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Lucy Lawless Faces 'Vampire Bats'


29 October 2005

(Saturday, October 29 12:01 AM)
By Jay Bobbin

Lucy Lawless and her co-star Vampire BatLOS ANGELES ( - As it turned out, battling "Vampire Bats" was the least of Lucy Lawless' concerns in making a TV movie.

A sequel to last season's thriller that had the actress in the same role fighting "Locusts," the new film airs Sunday, Oct. 30, on CBS. It began production in New Orleans just before a more immediate, all-too-real threat struck: Hurricane Katrina, which forced the cast and crew to flee -- along with untold numbers of Southern residents -- and think about finishing the movie later.

Obviously timed for a Halloween-season airing, the story returns the ex-"Xena: Warrior Princess" star to the role of Maddy Rierdon, an insect specialist-turned-Louisiana college professor. She finds herself back in familiar circumstances after the blood-drained body of one of her students is found, prompting Maddy to pursue and stop the mutated vampire bats responsible.

Dylan Neal ("Dawson's Creek") also is back as Maddy's husband, with Brett Butler ("Grace Under Fire") as her sister-in-law and Timothy Bottoms ("The Paper Chase") as the local mayor. CBS late-night host Craig Ferguson appears as an ill-fated fisherman.

The filming of "Vampire Bats" was eventually completed in Nova Scotia. "It wasn't a perfect match for Louisiana," Lawless allows, "but the production company already had a crew there up and running for something else, so we pumped this out with minimal drama after New Orleans. The Nova Scotia crew literally had eight hours between wrapping up 'The Hunt for the BTK Killer' (which CBS broadcast earlier this month) and starting our film."

Refocusing on the work at hand wasn't easy for Lawless and her colleagues. "It's a peculiar thing," she reflects. "When you have that kind of experience, you just want to get back to the scene of it because you want to be with people who know what you're talking about. I had a tiny taste of what it must be like to go to war, then to come back and find everybody else seemingly without a care in the world. You want to be with those with whom you share a common experience."

Lawless reports she "happened to get lucky" in finding refuge at an already overcrowded bed-and-breakfast inn, and she remained glad to be doing a follow-up to "Locusts," which delivered strong CBS Sunday Movie ratings last spring. She notes, "I think the network was surprised that it pulled a much younger audience than they generally expect in that slot."

Those viewers are about to be accommodated again by special-effects wizards and Lawless' bravado. "They glued little wings on rats and threw them at me," she says. "Actually, that's not true, but it's a cool image. It was mostly CGI (computer-generated imagery), which is just fabulous to work with as far as I'm concerned."

Although she also guest-starred recently on Sci-Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica" update, Lawless maintains fantasy isn't an absolute work requirement for her. She adds, "It would take a lot for me to consider going back into a one-hour drama. I've got little kids, and they would just never see me." Julius and Judah (ages 6 and 3, respectively) are Lawless' children with husband Rob Tapert, who was an executive producer of "Xena."

As with Bruce Willis opposing terrorist after terrorist in the "Die Hard" movies, could Lawless fight even more horrors in future CBS offerings? "Oh, I don't know," she muses. "How many plagues are there? I'm really looking forward to 'Head Lice.'"