Lucy Lawless speaks with an
Subject: Yahoo Internet Life: Xena: Web Princess, May 1997
Y O U R G U I D E T O T H E B E S T O F T H E W E B.
An Interv-Yoo! with:
An Audience with the Warrior Princess Herself
By David Sheff
Lucy Lawless's Top 5 Sites
"I look at Cinemania all the time to find out who it is who is sending me scripts."
2. <http://www.imdb.com>Internet Movie Database
"Everything you want to know about every movie made in Hollywood...."
3. <http://espnet.sportszone.com>ESPNET SportZone
"Detroit Red Wings scores day or night. I'm hooked on hockey."
"Everything about fly-fishing. I'm hooked on this, too (ha ha)."
5. <http://www.freep.com>Detroit Free Press
"My guy's hometown."
"Xena, much like myself, doesn't think a thing about what she's wearing, if it's acceptable or not."
"Nobody wanted to put on a female hero show, so we always felt like the underdog and we still do."
"I'm more worried about my taxes and will the tomatoes [in my garden] rot than controlling my image."
YIL: Is it ever a disadvantage to be living and working so far away from Hollywood?
LAWLESS: It's an advantage in every way. My daughter can go to the same school she's always gone to and nobody bothers about it. My family is here, so I always have a support network. It keeps you grounded.
YIL: Might you be less grounded in L.A.?
LAWLESS: God, yes. "Grounded" isn't the word most people use when they are describing those in L.A., particularly those in the entertainment business. People who have always known you are not going to let you get too big for your boots. The attention that comes from a successful TV show is really nice but you should only have it in miniature doses-like chocolate.
YIL: Do you enjoy L.A. when you visit?
LAWLESS: I love it. I've got wonderful friends there. But it's always good to get home. And it's not like I'm that far away. I've got the phone and fax machine-and the Net.
LAWLESS: It's easier to keep in touch now than it ever was. It's one of the great things about the computer.
YIL: Is e-mail the solution for communicating across all those time zones?
LAWLESS: Yes, but I'm careful because I don't want many people to get my address; I'm just shy of neurotic about my privacy. But among friends, e-mail is fantastic. It's so immediate, isn't it? I love coming home and finding e-mail from friends. The telephone's one thing, but I can read my e-mail when I get home at 11 o'clock at night and write back even if it's two in the morning in America and not bug anyone who is asleep.
LAWLESS: 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.
YIL: Was that when you fell off your horse on the "Xena" set?
LAWLESS: Yes. I broke my pelvis. I couldn't sleep and sat up in the middle of the night and went online.
YIL: To where?
LAWLESS: 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.
YIL: So it wasn't a positive experience.
LAWLESS: 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, many 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.
YIL: Have you seen all the "Xena" sites?
LAWLESS: How can you possibly 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.
YIL: Does it stun you that you're the focus of so much attention?
LAWLESS: It's not real to me. It's absolutely not real. It has nothing really to do with my daily life. Real life is the cliché: You get up and put your pants on one foot at a time like everybody else. Then you go out and water the garden or clean up the dishes from the night before.
YIL: Xena does dishes?
YIL: Though the show's ratings are apparently rising.
LAWLESS: Yes and we are gratified, of course; we're making something that we are really proud of and we want people to like it.
YIL: 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?
LAWLESS: 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.
YIL: It has been the same 18 months that the Internet has taken off and been used by masses of people throughout the world.
LAWLESS: Yes, and it has brought with it something remarkable. Television itself is obviously a powerful medium, reaching the wide world. The Internet covers the same territory but offers something else. It's not just a one-way thing anymore. They're all connecting up. They're diverse and widespread, but it's a tight-knit community.
YIL: United by "Xena."
LAWLESS: It's not just "Xena." Every interest is represented. There is the community of Xenites and the community of people obsessed with everything else you can think of.
YIL: 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?
LAWLESS: 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.
YIL: But like Xena?
LAWLESS: Yeah, I guess I do see why they might like to be like Xena. So I do take it as seriously as I should but no more than that. I'm not letting it dominate my life. If I did, I'd be an unhappy woman.
YIL: Too self-conscious?
LAWLESS: Yes. You can't live your life. You'd be too self-conscious to make mistakes and experience life.
YIL: Do most fans understand that you are not Xena?
LAWLESS: Some people are a little confused, but not many. When you meet me in person, I'm wildly different. For starters, my hair's a different color. I talk funny. I'm a goofy sort of person. In fact, people always say they can't believe I play her though I look a little like her.
YIL: Have you gotten a sense of who the typical Xenite is?
LAWLESS: They're all called Becky or Bob.
YIL: Becky or Bob?
LAWLESS: An awful lot seem to be.
