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Auckland suburb of Mount Albert in New Zealand
Lucille Frances "Lucy" Lawless, MNZM (née Ryan; born 29 March 1968) is a New Zealand actress, activist and musician best known for playing the title character of the internationally successful television series Xena: Warrior Princess.
She is also widely known for her role as Number Three on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series, and for the role of Lucretia on the television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance.
Lucille Frances "Lucy" Ryan was born in the Auckland suburb of Mount Albert in New Zealand, the daughter of Julie Ryan, a teacher, and Frank Ryan, who was a banker and Mount Albert mayor. She has four brothers and one sister, and was the fifth of the six siblings herself, having described her family as "this big, sprawling Irish Catholic family." While filming in Ireland for the Discovery Channel in 2004, Lawless told Ireland on Sunday that her father's family originated in Quilty, County Clare, and her great grandfather arrived in New Zealand as a convict.
Ryan appeared in her first musical at the age of 10, and began acting in secondary school. She attended Marist College, New Zealand. She later said she "used to quite likebulimia", but was able to overcome the illness. At 18, like many young New Zealanders she went on her "overseas experience", traveling through Europe and Australia with future husband, Garth Lawless, and at 21 she won the 1989 Mrs New Zealand competition.
Her debut on television was two and a half seasons as a cast member of the New Zealand sketch comedy series "Funny Business" – after which she studied drama at the William Davis Centre for Actors Study in Vancouver.
In 1994, Lawless appeared in Hercules and the Amazon Women, a Pacific Renaissance Pictures made-for-television film that became the television pilot for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. In that episode, she played a man-hating Amazon named Lysia. She went on to play another character, Lyla, in the first season episode "As Darkness Falls." She received her best-known role when she was asked to play a villainous warrior woman named Xena in the episode "The Warrior Princess," which aired in March 1995 (R. J. Stewart, one of Pacific Renaissance Pictures's in-house writers, dramatised the teleplay from a story that Robert G. "Rob" Tapert commissioned John Schulian to write.) Vanessa Angel was originally cast in the role, but she fell ill and was unable to travel to New Zealand for shooting. To differentiate between Xena and the similar Lysia, Lawless' hair, previously an ash blonde, was dyed black. Xena subsequently returned in two more episodes of the first season of Hercules, which portrayed her turn from villainess to a good, heroic character.
The character was popular enough that a spin-off series was created. Xena: Warrior Princess debuted on 4 September 1995. (Lawless appeared as Lyla once again in the second season Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode "Outcast," transmitted in October 1995.)Xena: Warrior Princess, like its parent program, was a hit, lasting six seasons, and Lawless became an international celebrity.
In 1997, Lawless was named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" by People Weekly Magazine. Days earlier, on 6 May 1997, Lawless had inadvertently exposed her breasts as she concluded a performance of the US national anthem at an NHL hockey game inAnaheim, California between the Mighty Ducks and Detroit Red Wings. Lawless was quoted in Newsweek as saying, "Obviously, I was mortified....It was quite a bit more exposure than I want."
Lawless married Xena's executive producer, Pacific Renaissance Pictures CEO Robert G. "Rob" Tapert, on 28 March 1998. They have two sons: Julius Robert Bay Tapert (born 16 October 1999) and Judah Miro Tapert (born 7 May 2002), who were both born in Auckland, New Zealand.
Lawless became a 'lesbian icon' because of Xena's ambiguous relationship with traveling companion Gabrielle. This reputation has become cemented after her "graphic lesbian sex scenes" in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. Although Lawless is heterosexual, she has appeared at gay pride events such as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. In a 2003 interview with Lesbian News magazine, she said that she had come to see Xena and Gabrielle's relationship as gay after viewing the series finale, though she has also stated on several occasions that she was undecided on the nature of the relationship while playing the role.
From 2005 to 2009, she had a recurring role in the television series Battlestar Galactica. Lawless appeared as D'Anna Biers, a reporter with the Fleet News Service who worked on a critical documentary about the crew of the Galactica and was later revealed to be a Cylon (Number Three).
She competed as one of the celebrity singers on the reality TV show Celebrity Duets in 2006, finishing as the runner-up to winner Alfonso Ribeiro. Lawless has also performed as a voice actor in several animated features. In 2007, Lawless guest-starred as herself in the cult HBO comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm. In a sub-plot of an episode entitled "The TiVo Guy," she met and flirted with Larry David.
Lawless returned to television on 10 November 2008 in a guest-starring role on the hit CBS television series, CSI: Miami, playing a madam with connections to a murder. She appeared in two episodes of the final season of The L Word, and also had a role in the Adam Sandler movie, Bedtime Stories, released Christmas 2008. Also in 2008, Lawless appeared with her former Xena stuntwoman Zoë Bell in Sony (Crackle)'s new web series Angel of Death, written by Ed Brubaker, which debuted online in early 2009.
Lawless co-starred in the Starz original series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The show was based on the life of Spartacus, the famous gladiator, and the slave revolt he led, and was produced by long-time Xena producers Sam Raimi and "Rob" Tapert, her own husband. Lawless played the role of Lucretia, the wife of Lentulus Batiatus, who were both the owners of a gladiator ludus, which also saw Lawless doing nude scenes for the first time. Lawless won the 2011 Saturn Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role as Lucretia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Lawless reprised her role as Lucretia in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, which chronicled life in the Ludus before Spartacus's arrival, and she also returned for the sequel Spartacus: Vengeance.
Lawless provided the voice of Goldmoon for Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, a direct-to-DVD animated movie based on the novel of the same name, as well asWonder Woman in the direct-to-video animated movie Justice League: The New Frontier. From 2012 to 2014, Lawless had a recurring role on the NBC series Parks and Recreation as Diane, the love interest and eventual wife of Ron Swanson. In March 2015, it was announced that she would be portraying the role of Ruby in Starz TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead.