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From ‘Bats’ to Baton Rouge: TV’s Xena battles
hurricane during filming of CBS movie

Boston Herald

28 October 2005

By Amy Amatangelo
Saturday, October 29, 2005

Xena is back, and those vampire bats better be terrified.

Following the success of last spring’s “Locust,” Lucy Lawless reprises her role of Dr. Maddy Rierdon in the CBS movie “Vampire Bats,” airing tomorrow at 9 p.m. on WBZ (Ch. 4).

But the real-life drama behind the scenes was even more frightening than those possessed rats with wings.
The movie was filming on location in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina made its way toward the city. Initially, Lawless and the rest of the cast and crew thought they could wait out the hurricane and resume filming. It soon became evident that this would not be possible.

“It wasn’t until the morning of the Sunday (before the hurricane struck) that I woke up and heard them say this is Category 5,” Lawless said during a recent conference call. “It took us more than seven hours to get off the flood plain. We thought we’d get to L.A., and then we realized we’d be lucky to get to Austin, and then we thought we would to get to Houston, and then we realized we wouldn’t even make Texas at all. We were very lucky to get to Baton Rouge.”
They spent two days at a bed and breakfast in Baton Rouge before eventually completing production in Nova Scotia about a week later.

“The people of the South are amazing. I want the rest of the country to know that. The people of Louisiana are amazingly generous,” she said.

The juxtaposition of filming a movie about a disaster while living through a real one was difficult.

“Obviously the real catastrophe is the only thing that has any weight,” she said. “When you’re filming, you only believe in the horror while the camera is rolling. The real catastrophe had a lasting effect on me and everyone else. I was really quite bummed out for about a month about ‘Why am I doing this?’ It doesn’t seem to be important making fluffy pieces of entertainment. Eventually, I got to a place of peace about that. I realized everybody needs it. I don’t have to look for the deep and meaningful in what I do. The fact that people seem to derive some sort of enjoyment out of it is enough.”
“Vampire Bats” also stars Brett Butler as Maddy’s sister-in-law.

“I hope this is sort of her coming-out party,” Lawless said of the little-seen Butler. “She was such a pleasure. What a good woman. She was one of my heroes because she and Roseanne showed that big girls could make it. You could be funny and fabulous.”

The costume that she made famous during the six-year run of “Xena: Warrior Princess” will soon reside in the Smithsonian museum, and Lawless will continue to “make trouble” as D’anna Biers on Sci Fi Channel’s “Battlestar Galactica.” Last time Lawless was on the sci-fi series, her character was revealed to be quite evil, a fact Lawless kept to herself.

“I didn’t ever tell anyone that leading up to it. I didn’t tell any of the journalists.”

And will Dr. Maddy Rierdon battle more pesky plagues in the future?

“I have no plans. I’m an actress. I’m at the end of the line in the chain of information,” she said with a laugh. “It’s not up to me, but it sure was fun the last couple of times.”