Xena Like You've Never Seen 'Er!
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Even without her trusty sword, this hot-blooded warrior princess puts the hurt on us. In a really god way.
By Bob Ivry
Photographs but Alberto Tolot
Lets be honest: most guys would have trouble approaching Xena, Warrior Princess, unless it was to ask for a good old-fashioned ass-whupping. Getting coy with Lucy Lawless, the New Zealander who plays Xena on TV, however, is a different story. For one thing, contrary to popular belief, shes not actually nine feet tall. A mere 510" mortal, Lucy has nevertheless kept fans of both action-adventure and revealing leather breastplates in thrall since 1995 as the acrobatic wanderer who vanquishes wizards, demons and the occasional pissed off deity in the nations to-rated syndicated drama. Though shes devastating in person, too, shes less likely to gut you with a broadsword than with her native kiwi accent which can bake even phrases like rotten rank cabbages sound disturbingly suggestive. Luckily, when we caught up with Lucky at her Auckland home, disintegrating vegetables was just on the of topics on hand.
M- Whats it like to be a butt-stomping hero to millions?
LL- At first I had a hard time accepting it. But now I just chill. Ive never been that physically coordinated or good at sports. So the last thing I figured Id become is an action hero. I thought Id be doing Shakespeare.
M- Do fans think you have super powers in real life too?
LL-People assume that Im a total amazon - like I have to duck to get through doors. At one convention, this woman was struck speechless. She held her hands above her head, pantomiming that she expected me to be taller. Then she put her hands in front of her chest, like she expected me to have enormous bosoms. What could I say - "Gee, sorry?" The secret with Xena is that we only hire very small people to play the supporting roles.
M-What do you love about the show? LL-I have a morbid sense of humor, a twisted sensibility, and so does the series. Im very grateful that audiences get Xena. Its a guilty pleasure for a lot of people.
Misspeaking of guilty pleasure, whats up with Xena and her trusty sidekick, Gabrielle? Are they sharing a bearskin blanket, so to speak? LL - Dont ask, dont tell.
M - No really.
LL- We like to have the audience make up their own minds about that. The interpretation seems to work fro some people, and if it aint broke, dont fix it. Whatever turns you on - hey, I get letters from judges and televangelists who want me to walk on their backs with my leather boots on. M-Seriously?
LL-No. Just kidding.
M-Damn-I was having vision of Chief Justice Rehnquist and Pat Roberston. Are you and Renee OConnor, the actress who plays Gabrielle, pals in real life?
LL-Oh yeah, but on the set we try to make each other miserable. We were filming one episode set on a sinking ship-wait deep in cold water, surrounded by floating rotten cabbage. We made a bet: Whoever complained first had to pay $5,000. Renee was gagging on the rank cabbage smell, so I kept pushing them towards her. But neither of us cracked.
M-Do you do your own stunts?
LL-A lot of the riding and fight scenes, but since we do really crazy stuff like fly 30 feet through the air, I have about 6 stunt doubles. Even my stand-in has a stunt double. When they hired her, I thought, Wow, not a good way to hold down the budget.
M-Have you ever done one of those patented Xena somersaults and popped out of your leather breastplate?
LL- Believe it or not, that never happened, The costume is well designed-quite functional and, ahem supportive. My only big flashing accident was at a hockey game.
M - How did.. Could you elaborate? LL-I sang the national anthem at a Red Wings-Mighty Ducks game in Anaheim a couple of years ago. I was wearing a Playboy Bunny type outfit, and when I lifted my arms to belt out the big finish, out I -they- popped. Hockey has never been the same for me since.
M-Are you aware that the word breastplate combines two of mens favourite things? LL- (laughs) Come to dinner!
M-I understand you were educated mostly in convent schools in New Zealand. Did you really want to be a nun?
LL- No, I loved convent school but thought nuns werent really women. And with those long dresses, I wasnt even sure they had legs. M. Before you started acting you were a gold miner in the Australian outback. What was it like plunging into an all-male environment after the convent?
LL- Well I grew up with five brothers. Nobody can say anything that embarrasses me or horrifies me. But the job was freezing, filthy work. Theyd brink stacks of rock up from two kilometers down, and Id have to sort dirt from bedrock with a huge power saw.
Did you ever strike gold?
LL-In an operation like that, theyre looking for gold on an atomic level - 439 parts gold per billion or something- that is removed with high tech machines. These wierd geologists would come along, lick the rock, and say "Get rid of it". M-How do you think Xena stacks up against some of her forerunners, like Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman?
LL-Its all in the costume. Xena has a great costume; Wonder Woman had a great costume. The bionic Woman didnt so shes not remembered as fondly. But I dont want to diss my sisters. Chicks who kick ass rock!
M-What about Superman - could Xena kick his ass?
LL- Xena would probably think Superman is a fruit. Shed distract him with something like "Hey look at that run in your tights!" then stuff him back into his telephone booth.
LUCY AT A GLANCE
Born-March 29, 1968, in Mount Albert, NZ.
Early political conflicts:
"My father was the mayor, and growing up, I though he paid for the towns water out of his own pocket. I hated it when kids ran the fountain at the school. Id yell, Stop! Youre wasting my Dads water!"
Battle Cry Basics:
The correct pronunciation of Xenas attack whoop, says Lucy is alalalalalala" though writers always spell it yiyiyiyiyiyi. "I based it on that amazing wail that Arab women have".
Xena Weapon of Choices
The circular, razor-sharp boomerang-like chakram. "I like its versatility. You can shave your legs with it, clean fish, slice open a warlords neck, draw a perfect circle...wear it on your head."
Lucy has two dogs, a German Shepherd named Helen and a "mongrel named Lucky that was voted Least Likely to Succeed at the pound. Hes a whore and the ugliest dog you have ever seen".
Really Guilty Pleasure
Martha Stewart style homemaking. "I bought a book of hers on the Internet. That way I didnt have to face the bookstore clerk. Next thing you know, it would have been a headline in the tabloids:Xena Likes Martha Stewart".
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