Lucy Lawless has dabbled in just about every geek genre known to drooling man, whether battling swords and sorcerers alike on Xena: Warrior Princess, infiltrating the Battlestar as a Cylon on Battlestar Galactica, and violating many an ancient slave on Spartacus: Blood and Sand. As the loyal wife (and apt partner in wantonness) of Spartacus’s Batiatus, the proprietor of a gladiator academy, Lawless’s Lucretia returns in the even more base, six-episode prequel to the Starz series called Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, airing Fridays at ten. Vulture took full advantage of the actress’s quick wit and playful disposition to pump her for thoughts on stuff like Snooki and merkins and the new show, of course.
How does this prequel lend more insight into your character?
We learn how Lucretia got to be the way she is: a pretty straightforward, horrible Roman wife. Her rotten old best friend, Gaia, shows up. I liken her to a college mate. She shows up and leads her down a path of destruction.
You’re referring to Gaia’s fondness for opium.
Yeah, I think this [lack of] inhibition that comes with taking drugs — everything has consequences. Lucretia loses all her boundaries. Batiatus does find out about it, and the consequences reach far and wide. The prequel is pretty dark stuff but really fun. It’s lovely to be a voyeur for the audience, on this world of moral decay …
Ah, the pre-Bible times.
That’s what’s wrong in our world [in Spartacus]; there’s no Bible. [But] certain religious institutions find us instructive. We’re not getting lambasted with the same kind of rhetoric that Skins and Snooki and all that much younger talent do. It’s so weird that a show like Skins can make us look tame. I haven’t seen it, but I have heard the debate on TV. That’s a whole different issue. Those children are underage and asked to perform things that are not going to go down well in America.
But have you seen Jersey Shore?
I tuned in a couple of times to see what the fuss was about, but I find it to be such an unappealing world. My daughter is 22. I don’t want to see people my children’s age getting their gear off. That’s repugnant to me.
This is coming from a woman who was, at the end of season one, gifted with her unused merkin.
I thought it was a box of chocolates and was really disappointed to find that it was a merkin in a frame. I was quite grossed out: a little orange beard in a box frame. Horrible! [Laughs.] What the hell am I going to do with that? Anyway, they asked for it back [for the prequel], and I was a little taken aback by that, too. It probably cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars to make it. By all means, take your merkin back!
Does it bother you that there are nude stills of you from Spartacus out on the net?
I don’t worry about things I can’t control. If I’m disgusted, I’m putting myself in pain. If I don’t care about it, I’m in no pain. Which choice would you make? I choose no pain. I have to believe in it at the time that I’m doing it, and then if other people do whatever they do — I don’t do it for your approval.
The annual Xena convention begins today in L.A. When is the last time you did the battle cry?
Oh, I can’t remember … maybe a hockey game? But you wouldn’t even know it in the middle of all that screaming. It’s a lot of noise.
Didn’t someone name a dwarf planet after Xena?
The dwarf planet wasn’t named after me! They wanted to, then all the scientists got together, and they called it something I can’t remember. [Editor’s note: They named it Eris.] I was like, “Didn’t I kill that bitch in episode seven of the second season?” Like, I think one of the arguments was we can’t name the dwarf planet after Xena because she wasn’t real. I’m a little disappointed in them.
At least you do have a New Zealand Order of Merit.
I don’t know. You get a little button, a medal from the Queen. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it. Put it on? It’s sitting at home in a drawer. You get to go to special people-with-medals parties. But I don’t know. I don’t do that.
In addition to producing Spartacus and Xena, your husband, Rob Tapert, produced Young Hercules, which starred Ryan Gosling. Did you ever meet him while visiting that set?
Yeah, he was lovely. He played guitar all the time, and his mum came down. He was like 16. Quite a Christian background, I think.
Do you have any specific memories of him?
I do. But I can’t tell you.
It can’t be anything worse than what he did in Blue Valentine.
Nothing like that! He was a 16-year-old virgin! Wonderful kid. A sweetheart and so talented. But, really, I can’t tell you.