Lawless re­turns with new show

The Prince George Citizen - - A&e -

The next time you find your­self in a court­room, look around. There’s a chance you might spot Lucy Lawless there, too.

The ac­tress is fas­ci­nated by tri­als and on days when she’s not work­ing will of­ten go to court as a mem­ber of the pub­lic. There you’ll find the one­time Xena: War­rior Princess try­ing to look in­con­spic­u­ous, soak­ing it all in.

“It just teaches you so much about life and your own so­ci­ety and jus­tice and about your­self,” says Lawless. “It’s re­ally im­por­tant that we par­tic­i­pate in the democ­racy. That’s a re­ally good way to hold the jus­tice sys­tem to the stan­dards of the peo­ple.”

Lawless, 51, has at­tended a mur­der trial in her na­tive New Zealand, jury se­lec­tion for a grisly case in Louisiana and was even at Jef­frey Ep­stein’s bail hear­ing in New York last month when the fi­nancier faced sex traf­fick­ing charges.

On that rainy day, she showed up bedrag­gled in flip-flops and watched Ep­stein “sham­ble in,” act­ing shaky. The whole thing was over quickly.

“Se­date is not the right word. It was som­bre. And me­thod­i­cal. And metic­u­lous. And all over in 20 min­utes,” she says.

Lawless’ fas­ci­na­tion with crime – she even will go so far as calling her­self a “court ghoul” – has filtered into her lat­est project, the new crime TV se­ries My Life is Mur­der.

“This much more closely mir­rors my own per­sonal in­ter­ests,” she says.

Lawless plays Alexa Crowe, an ex-homi­cide de­tec­tive who bakes bread, loves Crowded House, speaks Ger­man and cor­rects peo­ple’s gram­mar when she’s not chas­ing bad­dies.

She is a fully re­al­ized modern woman – un­fil­tered, sexy, funny and prone to giv­ing un­so­licited ad­vice.

In a typ­i­cal scene, a vil­lain hold­ing a knife or­ders Alexa to stand up. “Get up slow,” he snarls. She re­sponds calmly: “I think you’ll find ‘slowly’ is the ad­verb.”

There are dif­fer­ences be­tween Alexa and Lawless, of course.

One is the char­ac­ter’s love of bread, which on the show is a sym­bol of new life and nur­tur­ing. In real life, Lawless is gluten in­tol­er­ant.

“It’s kind of a joke that I’m al­ways up to my el­bows in flour. But I sure earned my in­tol­er­ance. For 40 years, I ate bread like a mad thing and I know what it tastes like al­right.”

The show, set in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia, ex­plores closed worlds – un­der­tak­ers, mod­els, es­corts and even bi­cy­clist en­thu­si­asts nick­named MAMILs (mid­dle-aged man in Ly­cra). The show also tweaks con­ven­tions, cast­ing a woman as a mob boss or mak­ing Alexa’s an­noy­ing neigh­bour a mil­len­nial rather than a crusty older woman.

“I just want to give peo­ple a lit­tle psy­chic hol­i­day from all the grim stuff so they can recharge the bat­ter­ies and go back out there and fight the good fight,” Lawless said.

Cre­ator Claire Tonkin wrote Alexa with Lawless in mind. “There’s a lot of me in the char­ac­ter and that’s the ad­van­tage of hav­ing writ­ers build some­thing around you. I’m a very lucky woman,” says Lawless.

Matthew Gra­ham, the gen­eral man­ager of Acorn TV, which spe­cial­izes in of­fer­ing Bri­tish and Aus­tralian TV shows, says Lawless’ new show con­tin­ues the stream­ing ser­vice’s push for strong, re­lat­able fe­male leads.

“We love Lucy Lawless. We love what she brings to the screen her strength, her vi­va­cious­ness, her in­tel­li­gence and her sense of hu­mour. We think that My Life is Mur­der is the per­fect ve­hi­cle to show­case all of that,” he says.

Lawless’ strength and hu­mour were present when she burst into the pub­lic’s con­scious­ness as Xena in a show that mixed dark mythol­ogy, ac­tion, campy hu­mour and sly sex­u­al­ity.

It aired from 1995 to 2001. Xena was a she-hunky leather queen in a breast­plate who bat­tled bad guys with sword, shiv, cross­bow, fry­ing pan or the ul­ti­mate weapon, a mur­der­ous mis­sile called the chakram.

She and her side­kick, Gabrielle, were part of one of tele­vi­sion’s more in­trigu­ing gal-pal duos, with many view­ers cel­e­brat­ing what they saw as les­bian af­fec­tion.

“It was fun. It was about uni­ver­sal themes, of the tri­umph of the hu­man spirit: love, courage and, of course, hate and fear un­der­neath that,” Lawless says. “The legacy is that it in­spired, by some kind of alchemy, pos­i­tive change in the lives of in­di­vid­u­als.”

Lawless con­stantly hears from fans about how the show em­pow­ered them, es­pe­cially from peo­ple who feel marginal­ized - mi­nori­ties, in­valids, and gay men and women.

She once asked an African-Amer­i­can woman why it res­onated with black women.

That woman’s re­sponse: “African-Amer­i­can women feel that they need to be war­rior woman ev­ery day of their lives.”

Lawless is some­thing of a war­rior off-screen, too.

Ac­tivism is some­thing she takes se­ri­ously and calls the en­vi­ron­ment “my No. 1 com­mit­ment.”

She was ar­rested in 2012 for protest­ing Arc­tic oil drilling with Green­peace and says the move­ment needs to keep go­ing de­spite po­lit­i­cal set­backs.

“You get com­pas­sion fa­tigue. You go, ‘I’ve only got so much band­width, and this is mak­ing my heart hurt’ and the world’s re­ally heart-hurty right now,” she said.

“So in or­der to keep us buoy­ant, we’ve got to start hear­ing about the great in­no­va­tions and peo­ple who are do­ing good work and there’s tons of it out there.”

AP PHOTO

Ac­tress Lucy Lawless is pro­mot­ing her new crime TV se­ries My Life Is Mur­der.

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