Lucy Lawless

Lucy Lawless

Lawless at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2016
Born Lucille Frances Ryan
(1968-03-29) 29 March 1968
Mount Albert, Auckland,
New Zealand
Occupation Actress, musician
Years active 1989–present
Spouse(s) Garth Lawless
(m. 1988; div. 1995)

Robert Tapert
(m. 1998)
Children 3
Website Official website

Lucille Frances "Lucy" Lawless, MNZM (née Ryan; born March 29, 1968) is a New Zealand actress best known for playing the title character of the internationally successful television series Xena: Warrior Princess (1995–2001).

She is also widely known for her role as Number Three on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series (2005–2009) and for the role of Lucretia on the television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand (2010), its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011) and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance (2012).

Most recently, Lawless had a recurring role on the fifth and sixth season of the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation as Diane Lewis, a single mother who falls for Ron Swanson (2012–2014), starred as Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg on the WGN America series Salem (2015) and plays Ruby on Ash vs. Evil Dead (2015–present).

Early life

Lucille Frances "Lucy" Ryan was born in the Auckland, New Zealand suburb of Mount Albert, the daughter of Julie Ryan, a teacher, and Frank Ryan, a banker and Mount Albert's mayor.[1] She is the fifth of six siblings, who include her four brothers and one sister. Lawless has described her family as "this big, sprawling Irish Catholic family",[2] and while filming in Ireland for the Discovery Channel in 2004, she told Ireland on Sunday: her father's family originated in Quilty, County Clare, and her great-grandfather arrived in New Zealand as a convict.[3]

Ryan appeared in her first musical at the age of 10[4] and began acting in secondary school. She attended Marist College, Auckland, and at 18, like many young New Zealanders, she went on her "overseas experience", traveling through Europe and Australia with her future husband, Garth Lawless.[4] At 21, she won the 1989 Mrs New Zealand competition.[5]

Lawless has admitted to having suffered from bulimia as a child, but she was able to overcome the illness.[6]


Her debut on television was two and a half seasons as a cast member of the New Zealand sketch comedy series "Funny Business" – after which she studied drama at the William Davis Centre for Actors Study in Vancouver.[4]

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."

Xena: Warrior Princess

Lawless at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2010.

Lawless received her best-known role when she was asked to play a heroic warrior woman named Xena in the episode "The Warrior Princess," which aired in March 1995 (R. J. Stewart, one of Pacific Renaissance Pictures's in-house writers, dramatised the teleplay from a story that Robert G. "Rob" Tapert commissioned John Schulian to write). The character proved to be very successful among fans of the show.

Vanessa Angel was originally cast in the role, but she fell ill and was unable to travel to New Zealand for shooting. To differentiate between Xena and the similar Lysia, Lawless' hair, previously an ash blonde, was dyed black. She also wore a much darker costume, which made her unrecognizable as the Lysia character. Lawless subsequently returned as Xena in two more episodes of the first season of Hercules, which portrayed her turn from villainess to a good, heroic character.

The character was popular enough that a spin-off series was created: Xena: Warrior Princess debuted on 4 September 1995. Xena: Warrior Princess, like its parent program, was a huge hit and achieved high ratings and cultural significance, lasting six seasons. The series brought Lawless an immense amount of attention and she became an international celebrity.

While taping an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in October 1996, Lawless suffered a fractured pelvis when the horse she was riding lost its footing in the studio parking lot. She made a complete recovery, but several episodes of the second season of Xena were rewritten to focus on background characters to minimize the time Lawless was needed on set.[7]

Lesbian icon

Lawless became a 'lesbian icon' because of Xena's ambiguous relationship with traveling companion Gabrielle. This reputation has become cemented after her "graphic lesbian sex scenes" in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.[8][9] She has appeared at gay pride events such as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.[10] 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.[11]

Other work

Lawless first appeared on Broadway in September 1997 in the Grease revival, as the "bad girl" character, Betty Rizzo. She wanted to play the lead role of Sandy, and later stated her belief that the producers typecast her to play "bad girls" following her success as Xena. She said the Sandy character was very similar to her sheltered childhood, growing up in New Zealand with many protective older brothers.[12]

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. In 2007, Lawless guest-starred as herself in the cult HBO comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm. In a sub-plot of an episode entitled "The TiVo Guy," she met and flirted with Larry David.

