In a time of ancient gods, warlords, and kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a mighty princess, forged in the heat of battle...Her courage will change the world.
The millions of fans who watch Xena: Warrior PrincessTM every week already know that it is the hottest and hippest show on television. But for inside information that is available nowhere else, The Official Guide to the Xenaverse is the place to turn, offering:
Over one hundred photographs in color and black and white
A complete and detailed episode guide to the first two seasons, featuring Lucy Lawless's own take on every episode
A look behind the scenes that reveals the inner workings of the show, including writers' meetings, casting sessions, filming, special-effects secrets, and much more
The intriguing story of the origin of Xena: Warrior PrincessTM
Biographies of cast and crew
Fascinating trivia and little-known facts about life in the Xenaverse
Xena: Warrior Princess (r) & (c) Universal Television Enterprises, Inc. Licensed by Universal Studios Licensing, Inc. Copyright (c) 1998 by Universal Studios Publishing Rights, a division of Universal Studios Licensing, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Lucy Lawless became an adventurer long before she starred as one. Born on March 29, 1968, the fifth of seven children and the oldest girl, she grew up in Mount Albert, which she recalled as "a family suburb" of Auckland, "the first ring of suburbs outside the inner city. Nothing real exciting ever happens there, but it was a good safe place to grow up. As kids we used to ride our bicycles around the streets, and get into all sorts of trouble--minor trouble, but we thought we were real scalawags." Her father, Frank Ryan, became mayor of Mount Albert the year Lucy was born. He served twenty-two years, and remained in local politics as the financial chairman of Auckland City. Until the age of eight, Lawless was very much a tomboy who, like her four older brothers (and most other New Zealanders), thrived on rugby and other sports. But acting soon proved a more enticing pastime.
"[Lucy] used to get up on the coffee table with a seashell for a microphone and sing away," her mother, Julie, recalled. Lawless also found ways to broaden her audience: "My best friend, Michelle, and I would make a show for the old ladies in Mount Albert. We'd put on these plays, invent silly costumes." As a ten-year-old student in a Catholic convent she had her "first real part," playing a saleswoman in a musical about the Prodigal Son. As befitted someone who then loved singing even more than acting, she later lost all memory of the role, but "I remember some of the songs. I was a much better singer in those days than I am now."
Lawless' singing was good enough to lead her away from early thoughts of becoming either a marine biologist or a pathologist, and she spent three years training for the opera. In 1986 she enrolled in Auckland University to study languages and opera, but left school after a year. "I found out," she said, "that I didn't have anywhere near the passion for a life with music that would keep me coming back for the knocks, but I seemed to have that resilience for acting."
Leaving the university came more easily than forsaking a career in opera, despite what had been a "wonderful" experience in Catholic school. "I really loved school, yeah, I'm one of those one in five thousand off the production line for whom the system really works." But "I never had any intention of going, at seventeen years old, [for] three or four years. That just seemed like an eternity. In fact, that year was kind of a bonus. I would have been gone at seventeen if I had the money. . . . I knew what I wanted to do, it wasn't to get a useless degree. . . . It never occurred to me to ask my parents for help in this way. I just wanted to travel, I loved my languages, I had been overseas with my mother when I was fifteen. We did an opera tour. I just wanted to go and eat the world, you know. And it's the best thing I could have done."
New Zealanders in their late teens typically pursue an "OE," or overseas experience, and Lawless pushed hers to the limit. At eighteen she picked grapes on the Rhine in Germany, then moved to Switzerland and, with her boyfriend from New Zealand, Garth, traveled through Greece. When the money ran out, the couple left for Australia, where Lawless worked as a gold miner in the Outback, a hard, arid region, often bitter cold, removed from coastal cities like Perth by more than five hundred miles of dusty roads. Nearly all of the miners were men, and she matched them in surveying, digging, driving trucks, and handling heavy industrial equipment.
Lawless kept at this grueling work for eleven months, later calling it "a way to make good money, for people who weren't otherwise qualified--a way to get back to Europe." Then, thinking of the grueling, dirty labor, the harsh terrain, and the isolation, she added with a laugh, "I don't know, just a bit of madness." Her plans took another unpredicted turn when, in 1987, she discovered she was pregnant. She and Garth married and returned to New Zealand, living in a tiny apartment, surrounded, she told Karen Schneider of People, "by mad old ladies with cats that drove me insane." The following year her daughter Daisy was born, and Lawless returned to work. She wrote and acted in plays, and her husband produced them and made videos as audition tapes.
At first Lawless starred mainly in TV commercials. Her roles ranged from a wife and mother who depends on the Auckland National Savings Bank to a harried professional woman whose electrical appliances come to life, tidying her home and fetching her slippers. Lawless welcomed the security--up to a point, turning down an ad for tampons that seemed a doubtful career move, though it would have brought her, in American money, some $30,000.
