E! Online News

Going Home

by Greg Agnew

An Empty Warehouse, Auckland, New Zealand: A warm "Wolcum hume" greets me as Xena strides in full leather from behind an Egyptian temple wall made of Styrofoam.

"Wolcum hume" is, of course, the way "Welcome home" sounds filtered through the lilt of a New Zealand accent.

I do feel at home. Lucy Lawless, the star of Xena, goes out of her way to make me feel like I'm a part of the cast, even though I'm only here to visit. She doesn't meet many other Kiwis who are on American TV (are any others?), so we bond instantly.

After three long years, she's finally used to wearing the Xena garb. Those costumes are heavy. (I know. I was literally sewn into one for a battle with Hercules' stunt men--but I'll tell you more about that in my next column.) The leather is thick saddle-grade stuff, so it's very restricting.


Lucy likens hers to a corset, but says she doesn't notice it so much anymore. She's also used to parading around in her trademark harness without any hint of self-consciousness. That much is obvious from the way she spends many hours sitting on the set with me, chatting about all the changes at home since I left in 1984 and the bizarre world of American show business.

She and Hercules star Kevin Sorbo are in a strange situation. They're famous in the U.S., but they don't get to take advantage of that fame. Because they live 19 time zones away, they're not invited to movie premieres, award shows, celebrity charity events or on talk shows.

They have only a long-distance knowledge of their success, and the only time they really get to enjoy it is on their rare travels to the U.S.--or if Americans visiting New Zealand see them. This helps keep cast and crew focused (and friendly) on the set.

Unlike stars on American sets, Lucy is part of the crew. Instead of being locked up in her trailer with special food and assistants doting over her, she eats the same food as everyone else, chats with them as equals and works the same hours.

In the episode she's shooting today, the 5-foot,10-inch 30-year-old is saving a mythical town from a right-wing zealot who's trying to ban dancing.

Because of the inventive plotlines, Xena gets to travel through time on a whim, save the world and historic figures every week and invent anything she wants. Her sidekick, Gabrielle, is inventing Irish-style dancing ( la Riverdance) this week. The two of them invented soccer a few episodes ago.

After some heavy hoofing, Lucy invites me to lunch (roast New Zealand beef, grilled vegetables and several big desserts). While I relive the tastes of my youth, we natter about real-life subjects such as her recent marriage, her new multimillion-dollar Auckland beachside house, her daughter and the challenges she faces working on a U.S. show in the South Pacific.

Lawless seems very happy. She married the show's executive producer in March, but she says they keep work at work. Besides, she's got enough to do "at hume." With a 10-year-old daughter, a new house and the usual family concerns to keep her busy, she's more than content being a mere mortal--at least off-screen.

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