Big Bonus For Xena

Kiwi actor Lucy Lawless has scored worldwide publicity as a result of the riding accident -- and now she's being mobbed!

By Neil Blincow
New Zealand's Women's Weekly February 10, 1997

Lucy Lawless has discovered every cloud really does have a silver lining. When the star of "Xena: Warrior Princess" fell off a horse in October, breaking her pelvis in four places, it was the most painful and terrifying experience of her life. Yet, ironically, "it was the best thing that ever happened to Xena," says the 28-year-old New Zealander, who had the accident while filming a skit for "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno.

"Falling off that horse really put me on the map," explains Lucy. "Before it happened, there were a lot of people out there who had never heard of me or Xena. The publicity all over the world about my accident changed all that and now a lot more people are watching the show. So, in a way, it was a blessing in disguise."

That doesn't mean she'd ever want to go through such a painful ordeal again. "No way," she grimaces. "It was much too painful and too frightening to repeat. It may have been the best thing that happened to Xena, but not to Lucy Lawless. It was like a bad dream...I don't even like to think about it."

While she's recovering well from her injuries, which put her in hospital for several weeks, Lucy has refused to get back on a horse since the accident, forcing producers of Xena - which is filmed in and around Auckland -- to use doubles in her riding scenes.

"I'm not going to be pushed into it," says the statuesque actor. "I want to recover fully."

Lucy says she got a pleasant first-hand idea of just how firmly she's now "on the map" when se flew into America recently and was mobbed by 400 fans, all in medieval costume, at a "Xena/Hercules" convention in Burbank, California.

"I'm absolutely overwhelmed by all the attention and I must confess I love it," says Aucklander Lucy. "The response, especially in the US, has been fantastic."

So how is she managing to keep her feet on the ground?

"Well, that's the problem," she laughs. "To stop it all going to my head I handle it by refusing to believe it's all real!"

Her growing popularity has brought offers from Hollywood movie-makers willing to pay her big bucks to star in feature films during her upcoming three-month hiatus from Xena. But she's turned them all down -- for two reasons.

Firstly, her loyalty to Xena. "This is the show that made me famous," she explains. "If I spent my hiatus making a movie I'd be exhausted by the time it came to filming Xena again. And that wouldn't be fair to the show.

"Sure, one day I'd like to make movies...and maybe even move to America for awhile. But for the moment, I'm content to stay in New Zealand and concentrate on Xena."

Her second -- and more important -- reason for saying no to stardom is her eight-year-old daughter Daisy. "My daughter is the most important person in the world to me and, with the long hours I have to work on Xena, I don't get as much time with her as I'd like. So when I get a hiatus from the show I want to spend it with her, being a mum," says Lucy, who's seven year marriage to Daisy's father, Garth Lawless, ended in 1994, after she'd landed her Xena role.

Lucy -- now in what she describes as a "very happy, stable relationship" with Xena producer Rob Tapert -- confesses little Daisy used to hate her mum's TV show, "because she blamed Xena for the breakup of my marriage to her dad.

"Not anymore. She's proud of her mum now the show's such a success."

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