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TV Week
Sapulpa Daily Herald
24 - 30 April 2005

Lucy chases locusts: Lawless is back to save the world


By Julie Fortier
TV Media

The end is near. At least, in the realm of cinema. With just about every apocalyptic scenario having made it to the big screen over the last few years, it seems that people are fascinated with catastrophic disasters. Whether it is the flooding of major cities because of melting ice caps, an asteroid hitting the Earth or a killer plague that wipes out entire populations, people love to watch films about “what might happen if ... “

CBS has tapped into a different kind of disaster scenario this spring, one that mixes science and nature. Airing Sunday, “Locusts” looks at what might happen if a deadly breed of bioengineered locusts were to get loose in the United States. In the film, they form into killer swarms that destroy everything in their paths.

Lucy Lawless stars Dr. Maddy Rierdon, a voracious insect expert who must snap into action when a giant swarm of locusts appear on both coasts of the U.S. The actress was approached to do the “Locusts” while in Bangladesh for World Vision, as she has also been active sponsoring children from different impoverished nations for several years. The actress is well known for her humanitarian work. She said that she jumped at the opportunity to be in the TV movie.

“I chose it because it was surprisingly well written and looked like a lot of fun,” she explained at a press gathering about the film. “Also, this is the kind of classic family fare that I grew up on. I remember the appointments my family made with ‘Fantastic Voyage’ and ‘The Birds’ and ‘Triffids,’ and I’d love to be part of that.”

In “Locusts,” Rierdon soon discovers that the swarms are a product of her colleague’s genetic engineering experiment and are, in fact, “super locusts.” They reproduce at a rate 10 times greater than normal, are three times bigger than ordinary locusts, can travel close to 300 miles per day and can devour an entire continent.

When these seemingly unstoppable creatures threaten food supplies, livestock and even human lives, the President steps in to form a special task force to work with Rierdon. He wants them to come up with a radical plan to put an end to the devastating
situation before more human lives are lost.

It looks like CBS is going for a hat trick with this third story of nature gone wild. “Locusts” also comes hot on the heels of CBS’s March 20, TV movie, “Spring Break Shark Attack,” which earned more than 11 million viewers. Also, back in the fall of 2004,
CBS aired “Category 6: Day of Destruction,” in which Mother Nature unleashed her fury on Chicago in the form of tornadoes and thunderstorms.

Besides Lawless, the cast of “Locusts” also includes Dylan Neal, who starred in the teen classic “40 Days and 40 Nights” (2002). He will play Rierdon’s husband. Musician Mista Matt stars as Army Pvt. Bell. David Jackson of “The Jesse Ventura Story” (1999) fame directs, with Robert Sertner from “Category 6: Day of Destruction” (2004) and Jill Tanner from “They Shoot Divas, Don’t They”
(2002) executive producing.

New Zealand native Lawless is certainly no stranger to roles which require her to save the day. Her part in the cult-classic TV series “Xena: Warrior Princess” lasted for six years and helped to make her a household name. “Xena,” which was filmed in
and around the rugged Auckland, New Zealand landscape, told the story of an ancient Greek warrior who decides one day to fight against the powers of evil for people who can’t fight for themselves.

The brave actress has also said that her role on “Xena” prepared her to work with the creepy-crawlies in “Locusts” because on the “Xena” set, the stories often called for putting spiders in her mouth and dumping live rats over her.

“So locusts are nothing,” she scoffed.

Although there were live locusts on set, many of the 4 billion critters were created digitally, so Lawless didn’t have too much of a “Fear Factor” moment.

Since the end of “Xena:Warrior Princess” in 2001, Lawless has also provided the voice for the animated “Warrior Princess” movie, starred as Kathleen Clayton in WB’s “Tarzan” television series and played the sexy Amsterdam brothel owner Madame Vandersexxx in 2004’s “Eurotrip.” Her most recent film was the horror flick “Boogeyman” that came out this past winter.