Your Guide to Sci-Fi / Fantasy.
Lucy Lawless is that hardest of interviews: the person I want to go shopping with when weíre done. Sheís so instantly likeable, you keep having to remind yourself sheís actually talking to you because itís her job (and yours). In fact, when I launched into self-praise about my ability to whip up the worldís best martini, she accused me (jokingly) of hitting on her. We might as well have been trying on shoes.
(Seriously, though, I do make a fantastic martini.)
I asked her how she felt about Xena now that the show is over but she is still and always will be the Warrior Princess. Is she going to write a book, I am Not Xena, or does she look on the character still with affection?
LL: I think that everybody should be so lucky as to be identified with a successful show. It was so much fun, and itís given me everything -- without it, I wouldnít have my children, my husbandÖa lot of financial security. Whatís to bitch about? It was six years of a lot of laughs.
Next up for Lawless, sheís guest-starring on an episode of Battlestar Galactica. September 9, in the episode, "Final Cut," sheís a filmmaker sent to Galactica to document life aboard the ship.
ME: All right, youíre an outsider there, so I can ask. Is everyone on Battlestar Galactica really so nice and professional and incredible to work with?
LL: Yes, certainly they are. And talented too. Eddie [Olmos] and Mary [McDonnel] are incredible show hosts. And the young people are fantastic. Theyíre passionate about what they do.
Theyíve written real characters for the show. No one is wholly good or wholly bad, and the actors really keep track of their own continuity. They keep it making sense. But at the same time, I donít think there were any changes, apart from the occasional ad-lib that I donít know if theyíll use or not, from the script I was first given. Itís incredibly well-written.
ME: Did you have a talk with [writer/creator/driving force] Ron Moore?
LL: Yes, we had dinner. He wants every character to be distinct and rooted in truth. Nobody there is embarrassed to make a suggestion, and the producers are not too proud to take a good idea from wherever it is. As a result, the show is greater than the sum of its parts.
ME: So, whatís something of yourself that you put into your character, apart from being able to use your New Zealand accent?
LL: As soon as that cameraís rolling, itís all you. Thatís what I love about this job. You get a sense that the buck stops with you.
ME: Is there any chance your character might recur?
LL: Yes, thereís a chance. Weíve talked about it.
ME: So you like the idea?
LL: Who wouldnít want to go on such a successful show?
ME: True. And itís interesting that Xena was a show with strong appeal outside the usual sci-fi audience. And now youíre appearing on another show with great cross-over appeal. Any ideas about what makes a show reach popularity like that?
LL: Itís gotta catch. I hate to use the word ďzeitgeist,Ē but itís gotta catch the spirit of the times. And [the producersí] take on this show has been so original and so relevant. Thereís an element of nihilism running through us today. The fact that the reward at the end of the episode for each character is raw survival -- thatís it. People have succeeded just by getting through another day.
At the end of the episodes, they havenít learned some feel-good lesson, but theyíve managed to survive against the odds.
ME: Thereís also that conspiracy element, I think, like in X-Files. The Cylons have such a grand scheme going on.
LL: Yes, thatís part of the spirit of the times: suspicion of authority. Itís very potent. And this is something I share with my character [on Battlestar: shed light and damn the torpedoes. No matter how anyone might justify it, if you keep things in the dark, conspiracies start.
And thereís also that idea that hope springs eternal. The show is so post-apocalyptic. Whatever kindness we see is really highlighted in such a hostile environment.
Civilization is a luxury. Itís something Iíve discovered from my travel around the world. Poverty kills charity. And weíre very divorced from what the world is. I went to Bangladesh recently, and what I saw, the poverty there...
ME: Yes, and I think the closest we get to that sort of thing is on an episode of Amazing Race, where some models are looking out their car window and says, ďOh, itís so dirty! These people are so poor! Why donít they move to a better neighborhood?Ē
LL: Yes, and we donít even get up anymore to turn off the TV. Itís a crisis if we canít find the remote.
ME: I have TiVo, myself.
LL: Iíve heard thatís good.
ME: I love my TiVo. So, if you do get to make another appearance on Battlestar, what would you wish for?
LL: Iíd wish for another incredibly juicy role, just like this first one has been. Since the episode is basically a movie about my character as sheís making a documentary, I got to work with nearly everyone on the cast. And because Iím there to do an exposť, theyíre very tense around my character, as youíll see.
ME: Is there anyone youíd really like to work with again?
LL: All of them -- theyíre so fun. I really got on really well with Eddie and Trish [Helfer]. But really, all of them.
ME: Did you know about the show before you got the part?
LL: Yes, because David [Eick] is an old friend and approached me earlier about playing Tighís wife. I donít play anybodyís wife, thank you very much.
ME: It does seem once you play a wife, thatís all you get to play.
LL: Well, itís a great part, and [Kate Vernon] does a great job with it. But itís the Anne Archer Factor. You play the wife, youíre screwed. Besides, I didnít want to do a one-hour drama so regularly. I like my freedom, and I love popping in and out.
You know, I can never even get cast as the best friend. They wonít do it. I have this wonderful problem of being considered just for independent women roles.
ME: There are a lot of those in sci-fi, at least.
LL: Well, itís not just sci-fi. I could have been a cop a hundred times in those single-lead, one-hour dramas. But I have very small children, and I donít want to work 18 hours a day. Iíve turned down easily six series and some offers to produce, but I donít regret a single choice.
[At this point, I should point out that Ms Lawless is currently in New Orleans, Best City in the World, and we have been talking over her car phone while she drives around town and I make suggestions about places she should visit.]
ME: What are you filming down here?
LL: Vampire bats, baby! Itís a CBS disaster movie of the week. People ask me why Iím doing it.
ME: And you tell them?
LL: I love these people. This is a great town. Itís the new LA, you know.
Having fled LA in the Ď80s, I make a series of gagging sounds.
ME: Before we wrap up, I have to tell you that you voiced The Simpsons Funniest Episode Ever when you -- well, when Lucy Lawless went to a sci-fi con and got kidnapped.
LL: People mention that a lot. That and Saturday Night Live.
ME: Oh, that was good too. Well, usually, at the end of the interview, I ask people what they want for their action figure, but youíve already had tons of them.
LL: I want a Lucy Lawless action figure.
ME: And your accessories would be?
LL: Hm. A pair of running shoes, yoga mat, and a brown paper bag with mysterious objects inside.
Battlestar Galactica is on Friday nights, 10 PM ET, on SCI FI Channel.