Lucy Lawless on Playing Badass Women, From 'Xena' to 'My Life Is Murder' (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
Lucy Lawless is no stranger to iconic TV roles.
The New Zealand actress has been a staple of the small screen ever since she played the titular heroine on the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess 24 years ago. In the years that followed, she has played everything from a humanoid Cylon on the acclaimed remake of Battlestar Galactica to the deceptive Lucretia on Starz’s Spartacus saga. More recently, Lawless dabbled in horror with major roles on WGN America’s Salem and Starz’s Ash vs Evil Dead, and she famously became Ron Swanson’s third wife on NBC’s Parks and Recreation.
Now, she’s settling into another memorable role as fearless private investigator Alexa Crowe, who is lured back into the world of solving crime by her former boss, Detective Inspector Keiran Hussy (Bernard Curry), on the 10-part series My Life Is Murder. It first premiered in Australia earlier this summer, and the series is making its U.S. debut on Monday, Aug. 5 on Acorn TV.
“What’s cool about her is that she’s released from caring what anybody thinks about her,” Lawless says of Alexa, who tragically lost her husband years prior and left police work to grieve. After being drawn back in, she’s reminded how much she enjoys this world. “She’s hooked again.”
Described as a major departure for Lawless, the role is actually the closest she’s ever come to playing herself on screen. “I wanted to do something that was more like me,” she says, adding that being a woman in her 50s (she turned 51 in March) has allowed her to become more carefree. “You’re much less concerned with how people think of you and much more interested in what you think of other people.” While playing this character, one so rooted in reality as well as a welcome mix of sassy and sultry, “Alexa and I have fused almost completely,” Lawless adds with a laugh.
My Life Is Murder also sees Lawless joining a growing canon of crime series led by iconic female characters, from Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote to Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU. “I’ve always wanted to do it,” Lawless of finally getting to play Alexa, who is a former homicide detective. In fact, the actress says she always imagined that someone from CBS would call her up to do an updated version of the Angela Lansbury classic. Before that could happen, though, Lawless met executive producer Clair Tonkin, who came to her with the idea of My Life Is Murder. Within 13 months after their initial meeting, they were wrapping the first season.
While Lawless jokes about remaking Murder, She Wrote, it wasn’t long ago that there were talks of bringing Xena: Warrior Princess back. By August of 2017, however, NBC had revealed that the revival was not moving forward. Admittedly, Lawless says she was disappointed that it didn’t come together, adding that Robert Tapert, her husband and co-creator of the series, “honestly doesn’t feel like he can do it better.”
Even though it didn’t happen, Lawless believes Xena would still work today. “It seems like such a no-brainer in the #MeToo world,” she says, adding that the series still resonates with newer generations. “It has a buoyancy about it.” There’s a lightness and fun to the role that she tries to bring to all the characters she’s played since.
“She gave me everything,” the actress says of Xena, who can easily be counted as one of pop culture’s early groundbreaking female heroes. Nearly 25 years later, audiences are finally getting a proliferation of heroines, with Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and Black Widow all getting their own big-budget films. “I’m very proud to have been any part in that lineage,” she says, adding that she “would like to be part of” one of those comic book film franchises in some way down the road. Until then, “I’m a pretty lucky person,” Lawless says.