Lucy Lawless Brings Back the Bad Girl
By Noah Michelson
We've talked a bit about how the show is controversial -- it certainly doesn't shy away from the gore or the sex -- but the approach to being gay almost seems ho-hum.
I'm not sure that it was ho-hum, but it was certainly part of your exploration as a young man. The appropriate marriage partners were being very closeted away in their fancy palaces. There was a certainly a load of prostitution and boy-love. I don't mean boys like children. I don't know about that. I'm not qualified to say. But certainly part of the young male experience was to test things out. They had just a different relationship to sexual identity and I don't think you had to nail it down. It was certainly frowned upon in some texts to be too promiscuous. They knew that might not be good for you -- of course STDs have always been around. It is really interesting. You know what's nice about Spartacus is that they have a gladiator who was gay and manly and he has one of the few true love relationships [on the show] with a young man who also is in the same ludus -- that's a gladiator training camp. And it causes no problems for them whatsoever -- the fact that they're identified that way. It's really nice to see gay men being portrayed as something other than cardigan-wearing hand-flappers -- not that there's anything wrong with that'
But it does buck a particular stereotype, which is refreshing.
Yeah it is. And that's what happens in real life.
You yourself are no stranger to the gay world. I was a gender studies major in college and I knew so many dykes who wrote term papers about Xena --
[Laughs.] Oh, that's bizarre.
Yeah, but they did. When did you first recognized that you were a lesbian icon?
Episode 8 of Xena in the first season. Because the lesbian community was the first one to take the show, draw massive attention to it, and kind of in a way made it hip and edgy. It was simply that demographic that picked up the ball and ran with it.
You must still get a lot of attention from them.
Well, I get lots of support from that community. And I try to return in kind. I'm very grateful to everything they did for the show, for me, for charities, for one another. I feel pro-human being. So gay rights are equal rights. I don't know what the fuss is about frankly.
You mentioned nudity on the show. How do you feel about nudity for yourself, when you're acting? Is it an issue?
In the abstract it doesn't bother me. It was important in the scene. Certainly where I'm involved there's nothing gratuitous about any of it. But I will confess that doing it for real was pretty confronting. I felt very inhibited, but I didn't have any choice in the matter and you want it to get over and done with quickly. But I was stressed. And I went straight home to bed afterward. Mostly I was stressed because there's all these women playing slaves hanging around like a bad smell following you everywhere. You're trying to do this intimate scene with a trusted colleague and these women are just standing there. They're from Nigeria and Cameroon and places like this, and I had been talking with them. And I was just so freaked out thinking, What are these women thinking? They must be thinking, 'Bitch! In my country you would be stoned for that. Just for acting that with somebody who's not even your husband.' Or just for -- whatever. Anyway, we all became great friends and they seem to have forgiven me.
Lastly, would you ever consider picking up Xena's sword again?
Yes. I love that character. I would do it if it was a movie. I doubt I would do it as a TV series. I can't see how you would make it fresh. And by the time somebody does come up with that I'm just going to be too old. And I'm really sad about that. I feel like it's a completely wasted franchise. Rob really wanted to get that going. In fact they did early on and I was just too tired and thought I was bullet proof and would be in demand forever. And that killed it.
Spartacus debuts Friday January 22 at 10pm ET/PT on Starz.