Lucy Lawless says “serendipity” brought her back to TV as crimesolver Alexa Crowe in “My Life Is Murder,” premiering Aug. 5 on Acorn TV.
“I was in New Zealand raising my kids, and now that my kids don’t seem to need me in the same way, the time was right,” says Lawless, 51, who shot the 10-episode series on location in Melbourne, Australia. “[Series executive producer] Claire Tonkin contacted me on the day that I happened to be in Sydney for Gay Pride. I said, ‘You’ve got an hour and a half on Sunday if you want to meet.’ She was the right person at the right time with the right idea and it was time for me to step up. And I was close to home if my [17-year-old] son needed me.”
In the series, Alexa is an investigator who left the Melbourne police department following the death of her husband. Content with baking bread at home, she’s unofficially recruited back into action by her former boss, Detective Inspector Keiran Hussy (Bernard Curry), who teams her with ambitious upstart Madison Feliciano (Ebony Vagulans) to help solve puzzling murders. Their pairing adds a touch of whimsy to the series since they’re both obsessive — Alexa over her new German breadmaking machine and Madison over her high-tech vacuum cleaner.
“Alexa has been hiding from the world baking bread, which is kind of a metaphor for a new life and doing something organic and wholesome,” says Lawless. “She has not progressed since her husband died and she went into a bit of a grief hole. Ironically, it’s getting involved with murderers again that brings her back to life … so she can climb out and process her grief properly.
“And Madison is in love with her vacuum cleaner,” she says. “When we were developing the story I was like, ‘C’mon, we can’t have two women in love with their machines!’ They were like, ‘No, this is great [for] the lean-in factor.’ There are little curious things that make you go towards the show because they’re peculiar, but believable.”
Lawless, a New Zealand native, shot to fame nearly 25 years ago as “Xena: Warrior Princess” (1995-2001), and says there are similarities to that series in Alexa’s relationship with Madison and Xena’s friendship with sidekick Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor).
“The thing that differentiates Alexa from any other character I’ve played is that she’s sexually quite liberated,” says Lawless. “Her first murder case [in the series opener] involves a rent boy and there’s a kind of ‘will she or won’t she?’ effect. But I do see parallels with ‘Xena’ in that Madison is totally my sidekick, like Gabrielle, so there’s a ‘girl power’ element.”
Lawless says she’s open to the idea of resurrecting “Xena” — but it won’t involve her husband, series co-creator Rob Tapert. “Look, they tried to do it and get my husband in on it but he said ‘I honestly cannot think of a way to do it better than I already did it’ … He’s afraid he’s going to make some really sh—y version,” she says. “I made this comment during an interview like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ and got like 100 e-mails: ‘Give us a call!’
“I did see a promo with Linda Hamilton for the reboot of ‘Terminator’ and I was like, ‘Yes! They nailed it!’ It was admiration and jealousy and I was like, why are they not doing that with Xena? Bring back me and Renee as the ages we are now and hand the baton over. I’m not signing a six-year [TV] contract to play Xena, but as a movie? Great!”