The Parents of Xena Star Lucy Lawless open their family photo album exclusively for WEEKLY readers.
By Rowan Wakefield
To millions of TV viewers around the world, Lucy Lawless is none other than the sword-swinging, man-bashing Xena: Warrior Princess. But to her parents, Frank and Julie Ryan, at their home in Auckland, Lucy's still the sweet-natured, trusting little girl they've lovingly raised for 27 years.
"Lucy was a very special child to us. She was the first girl after four boys," says Frank, the former Mayor of Mt. Albert who's now a councillor for Auckland City.
"She always wanted to be rich and famous. It was quite a joke in the family. She was a lovely little kid, never any trouble."
"Lucy was tall, but never ungraceful," recalls proud mum Julie of her strapping 1.83m (6 ft) daughter. "She was a bit of a tomboy, I suppose you could say, and she was always a great one for performing. I'll never forget the little gymnastic displays, concerts and dramas she and her friend used to put on. They'd make all the neighbours come and watch their shows.
"She learned to do all those flips on our bed, you know. The children would open the toilet door so they could get a good run-up, sprint through and tumble on to our bed.
"And it was nothing to have six or seven children in bed with us in the mornings. The poor bed just couldn't take the strain in the end -- one of the legs broke so we had to prop it up with telephone books."
One of Frank's happiest memories while raising their seven children were the happy, rollicking games the family enjoyed around the neighborhood of their sprawling Mt. Albert bungalow.
"We'd go down to the back field and have these great battles with grass clippings and rotten fruit.
"Lucy would always be right there, giving it her best. She had a great throw -- she's got a good strong arm. And being one of only two girls in the family, she learned early on to give as good as she got.
"She topped her form in her seventh year at Wesley Intermediate. That was the first time we recognized she had the ability to excel in whatever she chose to do. She was also voted the girl most likely to succeed."
Lucy was also a keen participant in school plays and musicals, and her parents have very fond memories of her starring in "The Micado," "South Pacific," and "The Pirates of Penzance" while she was at Marist Sisters College, where she eventually became head girl. "She had a fine singing voice, but all she wanted to do was get into film and TV," says Frank. "She was always very popular with the boys. She'd get all the telephone calls, but I'm happy to say she was always treated with greater respect. There was no nonsense, and we were never let down by her."
Julie says her daughter was always very sensible. "I remember one of the mothers saying Lucy was never a child. She was always grown up in her manner."
Frank and Julie are now the biggest fans of Lucy's hit TV show, Xena: Warrior Princess. "Of course we watch it," says Julie. "It's an amazing show, isn't it? It's a great role for Lucy because it uses all the things she's learned, like horse riding and doing all those tumbles and flips.
"And of course, she gets to give the boys as good as she gets. It could have been written for her. We've heard it has a huge following in America and I think she's handled the fame extraordinarily well."
Frank and Julie are delighted with Lucy's success. "She's worked so very hard," says Frank. "I can remember a time when she was crying on my shoulder, sobbing, 'I'm trying so hard but I can't get a break'."
Says Julie: "It was very tough for her trying to get work in New Zealand productions. They seem to have a set group of people they use all the time. And besides, with Lucy's height, she needs a leading man about seven feet tall!"