Lucy Lawless - Web Princess
Winter 1998 Issue
Many thanks to Ko-fen for the transcript below
Xena: Web Princess
The Net loves Lucy! And Lucy Lawless, better known as the warrior princess Xena, loves the Net. David Sheff meets a heroine of classical antiquity who is both grounded in the twentieth century and wired up for the twenty-first in this Internet interview.
Even David Letterman is not as hip as the Internet. Had he been, he wouldn't have asked Lucy Lawless, "Now, tell us what Xena is." With the patience of a warrior who has thrown around - you can take that literally - tougher customers than Letterman, Lawless was succinct. "Xena is a badass, kickass, pre-Mycenaean girl who traverses the time lines," she explained.
By now Letterman knows what the world knows: that Lawless is the star of the wildly popular TV show Xena: Warrior Princess (a spin-off of the cult hit Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) and is fast emerging as one of the hottest actresses on TV and the Net, where Xenites - her numerous fans - gather en masse. A typical review of Xena appeared recently in The Washington Post. "You will notice her breasts," it began. "Really there's no way not to, what with all the swirls and twists of metal buttressing her leather bustier....And the thighs - long and muscular beneath the flaps of her leather miniskirt. And her ululating battle cry: 'Iyi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi!' She is the sort of women who can grab an arrow in midflight, who can hurl grown men through the air."
Lawless herself has been propelled to international stardom. At last count there were at least sixty Web sites devoted to the 28-year-old New Zealand native, who is the fifth of seven children from a close-knit Catholic family. Lawless is a sensation online - the Net really does love Lucy. And is isn't just pictures of her lethal leather bustier. There are discussions about every aspect of Lawless and the show - all fast and funny - and reams of fan fiction, analyses of scripts, and inquires that seek to pin down the show's obscure setting.
Lawless, who is a single mother of an eight-year-old daughter named Daisy, works on the set of Xena for long, 12-hour days, but took a break from her shooting schedule to sit down with us in front of her computer in her Auckland, New Zealand, home.
Interview: David Sheff
DO YOU GO ONLINE TO TALK TO FANS?
When I do, I go through somebody at work. Besides the privacy issue, I go through the official channels so that people know it's actually me. When I've gone online on my own, the truth is I've gotten into trouble, goofing around when I was ill.
WAS THAT WHEN YOU FELL OFF YOUR HORSE ON THE XENA SET?
Yes. I broke my pelvis. I couldn't sleep and sat up in the middle of the night and went online.
I joined a conversation about Xena, which was a mistake. At first, I was encouraged to talk; they thought I was some rather shy person who was also a very slow typist. With all that encouragement, I felt the pressure to say something and I made some jokey comment about Xena not being real. The people in the room were appalled. "I can't believe what she said." It was the worst possible thing you could ever say about Xena, apparently. I got flamed and they all left me there.
SO IT WASN'T A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE?
No, though there have also been many positive ones. During that time there was an outpouring of kind wishes from fans that came in: get-well notes from around the world via the internet. I got heaps. And I have to say, they really did cheer me up in some pretty dark moments in the night. It was the first time I got a sense of the community out there. Now I carry it with me. If I go on some talk show I can breathe a bit easier; I don't have a panic attack because I have a sense of who the people are out there, that they are people I know.
HAS THE INTERNET BEEN IMPORTANT IN THE SHOW'S RISE. KEEPING THE BUZZ GOING, THE FANS INVOLVED, CREATING A PLACE FOR THE XENITES TO CONGREGATE?
I think it has been, though frankly, we're so busy trying to get our work done each day that it's hard to know how it all works. Everyone on the show, the crew and the cast, are actually amazed when we meet hard-core fans. We kind of look at them like they're specimens and ask them questions. We're just fascinated. Maybe it hasn't sunk in; we've only been making the show 18 months.
MANY YOUNG WOMEN ONLINE SEEM TO LOOK TO YOU AS A ROLE MODEL. IS THERE A RESPONSIBILITY THAT COMES WITH THAT? DO YOU TAKE IT SERIOUSLY?
I take it as seriously as I believe I should. I try not to behave in a way that could encourage someone else to do anything they shouldn't, just in case. I don't smoke; I don't want people thinking that that's OK to do. At the same time, I can't imagine why anybody would want to be like me.
WHAT DO THEY GET FROM XENA?
I think there are a lot of women out there who are very encouraged to go out and do things that they feel they should have done, they've always wanted to do and denied themselves. Now that their kids are grown, they feel inspired to do that by watching a female hero - two, actually [including Gabrielle]. They also seem inspired by the model of a great friendship between Gabrielle and me and the great self-determination of these women.
HAVE YOU SEEN ALL THE XENA SITES?
How can you possible look at them all? I have seen some and I'm really impressed by them. They all have a slightly different mood. They're just awfully crazed and funny.
DO YOU FEEL IT'S AN INVASION THAT YOUR IMAGE IS SO PREVALENT ONLINE? Not really. There are so many things out of my control and I'm just going to let them go. It's part of my job, giving pleasure.
It also has LL top 5 sites!
1.. Cinemania "I look at Cinemania all the time to find out who it is who is sending me scripts."
2.. Internet Movie Database "Everything you want to know about every movie made in Hollywood..."
3.. ESPET SportZone "Detroit Red Wings scores day or night. I'm hooked on hockey."
4.. Flyfish.com: "Everything about fly-fishing. I'm hooked on this, too (ha ha)."
5.. Detroit Free Press "My guy's home town."
There are also a couple of quotes:
a.. "Xena, much like myself, doesn't think a thing about what she's wearing, if it's acceptable or not." b.. "I'm more worried about my taxes and will the tomatoes [in my garden] rot than controlling my image."
Return to The Australian Xena Information Page