Born Lucille Frances Ryan on March 29, 1968 in Mount Albert, Auckland, New Zealand, Lucy Lawless grew up fifth in an Irish Catholic family of seven children. With four older brothers as role models, her mother said she didn’t know she was a girl till she was eight. By this age, she and her best friend were adapting fairytales into plays that they would inflict on any possible audience. Apart from a brief flirtation with the idea of becoming a forensic pathologist, brought on by watching “Quincy, M.D.,” acting has always been her passion.
She attended Auckland University where she studied language, namely German, French and Italian. She left school after a year and travelled Europe with boyfriend and future husband Garth Lawless. The couple travelled to Australia and took on odd jobs to make money including a stint at an Australian gold mining company. In 1987, at nineteen, Lucy discovered she was pregnant with her first child and she and Garth married and returned to New Zealand. Lucy gave birth to a daughter, Daisy Lawless on July 15, 1988. The couple divorced in 1995 and Lawless remarried to Xena executive producer Robert G. Tapert on March 28, 1998. They have two sons, Judah Miro Tapert and Julius Bay Tapert.
In 1989, Lawless appeared on the TV series Funny Business. In 1999 she visited Vancouver where she studied at the William Davis Center for Actors. She returned to New Zealand and appeared in Shark in the Park. She followed up with small roles in A Bitter Song, and The Rainbow Warrior.
In 1994 Lawless appeared in the TV Movie Hercules and the Amazon Women as Lysia. She also played the character of Lyla in an episode of the series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys before the directors cast her in the role of Xena. Lucy was the local kid on the spot when an American actress pulled out of the role of “Xena”.
Xena became a recurring character on the series. Her hair was dyed a darker colour to distinguish her from the characters she’d previously played. The character was so popular that in 1995 she was cast in her own series, Xena: Warrior Princess. The show was a success and lasted six seasons ending in 2001. Since then she has played ‘Rizzo’ in “Grease” on Broadway, hosted “Saturday Night Live,” pulverized Callista Flockhart in claymation on “Celebrity Deathmatch,” and saved Bart and Lisa on “The Simpsons.” Roles on “X-Files” and “Battlestar Galactica” cemented her cult-TV status.
But it was “Celebrity Duets” in October of 2006 that propelled Lucy in a new creative direction. On the final night, when she got to sing a song of her own choice, “Tell Mama!,” Lucy recounts that, “…something broke wide open inside me; a lifetime of self-consciousness burst. I have become a junkie for live performance. I can’t get enough and I can’t give enough.” Since then she has performed sold out shows at the famed Roxy in Los Angeles and the Canalroom in New York. “It’s a great way to meet your fans,” she notes.
She is grateful to all her fans including a sizeable gay contingent owing to ‘Xena’s’ status as a lesbian icon. As such, she has been a supporter of REAF in San Francisco and The Trevor Project, a national hotline for gay and questioning youth. In Lucy’s own words, “gay teens are three times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. It’s a disgrace that in this country we are still shaming kids to death. Shame Kills!”
I n her own country, she is a trustee for the National Children’s Starship Hospital and received an Order of Merit of New Zealand from the Queen for services to the community. Her proudest moment was being part of the push to set up Pua Waitahi multi-agency center against child abuse in Auckland, where social workers, police and medical specialists are under one roof, greatly improving communication and trust between departments devoted to the fight against the abuse of children.