At twenty Lawless joined a comedy troupe on a New Zealand TV show called Funny Business. The audition went smoothly: she and another woman showed up just after two key actresses had walked off the set; both were hired at once. Lawless worked at the show two and a half seasons, enjoying the chance to "stretch my boundaries of the absurd." She followed this with guest roles in episodic TV, including an outing on the science fiction cult hit The Ray Bradbury Theater, in which she tries desperately to keep peace between her conniving husband and her paranoid but crafty grandmother, played by Jean Stapleton.
In 1990 Lawless appeared in the New Zealand short film Peach, as a lesbian who tries to rescue a heterosexual woman from an abusive relationship. "Looking back," Lawless said ruefully, "I can see I didn't know anything about [the role]. It's a demeanor, an attitude to life, which I didn't quite understand. Also, I was a bit intimidated by the part."
Despite limited acting opportunities and uncertain prospects, Lawless moved to Vancouver, Canada, in 1991 to spend eight months at the William Davis Center for Actors Study. Her commitment reflected a belief that success would come with time--and unrelenting work: "Not [just] the hope, but the expectation. Absolutely. If you just work [so] hard that nobody works any harder. . . . My dad never said you can't. My mother always encouraged me, we went to see theater plays and things. . . . So [when rejections came] I just sucked it up. 'You didn't get the job, you didn't get the job, you don't look right, blah, blah, blah,' you'd be devastated for two seconds, and then you'd come back stronger than ever."
Returning to New Zealand early in 1992, Lawless appeared in a fact-based ABC movie with Jon Voight, Rainbow Warrior, about a French terrorist attack on a Greenpeace ship protesting France's nuclear policy. Her character, Jane Redmond, had few lines but ample "feistiness" that, according to Lawless, bore a close resemblance to Xena. Among varied later roles, kissing teen idol Rick Springfield on an episode of his series High Tide made for a personal, if not a professional, highlight that, said Lawless, made her "feel like a schoolgirl."
Also in 1992 Lawless became a co-host, or "presenter," for Air New Zealand Holiday, a travel magazine show broadcast in New Zealand and throughout Asia, which took her around the world. She entered a second season as presenter just as Renaissance Pictures set up in Auckland and began casting Hercules and the Amazon Women. Lawless won the key role of Lysia, the Amazon second-in-command, and was invited back to play Lyla, a Centaur's wife, in the episode "As Darkness Falls," when Hercules became a series.
Lawless interspersed her roles as Lysia and Lyla with ongoing work as a presenter for Air New Zealand Holiday. When a third season of this travel show beckoned to her with the promise of security, "I was very torn," Lawless recalled. "What made the decision a lot easier for me" was learning through the grapevine that "the deal they offered me was well below that of the male presenter. And in the end I gave it up, and then the part of the Warrior Princess came up totally unawares."
Since the breakup of Lawless' marriage in 1995, she has been dating Rob Tapert, whom she called a "wonderful man" and a wonderful match:
We seem to be on the same wavelength, generally. We seem to like the same things and have the same twists in our psyches. And, yes, we enjoy the ironies and the badness and the heart in life.
On October 8, 1996, Lawless was in Los Angeles taping a comedy skit for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno when she fell from a horse. She was hospitalized for pelvic fractures, raising doubts about her future and that of Xena: Warrior Princess. While the writers found ingenious ways to highlight other performers, Lawless showed astonishing recuperative powers, helped by an intense regimen of therapy and a resolve to be "better than I was before the accident." As her father assured well-wishers in New Zealand, "Lucy is robust, fit, and keen and has a 'fix the damn thing and get on with it' attitude." On set in New Zealand barely a month later, Lawless herself viewed her ordeal with characteristic grit:
I believe that good and wisdom comes out of everything. And really this has been the toughest and most rewarding time of my life. I've been able to sort out many personal issues . . . and this metamorphosis could not have happened had I not been slowed down by this accident. I'm a much more peaceful person than I was. I'm happy in my life, I have a wonderful daughter, and I'm thrilled to be back at work.
Lawless believes Xena is "the best role for an actress on television in twenty years" and that, "personally, it has been a wonderful convergence of everything I'd ever done," from acting to riding ponies as a child. Musing on the fragile set of coincidences that led--just barely--to her winning the part, she adm...
Where guilty pleasures live, armed to the teeth and sporting battle armor, there strides Xena. As TV art, the syndicated Xena is more like Baywatch than Upstairs Downstairs, but it has a (very thin) patina of intellectual cachet from making frequent and occasionally incongruous references to classical mythology. Since the ratings titan has been on only since 1995, there is only so much an in-depth fan guide can cover, so Weisbrot also provides much detail on Xena's notable forerunner, Sheena, Oueen of the Jungle, a black-and-white syndicated series of 26 episodes that first ran in 1955. Aside from the welcome Sheena retrospective, the guide's highlights include episode breakdowns, worthy cast profiles, and pictures, pictures, pictures. Although not exactly challenging reading, this guide to a tasty enough slice of currently popular entertainment is engaging. Mike Tribby
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