Lawless was to appear as one of the leads in the ensemble cast of the ABC television series, Football Wives, based on the popular British series Footballers' Wives, in 2007. The series did not continue past the pilot episode, though the network did extend the options on its contracts with Lawless and the other actors slated to star in the series: (Gabrielle Union, Kiele Sanchez, Ving Rhames and James Van Der Beek).[13][14]

Lawless returned to television on 10 November 2008 in a guest-starring role on the hit CBS television series, CSI: Miami, playing a madam with connections to a murder. She appeared in two episodes of the final season of The L Word, and also had a role in the Adam Sandler movie, Bedtime Stories, released Christmas 2008. Also in 2008, Lawless appeared with her former Xena stuntwoman Zoë Bell in Sony (Crackle)'s new web series Angel of Death, written by Ed Brubaker, which debuted online in early 2009.[15]

In 2009 Lawless guest-starred in the HBO series, Flight of the Conchords as Paula, assistant to the Prime Minister of New Zealand.[16]

Lawless co-starred in the Starz original series Spartacus: Blood and Sand.[17] The show was based on the life of Spartacus, the famous gladiator, and the slave revolt he led, and was produced by long-time Xena producers Sam Raimi and "Rob" Tapert, her own husband. Lawless played the role of Lucretia, the wife of Lentulus Batiatus, who were both the owners of a gladiator ludus, which also saw Lawless doing nude scenes for the first time. Lawless won the 2011 Saturn Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role as Lucretia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Lawless reprised her role as Lucretia in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, which chronicled life in the Ludus before Spartacus's arrival, and she also returned for the sequel Spartacus: Vengeance. [18]

Lawless provided the voice of Goldmoon for Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, a direct-to-DVD animated movie based on the novel of the same name, as well as Wonder Woman in the direct-to-video animated movie Justice League: The New Frontier. From 2012 to 2014, Lawless had a recurring role on the NBC series Parks and Recreation as Diane, the love interest and eventual wife of Ron Swanson.

In 2014, she guest starred in Agents of Shield as Isabelle Hartley in the season two premiere,[19] and reprised the role later in episode 15 of season two, 'One Door Closes.' [20] In 2015, Lawless landed the recurring guest role of Countess Marburg in WGN America's Salem. She plays Countess Marburg, one of the last remaining survivors of the legendary line of ancient German witches.[21] In March 2015, it was announced that she would be portraying the role of Ruby in Starz TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead.[22][23]

Singing career

Lawless performing at the Roxy, 2007

Lawless, who has a background in musical theatre, played Betty Rizzo on Broadway in a production of Grease in 1997.[24] Indeed, she continued to sing during the run of Xena, even contributing dirge music of her own composition; this made it into the episode "The Path Not Taken" as the dirge "Burial," which she sang for the first time in the episode. Two musically-oriented episodes, "The Bitter Suite" and "Lyre, Lyre, Heart's On Fire," also showcased not only her singing but also that of some of her castmates. (See also List of Xena: Warrior Princess episodes for details.)

Lucy was encouraged to pursue a career in singing after being a contestant on Celebrity Duets, which she finished as runner-up to Alfonso Ribeiro. She made her onstage debut at the Roxy in Hollywood on 13 January 2007, with a sold-out crowd for back-to-back concerts.[25]


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.[26] It is set up to provide additional equipment, support and help to staff, patients and families.[27] She devotes much time and energy to fundraising for the organisation. She recently sat for the New Zealand television series The Sitting,[28] an arts series where celebrity portraits are produced during an interview session, with the portraits later auctioned for charity.

Lawless 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 favour of the institution, and has sold some Xena costumes to contribute funds. In mid February 2012, Lawless sang at New Zealander of the Year donating her appearance fee to the Starship Foundation.

Since 2006, 21 September marks "Lucy Lawless Feel the Love Day/Week." The day, organised by the Official Lucy Lawless Fan Club, begins a week of charitable acts and donations by fans in honour and support of Lawless.[29][30]


In May 2009, Lawless became a "climate ambassador" for the Greenpeace "Sign On" campaign.[31]

In February 2012, Lawless and six other Greenpeace activists boarded an oil drilling ship at Port Taranaki, New Zealand, and remained on it for 77 hours to stop it leaving for the Arctic where it was going to take part in oil exploration.[32] She was subsequently arrested and charged with burglary, which carries an imprisonment term of up to 10 years if convicted.[33] She pleaded guilty on 14 June 2012 to trespass charges regarding the February incident. Lawless said she intends for now to remain involved with Greenpeace.[34]

In February 2013, Lawless and the other six activists were each sentenced to pay a fine of NZ$651 (about US$547) and 120 hours of community service. The judge denied the $545,000 in reparations that Shell Todd Oil Services had sought from the activists. Following the sentencing, Lawless said: "I consider it a great victory that the court has struck down the reparation demand from Shell, which I think was absolutely ludicrous."[35]


Astronomer Michael E. 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 initially 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 (Observations made by New Horizons subsequently found Pluto to be marginally larger than Eris).

