If the Emmy Awards didn’t have such a glaring blind spot when it comes to recognizing great genre programming, New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless would have a slew of acting nominations and at least one Emmy statuette somewhere in her house. Unfortunately, Hollywood does look down its collective nose at shows like Xena: Warrior Princess, Battlestar Galactica, and most recently the hit Starz show Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Perhaps not coincidentally, Lawless has starred on all three of those shows, none of which has ever received the Emmy love which they deserve.
While fans of those shows might take offense at the oversight, Lawless herself is much more sanguine about the fact. Instead, she simply focuses on the work and enjoying the people around her. In anticipation of the third series of Spartacus, subtitled Vengeance, airing on January 27th on Starz, AfterElton.com scored time at last summer’s Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles to chat with the actress about that lack of Emmy recognition, playing the now demented Lucretia and much more.
AE: Let’s talk about poor, crazy, demented Lucretia because it’s been so much fun to watch her go from the very much in control woman of Season One to the creature we see at the start of this season.
LL: Well, she’s been so traumatized by the massacre of her husband, the loss of her unborn child, the loss of her home and status and presumably whatever had to happen to enable her to survive. Maybe she’s been eating rats or something. I don’t know what, but she’s living in this blood soaked house after all these months.
AE: So she’s been living in the house of Batiatus all this time?
LL: Where else would she go? She’s been so traumatized that she’s probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. So, when we find her it’s a long way back from this state to the Lucretia that we know.
I’m not sure she’ll ever bee the same. But she has to be recognizable pretty quickly because otherwise it’s boring. You don’t want to lose that character entirely. You know, you keep waiting for the one you love to come back, so we pretty quickly bring her back to somebody that you recognize.
AE: Is it fun to get to play her in that demented state?
LL: Yeah, [though] not as fun I thought. I took it all a bit too seriously I think. And some of her I didn’t feel worked… and some stuff we reshot because… because I put myself so totally in the hands of others. There’s nowhere I won’t go. I have incredible trust in my directors or whatever and you know, maybe I did a little bit too much research and it wasn’t very useful.
Lawless as Lucretia
AE: I’m wondering if you think Lucretia always been so hardhearted.
LL: Oh, I don’t think she is. I think she has few tools available to her. Because even though her husband might seem to hate his father, he would allow himself to be a doormat for him until the end of his days. And you see that in the end where he has a chance to kill his father, knock his father off with a block of wood and he doesn’t take that opportunity.
Lucretia’s just made of sterner stuff. She’ll do the dirty work. She always does the dirty work for her husband. Notice that? All those horrible parties? She doesn’t want that. She doesn’t [Roman nobles] buggering her slaves. But she hasn’t the power or status to deny these things. She’s just made to preside over them, which grudgingly she does.
AE: So that’s the key then – that she does things grudgingly.
LL: Yes! Batiatus told her ‘I’m going off with my dad to another town. You’re going to have another one of those parties and bring the rich Roman in to use the slave girls or whatever.’ And she objected. A couple times, and she’s told to shut up and do her wifely duty.
AE: So you don’t see Lucretia as Lady Macbeth?
LL: Well, yes, they both have ambition for their man. I guess with all these women, you know how some parents push their children to live the lives they can’t? Lucretia’s pushing her husband to live the life that she can’t. So we’re all really selfish creatures when you come down to it. But she is toeing the line for her husband. And he remains the single most potent driving force in her life. And her love for him will dictate all of her movements through this second series.
Lucretia and Batiatus