AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Files - Flawless Print - Lucy Articles

Xena vs. Mother Nature
Locusts, mutant bats, a vast flood —
these are the terrors that torment Lucy Lawless,

The Toronto Star

30 October 2005

Many thanks to maRia for the scans


At this rate, it won't be long before Lucy Lawless qualifies as a Canadian citizen.

The New Zealand-born actress, who became a pop-culture icon as TV's Xena: Warrior Princess, was back in Vancouver last week to film the second of three scheduled guest appearances on Battlestar Galactica, the cult-hit sci-fi series remake, which belatedly begins its second season (already airing in the U.S.) in January here on Space.

In between, she unexpectedly found herself in Halifax, N.S., finishing up her own CBS TV movie, Vampire Bats, when the production was abruptly forced to abandon its original New Orleans shooting location with the arrival of Hurricane Katrina.

"We had only one vital scene left," Lawless says, "that was supposed to be shot in an above-ground cemetery. So, sadly, we lost that. But a very able (Canadian) crew helped us finish it off and with zero drama. I don't think they believe in

 drama up here. The only drama is onscreen, put it that way.

"After New Orleans, it was a little boring to be, you know, just people at work, instead of jumping up and down screaming all the time."

The serious jumping and screaming began with the realization they faced a disaster. "It was looming," she recalls. "But we didn't know enough (at first) to really take it seriously.

"I was hanging out with hard-bitten veterans of the hurricane scene, who were just going to, you know, double-fist it. And I was going, `Ha ha,' sort of riding on their confidence. We were planning to throw a hurricane party at the hotel.

"The morning before, within 24 hours of landfall, I turned on the TV and they were saying, `This is a Force 5 hurricane! Get out!' says Lawless. "We were thinking that, you know, if it just passed over, we would need to be there to shoot on Tuesday.

"Never mind the party aspect, which is a large, large part of the New Orleans life."

It quickly became clear there would be no party — nor anything to shoot the next day.

"I rang the remaining producers, we got in our cars, grabbed the film stock, collected the payroll — and the accountant, who was counting beans, ready to go down with the ship — and with hundreds of thousands of other people, we inched out of town.

"We were all very grateful to be out safe. And greatly concerned for our friends and colleagues who lost their houses."

Vampire Bats, which airs tonight on CBS and Citytv, is a sequel to last year's Locusts!, with Lawless reprising her role as official eco-expert Dr. Maddy Rierdon. After saving the planet from hordes of voracious mutant insects, she's quit her high-pressure government gig to raise her family and teach at a Louisiana college.

"There's an element of dissatisfaction in her in the beginning, because she had this big sort of high-flying career ... I think it's necessary for the survival of the human race, you know, that your baby gets first call on your brain and body for the first couple of years of life. And then its need for you starts to recede. Truly, that's been my experience."

In this regard, and others, she says, the character "may be the closest to me that I have ever played."

Which is pretty much typical of the uniquely skewed trajectory of Lawless's post-Xena career. Where most actors singularly seek out roles that will allow them to "push the envelope," Lawless would seem to be climbing back in.

"I was just talking to my driver, on the way to the airport, and he asked me if I was playing a role that was going to stretch me. Well, I had the stretchiest role of all time as Xena, so now it's all about bringing it right down, to absolute naturalism.

"Which is a great challenge, in its own way. So yes, the roles are getting more and more like me. But that's because Xena was so entirely unlike me. Most people aren't really aware of that."

Particularly not the legions of die-hard Xena-philes — and there are still dozens of Internet fan sites dedicated to the decade-old show —many of whom remain adamantly unable to disassociate the actress from her best-known role.

And the recent release of a tenth anniversary Xena DVD collector set has only whet their appetite for more.

It may be a long wait — Lawless isn't aware of any plans for a Xena revival or feature. Then again, she hastens to add, she would be the last to know.

"You know, anybody at Universal who ever cared about it is long gone. And they continue to waste what could be a great franchise. I just think that, just in terms of business, to waste that ... what are you, morons? They're fools. There's nobody there that values it. They just lost interest."

Lawless, meanwhile, has never been busier. Next up is feature film Darkroom.

"I'm excited for that, and a bit nervous, because it goes way out on a limb. I'm playing somebody who is horribly psychologically and emotionally abused by her husband, who turns out to be a very, very bad man, indeed."

And there's also her provocative recurring role — an in-your-face investigative video journalist with an unexpected agenda — on the critically praised genre hit, Battlestar Galactica.

Which brings her back to Vancouver, where she started pre-Xena back in 1991, studying with X-Files Smoking Man and veteran acting teacher William Davis.

"I went to school here, and it's been interesting going back and stumbling across the places I went, in a former lifetime, with my first husband, and my daughter, who was only 3 years old, and we were living on the bones of our asses ..."

And if Vampire Bats does the kind of numbers tonight that its highly rated predecessor, Locusts!, did last year?

Another sequel? Perhaps even an ongoing series — spiders, snakes, radioactive roaches, malevolent man-eating frogs ... they have really only scratched the surface of possible potentially life-endangering animal threats.

Again, Lawless claims to be out of the loop. "People keep asking me that, but I'm always the last one to know.

"I mean, it doesn't necessarily even have to be me. They came to me first (on the sequel), but I'm sure that if I had said, `No, I don't want anything to do with another, you know, silly animal name with a large exclamation point after it,' they could happily have found somebody else.

"Having said that, I am glad that we all did it together — we so enjoyed being in each other's company."