The Sunday Telegraph
15 March 1998
TV Guide

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Powerful Princess

By Michael Idato

Two decades after Lynda T Carter’s Wonder Woman ascended to the Mount Olympus of television, Lucy Lawless has become a scantily clad raven-haired Amazon of modest fame.

Yet she is much more than just a TV show—with hundreds of websites dedicated to her, more than almost anyone else on the internet, the Xena phenomenon is both exciting and terrifying.

Lawless landed the role when the original actress slated to play her fell ill—a classic bus ticket-to-limo story of Hollywood fame, and one Lawless gets tired of telling.

"I do think it’s an amazing story, but I’ve just told it so often it’s losing any freshness," she says. "And I hate to sound completely rehearsed.

"It’s a classic story, though, isn’t it?

"Somebody else’s discomfort or misfortune is an opening with opportunities.

"And as long as you live your life consciously, you’re going to pick up on the opportunities and hopefully make the most of them."

The series is set in a pseudo Ancient Rome/Greece, where the Olympian Gods

(with a dash of their Roman cousins) get up to mischief and the heroes battle all manner of mythical beast.

Much like its predecessor Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess spent an uncertain 12 months on air when it started, and suddenly it became a sensation.

"Really, it’s only now that it’s starting to seem big. I suppose when the Midwest catches on, you’ll know you’ve really infiltrated the market" says Lawless.

‘We were flying by the seat of our pants then. We were going to air as soon as we could postproduce the episodes. We’re back to flying by the seat of our pants again."

When the character was conceived she was a villainess. Indeed, her introductory three-episode stint in Hercules pitted her against Kevin Sorbo’s muscled Greek hero.

"She (was) the archetypal villainess. She had to be the Hercules nemesis and look good in her short skirt. Then the series happened to her and (laughs) she turned over a new leaf, because you can’t have anti-heroes ..."

The series has struck a chord with both young men, who seem enchanted with Lawless’ beauty, and young women, who gravitate to her as a role model.

"I tend to think of people generically; I thought it would be successful with everybody, of every age group. But I’m thrilled that it has struck a chord with women, because it’s been brought to my attention that an awful lot of women need that," Lawless says.

The series has also struck a chord with lesbians, triggering speculation about the nature of Xena’s friendship with Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor) in the series.

"Do we play up to it? What are you asking here?" laughs Lawless. ‘He do have fun with that aspect, but I never want to shove it down people’s throats because it can also be alienating and we don’t want to do that to any sector of our audience.

"But we don’t want to alienate our lesbian following. We love ‘em all! We love ‘em all equally."

What indeed amazed Lawless was not that Xena has become a feminist icon, but that there was even a need for one. "I didn’t know there was such a need for a symbol of strength in women. I guess I have been just going around blinkered my whole life.

"I realised there’s a huge hole there and if they take that from Xena, that’s fantastic. Somebody needed to fill that role. There hadn’t been a female hero, certainly not like this."

Xena: Warrior Princess airs Saturday, Ten at 8.30prn.


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