On the Starz original drama series Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, the prequel for the popular Spartacus: Blood and Sand, actress Lucy Lawless plays Lucretia, a woman who is always supportive of her husband Batiatus’ (John Hannah) dreams, however wild the direction they threaten to grow. Though conscious of the role she’s expected to play as a proper Roman woman, she will discover that when the moment most needs it, she can do what is necessary to gain power.
During a recent interview to promote the prequel, Lucy Lawless talked about returning to a character that she thought was dead at the end of the show’s first season, the pleasure of seeing the early life of Lucretia, how much she hates doing action scenes, and the fact that she will be returning for Season 2, which is being called Spartacus: Vengeance, and will now feature Liam McIntyre in the title role. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
LUCY LAWLESS: For now, yeah. It was just a little poke in the tummy. Put a poultice on it and she’ll be all right.
What was it like to shoot that scene?
LAWLESS: I didn’t feel that I had scratched the surface of what the character was, or that I had done particularly good work. I just wanted to go deeper. But, they gave me such great material in this prequel. My God, I got the chance to go deeper. I think and hope my best work is ahead of me, but I’m really proud of my work in this, and I’m really proud of the show, and to be part of it.
Did you really think there was a doubt that they’d find a way for you to be in Season 2?
LAWLESS: I’m in Season 2, but I probably won’t be in Season 3. They’re bringing me back for Season 2, but I fully expect to die. It’s just the best role, ever. My character gets a lot of air time.
Is it fun for you to keep going, after thinking your character was dead?
LAWLESS: I’m on borrowed time, though. It’s really cool. To go back and revisit things, and learn things about your character, is such a gift. Steven [DeKnight] and his team are geniuses. They’ve tied up all these things with everybody’s storylines. You get to see Peter [Mensah] when he was married, before he became Doctore.
How is it, as an actor, to tell a backstory on a character that you may have already decided a backstory on?
LAWLESS: It was a rare pleasure, actually. That never happens, where you get to go back and fill in blanks and actually find out more about your own character. It was a huge thrill for me. And, you get to see these characters when they are in the honeymoon phase of their lives. You also really get to see a lot of Peter Mensah’s range. I thought he did a beautiful job in it, and you get to see a lot more of Doctore, emotionally, and more of his history.
Actors usually don’t get to be seen younger, except occasionally in flashbacks, where they will just put some different hair on them and maybe fuzz the lens a little. What is it like to be playing younger than your character?
LAWLESS: I love it. They fix us in post. That’s not a lie. But, my character certainly was a bit more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed before her rotten college mate, Gaia, came back and taught her all these bad tricks, played by Jaime Murray. My character did not abuse the servants in the beginning, and she was devoted to her husband. So, you get to see the raw Satan, and that’s always fun to play.
What do you love about Lucretia?
LAWLESS: I love that she loves her husband. I love that she doesn’t fight because I hate the action.
Did you always hate the action?
LAWLESS: Yes, I hated it, but I wasn’t in a position to say no. Very quickly, I realized that I can’t be cringing every time they come and say, “Lucy, would you like to go and learn your next fight?” I haven’t even finished filming the last one and I would have to go learn the next. I said, “You know what, guys? Instead of asking me, ‘Would you like to?,’ just say, ‘Lucy, the fight’s up.’ Then, it doesn’t require a response. It just requires me to do what I’m told.” If they say, “Would you like to?,” it makes me think, “No, I fucking hate that stuff!” If I have a choice, I don’t want to go. So. we very quickly realized that it’s better to just give me an order and then I’ll do it without thinking.
What was it like working with John Hannah again, but in a different dynamic?
LAWLESS: It was lovely. He was so joyful. He was in such good form, I think because it was a shorter period of time that he was away from his family. It was much easier for him to be there. He knew everybody and everybody knew what the show was, so I think everybody was much more comfortable in the environment.
LAWLESS: Much nicer, to start with. You can see when Lucretia had hope and trust in other human beings. She was crazy about her husband and she had some sort of faith in humanity, and then you see that eroded over the course of the prequel.
What was it like to have Dustin Clare for this season?
LAWLESS: The reason that Dustin got the job is because Underbelly, his Australian crime series, was an awesome show. He plays this cocky dude who has no morals and no qualms, and yet you love him. When Rob saw that, he was like, “That’s the guy I need for this.”
Has this series dulled your senses towards violence?