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 number 4.[36] Lawless rang Mike Brown in December 2005 to thank him for his "senseless act of beauty," and claimed that she "never dared hope [the name] would stick."[37] 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.[38]

Personal life

In 1988, at the age of 19, Lucy became pregnant by her boyfriend Garth Lawless, while working with him in the Australian outback. They married in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia and returned to New Zealand where their daughter, Daisy Lawless, was born. They divorced in 1995.[39]

On 28 March 1998, Lawless married Xena's executive producer, Pacific Renaissance Pictures CEO Robert G. "Rob" Tapert. 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.

Awards and nominations

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.

Year Award Category Production Result
1997 Saturn Award Best Genre TV Actress Xena: Warrior Princess Nominated
2010 Golden Nymph Outstanding Actress – Drama Series Spartacus: Blood and Sand Nominated
2010 Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress on Television Spartacus: Blood and Sand Won
2016 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards Best Supporting Actress on Television Salem Nominated



Year Title Role Notes
1990 Within the Law Verity
1990 Bitter Song, AA Bitter Song Nurse 1 Short film
1991 End of the Golden Weather, TheThe End of the Golden Weather Joe's Girl
1993 Rainbow Warrior, TheThe Rainbow Warrior Jane Redmond Television movie
1993 Typhon's People Mink Tertius Television movie
1994 Hercules and the Amazon Women Lysia Television movie
1996 Peach Peach Short film
1997 Hercules & Xena: Wizards of the Screen Xena Short film
1998 Hercules and Xena – The Animated Movie Xena
2000 Ginger Snaps Announcer on School's PA System Uncredited
2002 Spider-Man Punk Rock Girl
2004 EuroTrip Madame Vandersexxx
2005 Boogeyman Mary Jensen
2005 Locusts Maddy Rierdon Television movie
2005 Vampire Bats Maddy Rierdon Television movie
2006 Darkroom, TheThe Darkroom Cheryl
2008 Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight Goldmoon
2008 Justice League: The New Frontier Wonder Woman
2008 Bedtime Stories Aspen
2009 Bitch Slap Mother Superior
2010 Lez Chat Construction Worker Short film


Year Title Role Notes
1989 Funny Business Various Unknown episodes
1990 Shark in the Park Kim Hughes Episode: "Double or Quits"
1991 For the Love of Mike Helen Episode: "1.6"
1992 Ray Bradbury Theater, TheThe Ray Bradbury Theater Liddy Barton Episode: "Fee Fie Foe Fum"
1993 New Adventures of the Black Stallion, TheThe New Adventures of the Black Stallion Sarah McFee Episode: "Riding the Volcano"
1994 High Tide Undercover policewoman Episode: "Shanghied"
1995 High Tide Sharon List Episode: "Dead in the Water"
1995–1998 Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Lyla 2 episodes
1995 Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Xena 6 episodes
1995–2001 Xena: Warrior Princess Xena 134 episodes
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress on Television
1999 The Simpsons Herself Episode: "Treehouse of Horror X"
2000 Celebrity Deathmatch Herself Episode: "The Return of Lucy Lawless"
2001 Just Shoot Me! Stacy Episode: "The Auction"
2001 X-Files, TheThe X-Files Shannon McMahon 2 episodes
2003 Tarzan Kathleen Clayton 7 episodes
2004 Less than Perfect Tracy Fletcher Episode: "Ignoring Lydia"
2005 Two and a Half Men Pamela Episode: "It Was Mame, Mom"
2005–2009 Battlestar Galactica D'Anna Biers / Number Three humanoid Cylon 16 episodes
2006 Veronica Mars Agent Morris Episode: "Donut Run"
2007 Burn Notice Evelyn Episode: "False Flag"
2007 Curb Your Enthusiasm Lucy Lawless Episode: "The TiVo Guy"
2007 Football Wives Tanya Austin Unsold TV pilot
2008 CSI: Miami Audrey Yates Episode: "Cheating Death"
2009 L Word, TheThe L Word Sgt. Marybeth Duffy 2 episodes
2009 Flight of the Conchords Paula Episode: "New Zealand Town"
2009 Angel of Death Vera Episode: "Help"
2010 Spartacus: Blood and Sand Lucretia 13 episodes
Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress on Television
Nominated—Golden Nymph Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
2011 Spartacus: Gods of the Arena Lucretia 6 episodes
2011 American Dad! Stacy Episode: "A Piñata Named Desire"
2011 No Ordinary Family Helen Burton 4 episodes
2012 Spartacus: Vengeance Lucretia 10 episodes
2012–2014 Parks and Recreation Diane Lewis 10 episodes
2013 Top of the Lake Caroline Platt 2 episodes
2014–2015 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Isabelle Hartley 2 episodes
2014 The Code Alex Wisham 6 episodes
2014 Adventure Time General Tarsal (voice) Episode: "The Dentist"
2015 The Barefoot Bandits Denenis Gobb (voice) Episode: "Invasion of the Budgie Smuglers"
2015 Salem Countess Marburg 11 episodes
Nominated—Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actress on Television
2015–present Ash vs. Evil Dead Ruby Knowby 13 episodes
2016 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Hiidrala (voice) Episode: "The Cosmic Ocean"

