Many thanks to Amy Z for the transcript


22 June 2001

Getting Her Kicks, Even After 'Xena' by Diane Werts Staff Writer

IT ISN'T EASY being Xena. And Lucy Lawless is glad she won't have to be anymore.

"I feel like another year would be an unbelievable slog," says the action actress whose six-year syndicated run as "Xena: Warrior Princess" comes to an end tomorrow, with the two-part series finale at 8 and 9 p.m. on WPIX/11. "To make really great episodes, they have to thrash you, and the sixth season has been kick ---, and believe me it's killing us to make that happen. I'm ready to move on to other creative endeavors. My husband will be far more bereft than I because these are all his babies." That would be Rob Tapert, the American producer ("Hercules") whom Lawless married along the "Xena" run. They had a baby, son Julius, in 1999, to join Lawless' daughter, Daisy, by her previous marriage to fellow New Zealander Garth Lawless. (Yes, her name is real.)

So now their bicontinental family is based in both Tapert's Hollywood and Lawless' native land, where "Xena" was shot. Over the phone from her Southern Hemisphere home, the 33-year-old actress has a British-tinged accent and a vocabulary to match: "Lass," "ratbag" and "shhedule" for "schedule" are among the colorfully un-American terms that come flowing in her quick and casual off-camera speaking style. She doesn't sound like Xena because she isn't like Xena.

Yet "I know that for the rest of my life, it's going to be like Barbara Eden or Lynda Carter or somebody: 'Oh, she looks great; didn't she used to play Xena back in the '90s?' I'll bet you within five years, they'll do a big Xena movie, and they'll ask me to come back as her mother. I know that day's coming." And that's OK with Lawless. Why not make fun of yourself? "I remember at 9 years old discovering that comedy was a way to get yourself out of a lot of scrapes at school with the teacher. It wasn't enough to be pretty and good at your work. But if you played kind of dumb and funny and a bit of the clown, they laughed and that really dissipated a lot of the tension. I remember the moment I went, 'Yeah, that's for me.'"

Comedy gave Lawless her showbiz start in New Zealand, where she goofed on circa-1990 TV laughers "Funny Business" and "For the Love of Mike." A guest shot on Kevin Sorbo's locally filmed actioner "Hercules" turned into a long "Xena" run and some tough leather-babe typecasting. But Lawless did get to show her silly side with a quick 1997 stint as Rizzo in Broadway's "Grease," and in guest shots on tube comedies "Something So Right," "The Simpsons" and "Just Shoot Me." She's also joshed frequently on Regis Philbin's and Conan O'Brien's talkfests. (And she'll appear on today's 6-8 a.m. "WB11 Morning News.")

When Lawless played a "professional escort" in that "Shoot Me" episode aired in February (and repeating on NBC July 12), she found great humor in the fact that star George Segal had no idea who she was. "He thought I was some bimbo, some businessman's handbag. He thought I was a very confident lass who just lucked out," she says with a laugh, describing her character as "a tart with heart." When the episode situation "came to blows," she says, "I had to figure out how to slap somebody in a girlish way, because for years I've been slugging them. I had to make sure I hit him in a way that a non-warrior princess might." But even a warrior princess can get wacky. Lawless reminds us that "Xena" was a versatile showcase in which "we had heavy drama, then slapstick comedy and every now and then a musical." Exactly which the actress will end up professionally doing next remains a mystery, as does the fate of her Xena muscles. "I've got two kids, so workout time is down my list of priorities somewhat. My children need me more than my body needs to go to the gym."

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