LAWLESS: No, I don’t think so, and that might be something to do with the graphic nature of it. I think it’s because it’s so base. The shedding of blood like that is so sacrilegious, on an animal level, that it is a complete disillusion of all our taboos – sexual waste, human waste, waste of blood, waste of potential – in a society that was wasted and died in its own waste.
Have you gotten more comfortable doing the nude scenes now?
LAWLESS: No, I haven’t. Nudity and sex scenes are two completely different things. Nudity you can kind of get used to, but not when there is movement and relating involved. The sex scenes are very uncomfortable because that’s something to be protected, so you have a visceral reaction to not exploit that. Normal people in our society don’t put it out there that often.
Do you think that male sex in Spartacus has gotten more buzz and controversy than the female sex?
LAWLESS: I call it equal opportunity. People are, perhaps, surprised to see that, as well they should be surprised, because it’s such a taboo in our society. But, back then, they just had completely different guidelines.
LAWLESS: It’s best not to know because you angst about it ahead of time. What good is that going to do for you? Or, you look forward to it and it doesn’t happen because they rewrite it. So, until it’s on the stage, what’s on the page doesn’t matter so much.
Do you consider this show a family business?
LAWLESS: What makes it easier is that I’m proud of this. I’m proud of my work and I’m proud of the finished product. I think Rob’s a brilliant producer and a brilliant boss. People bring 110% because he’s the kind of boss who sets them up. They’re not afraid to fail. They are not going to get shot down. They are going to take the best idea from whoever in the room has got it, so all the guns are pointed in the same direction and not at each other. That’s an environment of trust that he sets up in New Zealand. Chris Albrect and Starz have been so courageous. It’s great that Chris didn’t kill it because he could have, when he came in and took over. It’s like the leader of a pride of lions. The alpha male lion comes in and often kills the predecessor’s cubs. But, he had the foresight, the intelligence and the wisdom to go, “You know, this is working surprisingly well,” and he kept us alive. I, for one, am so very grateful to him and to his team.
Does Sam Raimi have anything creatively to do with the show anymore?
LAWLESS: I can’t possible comment. Sam is very serious about what he puts his name on, and he doesn’t like it to be misused, so he is very much a part of every single discussion. If his name’s on it, he’s part of the discussion. Sam loves movies and Rob loves television, so that is the division of labor. Like in any good partnership, you carve it up the way that keeps the family working.
Is it tough to go back and forth between the States and New Zealand?
LAWLESS: I don’t go back and forth. I just live down there. I’ve moved home. My kids are very settled there, so I don’t think I could get them to move now.
LAWLESS: The energy to get them up and running was too much. Spartacus burned me out in a really good way. It just took everything I had. There was that terrible flu that everybody had for three months, and I had it for just about the entire shooting of the prequel. I was just not in good enough shape to do singing as well. It just didn’t present itself as an option. I’m a bit sad about that, but I’m too tired.
Have you spoken to Andy at all?
LAWLESS: We email one another. He’s a very spiritual man and he sees things in a much larger context. He’s just putting himself and his family first, right now. We want to see him back on screen, somewhere. He’s got a wonderful career ahead of him. If it’s not this show, there will be something else.
When will you allow your children to see this series?
LAWLESS: When they are 103! My daughter actually works in editing. She’s 22. Not only has she seen the show, but she sees all of our outtakes. Actually, she tends to turn her back in those scenes. They say, “Daisy, turn your back for 20 minutes,” and she goes and works on something else.
Do you feel you have had a role in changing the image of beauty?
LAWLESS: Oh, I would love to have. I never even thought about that, but I would love to think that I did. It’s kind of by default. I was lucky to get the gig. I didn’t do it for that reason, but it’s nice that there’s this wonderful, holistic spin-off.
You can be tough, have definition and be muscular, and still be beautiful.
LAWLESS: Yes, I think zaftig was the word I was saddled with, at the time, and I didn’t like it. Zaftig means great, big Amazonian. I didn’t really like that either because I felt like, “They’re calling me fat!” They certainly meant it as a compliment too, but as a 20-year-old, society’s pushing a different kind of model. You know who I think is actually doing great things for the appearance of women is that Kardashian girl. Kim Kardashian is giving an alternative. I don’t know very much about her and I don’t read articles, but just looking at the pictures you go, “Great! There’s a girl with an ass, and that’s fabulous. On behalf of all girls with asses, thank you.”
What’s next for you?
LAWLESS: I’d like to do something else, but I don’t know. I’ve just become available, really.