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War­rior Princess, green ac­tivist, kind­ness ad­vo­cate, ter­ri­ble cook… Lucy Lawless is all of these and more. Ahead of con­cur­rent stints as a screen witch and a night­club diva, she fo­cused her charm on

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - Yvonne van Dongen.

You might have missed it. There’s been a lot go­ing on. And even if you were a re­cip­i­ent, you may not have known be­cause that’s how The Lucy Lawless Feel the Love Week works. As it hap­pens, we’re in the thick of it. Be­tween Septem­ber 21 and 28 ev­ery year, Lucy Lawless fans all around the world un­der­take ran­dom acts of kind­ness. Wash­ing the neigh­bour’s car, putting money in park­ing me­ters, that sort of thing. It’s been huge in the Philip­pines, Turkey and Iran. Lawless said she heard about a Brazil­ian doc­tor who did free cleft palate op­er­a­tions a few years ago. That was cool.

The con­cept arose out of her fans’ de­sire to sup­port her char­i­ties. In­stead, she urged them: “Do some­thing in your own com­mu­nity. Help the peo­ple around you.” That’s how her spe­cial week got off the ground. Mind you, the love could be a bit thin on the ground this year as Lawless ad­mits the web­site hasn’t al­ways had the at­ten­tion from her it re­quires. It can be de­mand­ing feed­ing the ap­petite of de­voted Xen­ites who have been known to make big life de­ci­sions based on her and then, if things go wrong, “it’s all my fault”.

She shrugs, men­tally tosses it off. The per­ils of be­ing an in­ter­na­tional su­per­star which she knows she is – though she’s spent the last half hour telling me she lives a low-key, hum­drum life. Dur­ing the week never go­ing out, watch­ing Masterchef, in bed at 9.30. Week­ends mooching around home, help­ing tend the large fam­ily gar­den with hus­band Rob Tapert and teenage sons Julius and Ju­dah.

It’s not the life she would have cho­sen for her­self. Lawless was happy with her fam­ily in Los An­ge­les but when they re­turned to New Zealand for Spar­ta­cus, Tapert fell in love with the city that re­minded him of his home in Michi­gan and her boys couldn’t be­lieve they could go to a school where the teacher sug­gested they take their shoes off. In Los An­ge­les, there would have been snakes and li­a­bil­ity is­sues around such a rash act. Even though she pleaded with them – “C’mon guys, let’s go. What about an ad­ven­ture?” – they stood their ground. Nope, we’re never go­ing back. Her star power ob­vi­ously doesn’t count for much at home. “You bet. My kids don’t care about what I do. Not at all. They’re the stars of their own lives.”

But that de­sire for ad­ven­ture has nee­dled her from the get-go. “When I was a kid, I used to look up at a plane go­ing over­head and think, ‘I want to be on that plane.’ My fa­ther told me I could. He told me I could do any­thing and I be­lieved him.”

And she did, con­quer­ing the world as Xena War­rior Princess, Lu­cre­tia in Spar­ta­cus, Betty Rizzo in Grease, as a singer in Celebrity Duets and a bazil­lion other in­ter­na­tional film and tele­vi­sion roles. But for now, home base is Mis­sion Bay where Tapert does all the cook­ing (“I can’t. I’m a ter­ri­ble cook.”) and the gar­den pro­duces much of the food they eat. “I’ve al­ways be­lieved that what you put in­side your body is more im­por­tant than what you put on it.” Also not drink­ing. We talk a lot about not drink­ing. For years she didn’t, then when she re­turned to New Zealand, she did again with a group of friends who drank a lot but she didn’t like the way it looked on her, what it did to her skin, to her men­tal acu­ity, so she’s cut back again.

Lucy Lawless turns 50 next year. “Does age­ing mat­ter? Oh it mat­ters. On the other hand, I thought I was 50 this year, so I’ve al­ready ad­justed,” she leans to­wards me, laugh­ing at her own daffi­ness. “I’m the sort of per­son who doesn’t know what month it is. I just don’t value those kinds of things. But age­ing, yeah. One of the pit­falls of liv­ing in Hol­ly­wood or Florida is that you’re sur­rounded by women who’ve had too much done and your sense of nor­mal starts shift­ing. I haven’t had any­thing done but I would, sure. Plenty of ac­tresses do. You look at pho­tos of them in 1984 and pho­tos now and you re­alise they’ve aged back­wards.”

The pub­lic will have the chance to see Lawless aged for­wards just a lit­tle in the film The Changeover, out this week. She plays a witch with long grey hair, though in truth I can’t de­tect a sin­gle delin­quent strand in her brunette bob. I doubt she has any and, even if she did, they wouldn’t stand a chance.

“For women my age it’s easy to go, ‘What the hell, I don’t care,’ but I don’t want to hear that things are in­evitable. I’m not go­ing to give it away. My mo­bil­ity, that’s im­por­tant so I do yoga, and my liver, I don’t want to trash that. My van­ity ex­tends as far as not smok­ing and drink­ing very lit­tle.” Then she looks away and her face splits into a wicked grin, as if re­mem­ber­ing. “But I love it though. Drink­ing. Oooh yes. Love it.”

Lawless does that a lot. Talks earnestly and then, with her char­ac­ter­is­tic curled-lip smile, lets slip a se­cre­tive, dev­il­ish ad­mis­sion. That look, sig­nalling a barely con­tained sense of mis­chief, is why her at­tempt to pass her­self off as a home­body isn’t en­tirely con­vinc­ing. There’s ob­vi­ously still a party in there which is why her

“When I was a kid… My fa­ther told me I could do any­thing and I be­lieved him.”

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