Lucy Lawless, MNZM was born as Lucille Frances Ryan on 29 March 1968 in Mount Albert, Auckland, New Zealand, is a New Zealander actress and singer. She is best known for playing the title character of the internationally successful television series Xena: Warrior Princess which ran from 1995 to 2001. She is also known for the role of D’anna Biers (Number Three) on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. Most recently she appeared on the television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Spartacus: Gods of the Arena as Lucretia, Quintus Lentulus Batiatus’ wife.
Born in the Mount Albert suburb of Auckland, New Zealand, Lucy is the daughter of Julie, a teacher, and Frank Ryan, who was a banker and Mount Albert mayor. The fifth of seven children, she has five brothers and one sister.
Lawless began acting in secondary school. During her adolescence, Lucy suffered bulimia, but was able to overcome the illness in college, the Auckland University. There she studied foreign languages for a year, including German, Italian, and French, and she also studied opera for three years. But soon after, after learning that opera required changes in her lifestyle she was not ready to make, she gave up on both and moved herself to a course of violin and jazz.
At 19, Lawless became pregnant with Garth Lawless’ child. The couple married in Kalgoorlie, Australia in 1988. They returned to New Zealand and had a daughter, Daisy Lawless (born 15 July 1988). The couple divorced in 1995.
On March 28, 1998, Lawless married Robert Tapert. They have two sons, Julius Robert Bay Tapert (born 16 October 1999) and Judah Miro Tapert (born 7 May 2002).
In 1994, Lawless appeared in “Hercules and the Amazon Women,” a Pacific Renaissance Pictures made-for-television film that became the television pilot for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. In that episode, she played a man-hating Amazon named Lysia. She went on to play another character, Lyla, in the first season episode “As Darkness Falls.” But her key role was given to her when she was asked to play a villainous warrior woman named Xena in the episode “The Warrior Princess,” which aired in March 1995. Vanessa Angel had originally been cast in the role, but fell ill and was unable to travel to New Zealand for shooting. To differentiate between Xena and the similar Lysia, Lawless’ hair, naturally ash blond, was coloured black. Xena subsequently returned in two more episodes of the first season of Hercules, which portrayed her turn from villainess to good character.
Lawless married Xena’s executive producer, Pacific Renaissance Pictures CEO Robert G. “Rob” Tapert, on 28 March 1998. They have two sons: Julius Robert Bay Tapert (born 16 October 1999) and Judah Miro Tapert (born 7 May 2002), who were both born in Auckland, New Zealand.
Lawless has become popular as a ‘lesbian icon’, largely because of Xena’s ambiguous relationship with traveling companion Gabrielle. Although Lawless is heterosexual, she has appeared at gay pride events such as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. In a 2003 interview with Lesbian News magazine, she said that she had come to see Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship as gay after viewing the series finale, though she has also stated on several occasions that she was undecided on the nature of the relationship while playing the role.
Lawless became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2004 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, which entitled her to use the postnominal letters, MNZM.
From 2005 to 2009, she had a recurring role in the television series Battlestar Galactica. Lawless appeared as D’Anna Biers, a reporter with the Fleet News Service who worked on a critical documentary about the crew of the Galactica and was later revealed to be a Cylon (Number Three).
She competed as one of the celebrity singers on the reality TV show Celebrity Duets in 2006, finishing as the runner-up to winner Alfonso Ribeiro. Lawless has also performed as a voice actor in several animated features.
Lawless is a member of the board of trustees of the StarShip Foundation, the charity arm of the Starship Children’s Health (hospital) which is part of the Auckland District Health Board. It is set up to provide additional equipment, support and help to staff, patients and families. She devotes much time and energy to fundraising for the organization. She recently sat for the New Zealand television series The Sitting, an arts series where celebrity portraits are produced during an interview session with the portraits later auctioned for charity. Lucy attended the auction where her portrait fetched the top price, with the whole event raising $39,000 for Starship. Lawless has often raised money for concerts and events, donates part of her salary in favor of the institution, and has sold some Xena costumes to contribute funds. Friday 21 September is “Lucy Lawless Feel the Love Day.” The day, organised by the Official Lucy Lawless Fan Club, begins a week of charitable acts and donations by fans in honor and support of Lucy.
In May 2009, Lucy Lawless became a ‘climate ambassador’ for the Greenpeace ‘Sign On’ campaign.
Astronomer Mike Brown nicknamed his newly discovered dwarf planet “Xena” – finding this name more convenient to use than the then-official designation, 2003 UB313. When this object was determined to be larger than Pluto, it gained international attention and forced a year-long debate among astronomers as to the definition of a planet.
The object’s nickname “Xena” was used in the press. New Scientist magazine polled the public on their preferred final name for the so-called tenth planet, “Xena” ranked no. 4. Lawless rang Mike Brown in December 2005 to thank him for his “senseless act of beauty,” and claimed that she “never dared hope would stick.” But eventually, both it and Pluto were deemed not to be planets, and were instead classified as dwarf planets.
Although “Xena” is now officially known as Eris, Brown made an indirect tribute to Lawless by naming Eris’ moon Dysnomia after the Greek goddess of lawlessness, although for a time that particular moon was named “Gabrielle.”
Lawless has a background in musical theater and she appeared on Broadway in a production of Grease, as the character of Betty Rizzo, in 1997. She has continued to pursue a career in singing after being a contestant on Celebrity Duets. She made her onstage debut at the Roxy in Hollywood on 13 January 2007. Lawless had a sold-out crowd for back-to-back concerts.