Although she admits she's never exactly been one to crave physical roles, Lucy Lawless is definitely back in action.
Long after her iconic stint as the titular "Xena: Warrior Princess," Hollywood still wants to see the actress as an action heroine. "The industry thinks of my persona as being six foot tall and full of grit and muscles, and, in fact, I'm a lady who doesn't like sports at all and really doesn't care," she chuckled. "But my fans seem to be very forgiving if I go off in other directions, which I have. I ain't complaining; put it that way."
But she's about to take on a new self-decribed "badass bitch" role as Ruby on "Ash vs. Evil Dead,” Starz’s upcoming television sequel to the enduring horror-comedy film franchise created by Sam Raimi and Lawless' producer husband Rob Tappert (also the creative team behind "Xena"). Along with the familial connections, Lawless says the job was tremendously appealing because longtime "Evil Dead" star and old pal Bruce Campbell "wanted me around because I laugh at his jokes.”
“I'm not a funny person,” Lawless confessed, “but I'm a really good laugher, so that was my calling card with Brucie."
Campbell admitted that his personal and professional rapport with Lawless made the decision to invite her a natural one. "As soon as we knew we were going to do this show, it was like, 'Well, what's Lucy doing?'" the actor said early this month at the Television Critics Association press tour. "Because it's important. Life's too short. I want to work with people that make sense, that can bring it, that people enjoy watching on the screen and that we know that we have a good relationship with."
Raimi also knew Lawless had the right stuff for the role of Ruby, Ash's primary antagonist at the start of the series. "We needed a powerful adversary for Ash," he explained. "Somebody that could be formidable and, really, you'd think could kick his butt, because he's the real monster fighter. He's dealing with these beasts every day, slicing 'em and dicing 'em, and so we needed a human being that had some heart and soul and some gravitas and some threat to them when she wanted to pull it out. I think that's why Lucy was a great choice."
Spinoff Online was part of a small group of journalist that chatted with Lawless shortly after her press conference, where she revealed a bit more about her enigmatic character.
What can you say about this character and who is she?
Lucy Lawless: She's a badass bitch and she's stalking Ash Williams with a big chip on her shoulder, and a hot obsession. … She believes he's responsible for the Deadite plague, and in my mind responsible, speaking as my character, for the death of my father back when – Professor Knowby back in the "Evil Dead" movies. He was the holder of the Necronomicon, so she has an ancient chip on her shoulder.
How do you feel about all the blood?
It never touches me. I've had no blood on me – not a single drop!
How did you manage that?
She lets other people do the dirty work.
Did you have to think about doing this?
For about half a second, I was in negotiations for quite a big salary job, then I was like, "Sorry, something else is come up. Sorry, I'm going home to work with my husband and Bruce." And that was that.
What would you most like people to know about the show?
It's too much fun, it's nasty, it's bloody, it's distasteful and it's really funny – so you heard it here!
Bruce was, of course, Autolycus on "Xena" and "Hercules," directed episodes of your show and is a longtime pal of your husband's. How did this professional reunion strike you?
Divine! He’s a good guy and he created me in his own image a little bit. Rob got me to talk to Bruce before I’d even played Xena to learn how to be a well-behaved star. In fact, I really did learn that from Bruce, because when they would say, “Lucy, do you want to go do your fight?” My answer would is "No, I hate fighting. Another fight, are you kidding me?" Instead Bruce taught me to go, “Excellent! I’d love it.” Just by saying it, even though you are not feeling it, it takes the problem out of it.
You recently got together with Renée O'Connor and blew up the Internet with that photo of the two of you together.
What I love is that it's a little like the show, in that we have a friendship forged in battle. If we met each other in passing we may not have been attracted to one another, but we went through a lot a lot of life dramas, all through our 20s. Both of us got married during the show, I went through a divorce, she went through a breakup, all that sort of stuff, so we have a relationship like sisters.
Do you get to get together often?
No – maybe two or three times a year.
Was there a time that certain roles came up and you thought you'd wish people would see you differently?
It would be about the prejudice [in Hollywood] before they even met you – or you never even get to meet them because it’s like, “Eh, you’re from the ‘90s.” It could be anything, but I'm not sorry I did it and I'm grateful for everything that show gave me.
”Ash vs. Evil Dead” premieres Saturday, Oct. 31, on Starz.