Best known for her role as the fearsome Xena: Warrior Princess in the long-running series of the same name, athletic worldly beauty Lucy Lawless didn’t achieve the fame in her native New Zealand that flooded her in the U.S. until much later in her career, due to the fact that the wildly popular adventure series didn’t air there until long after it was a staple of American television.
Born into water at her home in Mount Albert, Aukland, New Zealand, in 1968 to the mayor of that city, Lawless began acting early and frequently appeared in school plays in her youth. A active child of diverse interests and with many siblings, Lawless went on to study German, French, and Italian at Aukland University for a year before traveling through Europe with boyfriend and eventual first husband Garth. They worked odd jobs to finance their trip and eventually ending up in Australia. Working in a gold-mining camp in Kalgoorlie to finance the final leg of their journey, the couple was married in Australia in 1988 and soon returned home to bear a daughter.
Crowned Mrs. New Zealand the following year, the busy new mother got her first acting experience in Funny Business, a popular TV comedy troupe. Studying acting in Vancouver, Canada, at the William Davis Center for Actors Study, Lawless soon landed small roles in films (The End of Golden Weather ) and television (For the Love of Mike ), with her next regular job as of co-host on television’s Air New Zealand Holiday. After appearing in The Rainbow Warrior in 1992, Lawless landed the role that would propel her to stardom and become her calling card into the new millennium.
Initially appearing in the role of Lysia in Hercules and the Amazon Women, Lawless went on to appear as Xena in three episodes of Hercules before spinning off into her own series in 1995. It was a physically demanding adventure series in which the sporty actress performed many of her own stunts; Lawless ironically broke her pelvis after falling off of a horse while preparing to make a grand entrance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno in 1996. After a quick recovery, Lawless made her Broadway debut as Rizzo in Grease the following year. Her first marriage dissolved, Lawless was remarried to Xena producer Rob Tapert in October 1999, two years before the final episode of Xena.