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2011 Hunted: The Demon's Forge Seraphine




Concert DVDs

Other songs


  1. "Lucy Lawless Film Reference biography". Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  2. "ESSENTIAL LUCY". Lucy Lawless. AUSXIP. 2 April 2012.
  3. Gaffney, Siobhan (2004). "Grainne Mhaol". Ireland on Sunday.
  4. 1 2 3 "Biography". NZ On Screen.
  5. "Lucy Lawless, Mrs New Zealand 1989". Te Ara.
  6. "Lawless Bulimic No More". People. 17 May 1999. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  7. metrowebukmetro (29 May 2007). "60 SECONDS: Lucy Lawless". Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  8. McCroy, Winnie (22 June 2011). "Girl on girl action becomes passé". Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  9. "Lucy Lawless and lesbians bring the sexy to the "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" trailer.". 27 July 2009. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  10. "Lucy and Renee in Sydney in 1999 – Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras". Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  11. Lesbian News
  12. ABC's 'Football Wives' Still Alive Archived 25 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine.,, 28 June 2007.
  13. "Football" still in ABC's game, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 June 2007
  14. Hustvedt, Marc (21 October 2008). "Behind the Scenes with Crackle's 'Angel of Death' Zoe Bell". Tubefilter News. Retrieved 21 October 2008.
  15. ""EVIL DEAD" Series Adds Lucy Lawless; Becomes Full-Fledged Raimi Reunion". FANGORIA®.
  16. "Bruce Campbell: Lucy Lawless joining Ash Vs. Evil Dead". Blastr.
  17. "Lucy Lawless Joins Ash vs. Evil Dead". Dread Central.
  18. Abrams, Natalie (21 July 2014). "Exclusive: Lucy Lawless Heading to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.".
  19. "Declassifying 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.': One Door Closes - News -".
  20. Petski, Denise. "[WATCH] Salem Season 2 Teaser – - Deadline". Deadline.
  21. "Bruce Campbell's Ash returns to fight 'Evil Dead'". USA TODAY. 29 October 2015.
  22. ""Ash vs Evil Dead" Casts Lucy Lawless as Ash Hunter!".
  23. "AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Grease! Lucy Lawless on Broadway". 28 September 1997. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  24. 1 2 Butler, Brendan (14 January 2007). "Lucy Lawless: Goodbye Warrior Princess, Hello Rock Star". Cinema Bend. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  25. "Board of Trustees".
  26. "Home". Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  27. Lucy Lawless on The Sitting on YouTube
  28. "Lucy Lawless Feel The Love Week - Doing Charitable Acts In Honour of Lucy Lawless". Lucy Lawless site. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  29. "Feel the Love 2013". Official Lucy Lawless Fan Club. 20 October 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  30. "Sign On". Greenpeace New Zealand. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  31. "Lucy Lawless boards oil drilling ship". February 2012.
  32. "Lawless charged with burglary after ship protest". Television New Zealand. 27 February 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  33. Perry, Nick (14 June 2012). "Actress Lucy Lawless Pleads Guilty to Trespass". ABC News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 15 June 2012.
  34. "Lucy Lawless sentenced, and the warrior princess is thrilled". Los Angeles Times. 7 February 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  35. O'Neill, Sean (8 August 2005). "Your top 10 names for the tenth planet". New Scientist. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  36. "Messages from Lucy". Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  37. Tytell, David (14 September 2006). " – Homepage News – All Hail Eris and Dysnomia". Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  38. Schneider, Karen S. (8 April 1996). "Xena-Phile". PEOPLE.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lucy Lawless.
Preceded by
Susan Eisenberg (2001–2006)
Actress to voice Wonder Woman
Succeeded by
Keri Russell (2009)
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