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LAWLESS - Xena to Diva Lucy Gets Vocal

Outlook Magazine

March / April 2007

Xena fans the world over are trading in their TVs for ticket; to Palm Springs this March to witness their favorite 'Warrior Princess embark on a new adventure. Iconic actress Lucy Lawless will bring her pheromone-fueled presence to the stage on Friday, March 30th as part of Girl Bar's "Pure White Party" during Dinah Shore Week 2007. But instead of battling warlords, decimating demons and being the undoing of untold tyrants, Lawless will be taking on a much greater challenge: unleashing the inner Diva. Scratching the singing itch that resurfaced after a stint on the reality TV show Celebrity Duets, the beauty queen-tumed-actress-turned-singer/ songwriter will be performing in front of thousands of delighted lesbians who annually flock to Southern California for this gargantuan girl-for-girl extravaganza.

Fresh off a sold-out gig at the Roxy in Hollywood, Lawless is readying herself for the next cut in what she calls the soundtrack of her life. During a phone interview from her home in Los Angeles, she reflects on her true warrior spirit—before, during and after Xena

You've gone from acting to singing in what appears to be overnight. Have you always wanted to be a singer or is this a relatively new interest for you?

It was a big part of my childhood, singing, and then I stopped. I totally lost confidence. For about 10 years didn't sing at all, and then I did Broadway—went straight from zero to 100—and then stopped again.Then fairly recently the chance came up to sing on Duets [Celebrity Duets}. It was the most empowering thing I'd ever done, and also the most really catapulted me in a whole new direction. It lit a fire under my belly. I'd kind of lost my religion, acting and everything. So when the possibility of singing with Smokey Robinson [on Celebrity Duets] came up, I just leaped at it. I thought, here's something that purifies me. I cannot turn 80 knowing that I chickened out of this opportunity. I'm very attracted to things that scare me. And that was the scariest thing that I ever did, and the most rewarding.

Was Smokey Robinson the performer on Celebrity Duets who had the greatest impact on you?

That was extremely challenging because I adore him in every way, so it was pretty scary. I think Dionne Warwick was also a major influence, not by what she said; it was just her demeanor. It was like,"lf you want to be on the stage with me,you'd better jump to it. You'd better be up with me or get out of my way."So, I learned a lot just being in her presence, because on the stage, you have to be the 'Hell Bitch Diva of the World,' you know, in your own mind, otherwise you have no business being there. Somehow mentally you've got to get there.Take no prisoners, man! You get on that stage you have to be the bitch—and there's nothing wrong with that. [Laughs]

You performed in West Hollywood at Girl Bar not too long ago. Is there a different vibe performing for a primarily lesbian crowd versus a straight audience?

Yes, the lesbian crowd is much more observant, really into it, very celebratory. When you have a collection of like-minded people, there's just a vibe... I mean, I don't know specifically if it's just a lesbian audience, but certainly the Xena fans or the Lucy Lawless fans have a vibe of love, acceptance, celebration— all that good stuff. I would think there's a sprinkling of straight people in there, too [laughs],you know, but they're all the same. There's a commonality of compassion, a theme of fidelity, of supporting the underdog—I think that's one of the themes in Xena that forged this sort of alliance amongst all the fans. I feel like they've given meaning to my career, because I was really just doing Xena because it was a great gig. I was an actress and here's a job, and aren't we having fun. And then seven years later it's become kind of a movement.

What is it about Xena that has made her such an icon in the lesbian community?

The obvious is that it's two women traveling alone without a man in the mix telling them what to do.They're in charge—so that much is obvious. I think the things that have made this such a community—on the Internet and everything—are those themes of strength, courage, sticking up for the underdog and trying to do the right thing in a difficult world. That was certainly Xena and Gabrielle's mission. People want to think of fans as goofballs, but a good number of my fans are lawyers or women in the justice system somewhere... educated, brilliant women.

There was a fair amount of sexual tension on the show between Xena and Gabrielle. Was that intentional or was it simply spontaneous?

Not at the beginning, but somewhere in the middle [of the show's run] we started to put that in as a response, really, to the press we were getting in the lesbian community. And it was for the people in Texas who think that gay people really don't exist. You know, Renee [Renee O'Conner, who played Gabrielle] would go home to Texas and remark on something about the lesbian subtext and they would go, "What the heck are you talking about?" Everybody could see whatever they wanted to [in the series]... there doesn't need to be sexual entendres in everything. Toward the end it did become a little more overt because I think we all got used to it and thought, well, maybe they ARE gay. And by the end I think it was fairly implicit.

When you perform during Dinah Shore Week, what's your plan of attack? Are you going to be bringing a little Xena with you for the girls?

[Laughs] Let's put it this way: I'll be wearing my chaps!