"Xena" heroine dusts off sandals for "Spartacus"

Sun Feb 20, 2011 9:48pm EST
 
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By Lesley Goldberg

LOS ANGELES (Backstage) - Lucy Lawless doesn't mind being typecast.

The 42-year-old actress, who became a household name through the 1995-2001 TV series "Xena: Warrior Princess" and who can currently be seen on Starz's "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena," admits that playing Xena may have pigeonholed her into being cast as the warrior in period pieces. But, the New Zealander notes, "What am I going to complain about? How many actresses work as much as me?"

Lawless auditioned to play an Amazon queen in the 1994 TV movie "Hercules and the Amazon Women" -- a role she says she was "a bit young" for -- but instead landed the role of an Amazon lieutenant. "I remember being bummed because it was so much smaller (a role) than the Amazon queen," Lawless says.

"But it felt quite right to cast us that way. Roma Downey actually played the Amazon queen. She was good; it needed someone with a little bit more life experience than me to carry off that role."

Lawless' bit part in the telefilm led to bigger and better things when the project became the pilot for "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys," a series that saw Lawless ultimately play three roles: Lysia, a man-hating Amazon in the pilot; Lyla, who attempted to kill Hercules; and a villainous warrior woman named Xena in the episode "The Warrior Princess."

"Being the star of an action show is really, really hard," Lawless says. "You've got to keep up a lot of energy, and you've got to be the morale leader. There's a lot on your shoulders. The fighting on 'Xena' was really hard for me."

Lawless adds she is grateful for the following the role gave her. "But people in the business, their perception of the role was not always kind. Sometimes you have to go away for a while."

Lawless guest-starred on such series as "The X-Files" and "Burn Notice" and had small roles in such films as "Spider-Man" and its sequel. Between projects, she made the most of her time. "I filled it up by having children and actually raising them myself," she says. "I worked a little bit. But as Oprah said, 'You can have everything; you just can't have it all at once.' So that was time well spent. I have well-adjusted children. I wouldn't want to be an Oscar-wining parent with a screwed-up child."   Continued...