We Love Lucy

Lucy Lawless in Battlestar GalacticaWhile being asked when she first realized she was a lesbian icon, Lawless interrupts with a ready answer: “Episode 8, Season 1.” That was the episode of Xena being filmed when she and co-star Renee O'Connor first realized a Sapphic storm was brewing.

“Renee and I were standing together in a warehouse down in Auckland — and it was quite cold at that time of year — reading this faxed review about it being lesbian, and going ‘Oh, that's really funny! How did they get that?' And then we went, ‘Oh! Now, that makes perfect sense.'”

She continues: “And of course, Rob Tapert and Liz Friedman were like, ‘Aaaah, we knew it!'” Liz Friedman was a producer and writer for Xena: Warrior Princess; she has gone on to write for The O.C. (FOX), Numb3rs (CBS) and House (FOX).

“Particularly with Liz being a lesbian,” Lawless continues, “that would've been her aim. She and Rob knew the whole time. And it made perfect sense; it just hadn't occurred to us, is all.”

But Lawless says she and O'Connor were never concerned with whether their characters were gay or straight: “It doesn't make a difference how you go about your job as a warrior princess and sidekick. It's like, a female firefighter does her job regardless of her sexual orientation, and that's why it never made a damn bit of difference to us.”

That isn't to say Lawless isn't concerned with her characters' various motivations. She gushes over the way the Battlestar creative team collaborates with the actors.

“They really plumb the depths of every actor and every character, asking you questions, forcing new material from your experiences and your thought patterns,” she says. “That's why the show is so complex. They are using every single person as source material. They'll take every little quirk of your nature and incorporate it into their show so it is as great as the sum of its parts. I felt like I was totally being used, but it's a good thing.”

She says of the show: “It's got a lot of light and shade. It exposes everyone for not being wholly good. Everyone is fallible.”

One thing that enabled her to make her character so scary is the influence of a book she read during filming, The Fantasy Bond: Structure of Psychological Defenses by Robert W. Firestone. She says the chapter about the neglectful or malevolent mother was what she particularly brought to bear on her character.

“It's the scariest thing in the world to any mammal,” Lawless says. “For the most part, if a mother abandons or neglects a child — emotionally, physically or in any way — that child faces annihilation. So on a primal level, we fear that more than anything.”

Lawless is herself a mother of three. She has 4-and 7-year-old sons with Tapert and, from her first marriage, an 18-year-old daughter who is graduating from film school in New Zealand.

As for rumors of Xena hitting the big screen? Lawless hasn't heard of anything in the works, but she quips, “They'll cast some 19-year-old piece of chicken as Xena and disgust us all.”

In the meantime there's still Battlestar Galactica. At least, the 10 episodes she appears in. After that, D'Anna is a goner.

But Lawless is all right with that. “The poetry of my character's arc is so beautiful — the way I end my stint on Battlestar this year — I love it,” she says.

She's not giving up the goods, though. The only thing she will reveal is this: “I'm glad they fulfilled the promise of the character's arc. It has such elegance. I'm really excited for everyone to see it and hear what they think. It's the height of comedy to me, in a very ironical way. It's Kiwi comedy — put it that way.” We'll just have to wait, she says, and see what that means.

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