Many thanks to Barbara Davies for the transcript
CROSSING CONTINENTS (BBC Radio 4)
Interview segment with Lucy Lawless
12 March 2000
JP: There are no prizes for guessing where I am now. That's it. I'm on a film set and it's in Auckland. Now you may not instantly connect the film industry with New Zealand. But perhaps you should. Cinema buffs will be aware of outstanding New Zealand-made films like The Piano and Heavenly Creatures, and film actors like Sam Neil and Kerry Fox. And the future for film production here has never looked brighter than it does now. Could it be that 20th Century Fox could be joined by 21st Century Kiwi? Well it's not entirely impossible.
A big budget American film version of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is now being shot on location around New Zealand. And this studio is busy making the 5th series of the incredibly successful action drama: Xena the Warrior Princess. Xena is showing in 115 countries. And if you've seen the show at home in the UK on Channel 5, you probably took it for a Hollywood product because the accent is definitely American.
But it is entirely shot here in New Zealand, and its eponymous heroine the statuesque leather clad Xena the warrior Princess, played by Lucy Lawless, is also a New Zealander. The runaway success of Xena has made an international star of Lucy Lawless, and I'm waiting on set to talk to her.
JP: I have to say that you couldn't be anybody else - the famous dark hair, the famous blue eyes ... and you make me feel vertically challenged actually ... because you are quite tall. I mean, I'm no midget!
LL: Everyone's disappointed, when they meet superheroes in particular, because they're so ordinary. You know: "Oh you are but flesh and blood." Sorry!
JP: Now. In this new series, Xena is obviously going to continue to fight the powers of darkness and all the forces of evil.
LL: Yes, but against her worst judgement. You know, a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. She's a flawed hero which is what I think people relate to. She struggles to be a good person. But I believe the reason that they tune in every week is ... because it's universal themes it appeals to different people all over the world. The triumph of good over evil, love versus hate.
JP: I'd be interested in your reflections on the popularity of the kind of superwoman character.
LL: I think both men and women are attracted to female action heroes. Women like strength, and men like to feel: For once here's a woman I can sit down and have a beer with, and she's not going to ask me tricky questions. Also women feel empowered ... and inspired. Women are not threatened by an action female as they are by a wily female. You don't expect ... you know, Xena's not going to come and steal your boyfriend ::laughs:: might steal your girlfriend ::laughs:: No. Um. We have to be a little quiet because the red light's gone on. They're filming. We try to make a little piece of art in our own funny way. It's not big art ... it's not high art ::laughs:: It's kind of low art ... and we love it.
JP: One of the things that is impressive is that you are, you have ... for me ... a very slight New Zealand accent, not a very strong one ... in the show you have a ... what ... a Middle American accent?
JP: Did you find that difficult?
LL: I do have to practice. When I go away on holiday, I come back and I've fallen into ... you know ... great big lazy way of speaking in a Kiwi way ::exaggerates:: "Gone holiday. Drink moke." No, I'm making an effort for you, you see, because it's on the radio.
JP: Why is it made in New Zealand? I mean, is this partly your choice?
LL: I certainly had nothing to do with it. The chap who's now my husband was walking across a carpark at Universal, and ran into an old colleague, and he said -
JP: What, in California?
LL: In California - and he said: "Oh, what are you doing?" "Oh, I've got these new shows and we're thinking of going to South Africa or somewhere to shoot it because we've only been given a certain amount of money." And this other chap said: "Well, I've just been shooting a show called Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle down in New Zealand (with Jean Stapleton who played Archie Bunker's wife Edith). You should go there. They speak English, they've got a crew all set up, it's fabulous locations within a short drive from town." That made Rob send somebody down here to scout locations, and that's how it came to be here.
JP: There does seem to be an increasing amount of interest in New Zealand as a movie making venue. And I was just thinking as I came along, you know, Hollywood became the centre of film making in the 20s because of the sunshine. I imagine the benign climate has something to do with it, even today.
LL: Yes. You don't have to go very far to get away from power lines.
JP: A lot of it is shot on location here.
LL: Oh yes. And there are plenty of locations in New Zealand. You know I'm in two minds about this. On one hand, I want to say: "Absolutely. Come to New Zealand. Terrific crews. English speaking. Good rate of exchange for your pound or your American Dollar, whatever." And part of me wants to go: "No, Don't come! Because you'll only steal our crew. We've trained all these people up and you're only going to poach off us." I am a Kiwi girl through and through. I've realized. The more I travel the more I realize how I am a product of this land. I like the wild, West Coast beaches. You can own a pony and work in town. And own ten acres of land 20 minutes from work. This is a fantastically beautiful part of the world,.
JP: Just before you go.
JP: How about the battle cry? Can you do one please?
LL: Lalalala ... she-ip Lalalala ... she-ip!
JP: That's Xena's war cry. And as she returns to fight the forces of evil, it's time for me to tell you that next week on Crossing Continents ...
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