YIL: And what are they like?
LAWLESS: I know I like them. They are all types.
YIL: What do they get from "Xena"?
LAWLESS: 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.
YIL: What do the Bobs get?
LAWLESS: If nothing else, they see females in a different role on television.
YIL: Is that why feminists have embraced you, even putting you on the cover of Ms.?
LAWLESS: I suppose. And I'm thrilled, by the way. I'm thrilled that women are encouraged to follow their dreams and I am equally pleased that young men are getting a new view of women: an unapologetic woman.
YIL: How would you describe the women mostly portrayed on TV?
LAWLESS: The opposite. All the stereotypes. Whereas Xena is an assertive woman and yet honorable, though it may not always be in her nature to act honorably.
YIL: And she's very sexual. How much of the attention is because of that?
LAWLESS: I'm sure it's part of it. All television is at least 5 percent eye candy. We try to keep it between 5 and 10 percent.
YIL: With the rest being...?
LAWLESS: Content, and maybe a little style. And even Xena's sexuality isn't a simple cliché. No matter how sexy Xena is, it's very unself-conscious. Xena, much like myself, doesn't think a thing about what she's wearing, if it's acceptable or not.
YIL: She doesn't wear much.
LAWLESS: She wears those things because they're better to fight in. They are comfortable. It doesn't get in your way like trousers.
YIL: The show seems to encourage the speculation that Xena and Gabrielle could be lovers. Is it intentional?
LAWLESS: We find it mildly amusing and then we just get on with our day. We love all our audience: all colors, races, creeds, sexuality. And I have to say that we do want to push the boundaries of what's acceptable on television. Nobody wanted to put on a female hero show, so we always felt like the underdog and we still do. We're just going to keep our nose to the grindstone and keep challenging mores. We don't want to make blancmange.
LAWLESS: It's a French white pudding made out of God knows what. It's bland, nothing. That's what we don't want to make. We mean to make a path and be radical and challenging.
YIL: Do you think you're allowed to do things on the show because it is made so far from Hollywood?
LAWLESS: Definitely. More to the point, it's because we're not on a network. Network shows are usually ruled by consensus.
YIL: Yet many of TV's best shows are indeed network shows.
LAWLESS: Generally [made] by producers with the clout to have everyone leave them alone. Well, we can, too. For us, the buck stops with our executive producers. We can experiment. We can make exciting television.
YIL: Much of the Internet itself is about individuals expressing themselves and being who they are. There's no consensus. Is there a connection with "Xena"?
LAWLESS: There is. I've thought about it. It's people communicating from outside the establishment. There's another thing that ties us together, I think. I don't want anyone to be offended, but there is a similar type of nutball who might be on the computer day and night and who might go to a Star Trek convention or otherwise gravitate towards cult television or some other form of pop culture. They have this funky taste. They're hip without necessarily being part of the hip world outside. They're hip in their own funky way, in their own studios, in their own offices, in their computer rooms. They're influencing pop culture in a more underground kind of way. I think they are people that might like a show like mine. Computer nerds like it.
YIL: Have you looked at the fan fiction that some of these nerds create?
LAWLESS: I've seen some very funny stuff. My favorite story was one about Xena and Gabrielle going on MTV. Cindy Crawford is on the show and Xena says to Cindy, "Hold on, Cindy, you've got something on your face." She pulls out a whip and flicks it at her and knocks off her mole. It falls right off her face. I read that and howled with laughter. The fact is, there is that kind of subversive, ironic flavor that we use a lot in our show. There are certain twists in our psyche and I think that's part of our appeal.
YIL: Are you aware of the online discussions about the historical liberties taken in the show?
LAWLESS: Yes, but we don't care much about chronology. We have Julius Caesar one week and Jesus Christ the next. People mustn't worry their pretty little heads about it.
YIL: Do you feel it's an invasion that your image is so prevalent online?
LAWLESS: 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.
YIL: Which you're happy to do.
LAWLESS: Sure. If it makes somebody smile to have your picture in the front of his school book or on his computer screen, well, good job. Isn't that an honor. I'm more worried about my taxes and will the tomatoes [in my garden] rot than controlling my image.
YIL: Have you checked out the Web's martial arts sites?
LAWLESS: No. I am much more likely to look up hockey scores to see how the Detroit Red Wings are doing.
YIL: How did a Kiwi end up a fan of the Detroit Red Wings?
LAWLESS: My man is from Detroit. I just got hooked on hockey. I've never really been into sports as a spectator so it's weird. That's my obsession.
YIL: What's your favorite sports site?
LAWLESS: I look at all of them. And I must say that they aren't as fancy as the "Xena" sites that people create. I guess it means people spend a lot more time making their home pages for "Xena."