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SFX Profile: Lucy Lawless

SFX Magazine #151
December 2006

She's swapped Xena for Battlestar Galactica, the black hair for flowing blonde locks,
and her Warrior Princess status for that of Cylon siren.

Contains minor spoilers for BSG Season 3

Scans contributed by Sue

Words: Joseph McCabe ■ Photographyİ Universal

The Lowdown
■ OCCUPATION: Actress, mother
■ BORN: 29 March 1968
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 everything."
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 25-year-old someone."

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..."

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