Words: Joseph McCabe ■ Photographyİ Universal
■ OCCUPATION: Actress, mother
■ BORN: 29 March 1968
■ GREATEST HITS:
Played the trailblazing Xena in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
and Xena: Warrior Princess, after which she became a mum and
appeared in The X-Files, Tarzan and Veronica Mars. Currently
Cylon D'Anna Biers on Battlestar Galactica.
On the Vancouver set of Battlestar Galactica, she looks less
intimidating than she did during her Xena: Warrior Princess
days. Her hair now a fetching blonde, she lacks Xena's taut
muscles. And she doesn't talk of swordplay, just the children
she's had with her husband, Xena producer Rob Tappert. But later
on I notice Lawless has traded in Xena's physical presence for
something more dangerous: a lethal feline grace. Wearing a
t-shirt and jogging pants, she answers my every question with a
soft Kiwi purr. It slips past her sly smile. And it's the smile
that makes me feel like a cartoon canary...
It's fitting that this new Lawless should play D'Anna Biers,
Battlestar's most ruthless Cylon. For like Biers, Lawless is a
careful listener, a keen observer. Describing her role, she
could just as well be talking about herself.
"She sits back, taking in all the data," says Lawless, "and lets
the others do all the talking. And some of them are really
struggling with the more human aspects of their being, like
conscience, like the Sharon characters. Six is very conflicted.
And my character is watching all of them. She collects
information, and then, when she thinks they've all completely
screwed up, she will take over.
"But until the humans came along, the Cylons worked on
consensus, and everything was sweet. And humans came back into
their lives and took them out of Eden, and introduced egotism
and individualism, fragmenting the Cylon community. There were
no real problems, and individuality was regarded as diversity
and thus attractive. Whereas now individuality is a vehicle for
dissent, and a corruption of the Cylon ideal."
Before she's convinced me she really is a Cylon,
Lawless breaks into a wide grin.
"Can't put that in the Sunday news, can ya? You gotta be a Cylon
geek to care!"
I laugh, and tell her that these days I know
more than a few of those.
"Good," she says. "We love 'em."
Of course Lawless considers herself a Cylon geek, and cheerfully
reveals her inspiration for Biers. "I wanted her to be a bit
scary. I wanted her to be somebody that said the right thing and
did the right thing, but creeped you out because there was
something soulless about her. There's a book called The Fantasy
Bond, by Robert Firestone; in it he talks about the malevolent
mother, the neglectful, emotionally cold mother, and their
effect on children. And I went, 'That's who I want this
character to be!'
"They're sociopathic. They can be charming. But there's
something cold about them that you're never quite comfortable
with, because you can never really know them. And because Grace
[Park] and Trish [Helfer] didn't know me very well, I was
perfectly happy for them to be uncomfortable around me."
Lawless says her Cylon co-stars have since learned to relax
around her, and that the three are now best buds. Their
characters, however, continue their unsteady relationship.
"Unlikely partnerships develop." says Lawless of series three,
"because D'Anna and Six and Baltar have a curious triangle going
on. And as much as D' Anna and Six compete on many levels, they
still regard one another, first and foremost, as allies, in
terms of being a Cylon. But they have to watch one another...
It's kind of sad. So that's just beautiful. In terms of acting,
it's really enjoyable for both of us. I'm so loving this."
Lawless is enjoying her job so much she says she'll look back on
it as "one of the great work experiences". Still, many of her
fans will always consider her their warrior princess. Is Lawless
sick of Xena7.
"No, no," she says. "I loved that show. I didn't come out of
that show less famous than I went in. That show gave me
Yet Xena also gave Lawless a screen persona she has found hard
to shake. Even Battlestar producer Ron Moore had reservations
about casting her.
"I've known [Hercules and Battlestar producer] David Eick for
years. He rang and said, 'Do you wanna play God?' And I went,
'Yeah, I've never done that!' But I'm positive Ron Moore thought
David was crazy to have me. He didn't know what I was capable
of. If somebody's not sure of your potential, and if they think
you're a seven-foot tall woman with muscles up the wazoo, they
need to see you in action on set. They need to see you act
before they get a sense of who you are and what they can write
for you. Because Xena was a whole different epoch, man."
Would Lawless ever consider returning to the role?
She lowers her voice. "I've been asked
that. Like the time when doing the movie was considered - I just
couldn't do it, because I was having a baby. Now, I'm fairly
certain that when that does happen it will be somebody else in
the role. Because that's what they do. They look for the next
I can't resist saying that Lawless looks like she hasn't aged a
day since Xena's last episode. The light returns to her eyes,
and the ends of her mouth curl up.
"Oh," she purrs, "smooth-talking devil..."
Purchase SFX #151 Magazine Online