Kiwi actress Lucy Lawless was born Lucille Frances Ryan on March 29, 1968 in Auckland, New Zealand. The fifth of seven children, she was the first daughter born to Frank and Julie Ryan. A tomboy as a child, Lucy grew up in a rough and tumble household, where she learned to hold her own against her four older brothers. She 5'10-1/2", has dark brown hair (her own color is a much lighter brown) and light blue eyes.
Educated primarily in convent schools, Lucy studied opera for a while, but gave it up when she realized that she did not have the passion for opera that serious study required. She did, however, realize that she enjoyed acting and she appeared in numerous plays while she was in high school. Later, she attended Auckland University where she studied Italian, French and German for one year. She dropped out of college and headed for Europe where she traveled around Switzerland and Germany (where she went grape picking on the Rhine) until she and boyfriend, Garth Lawless, ran out of money. They decided to head for Australia where they planned to work to earn some money so that they could continue with their travels. They went to work with a gold mining company outside of Kalgoorlie, about 500 miles from Perth. Lucy was one of the few women doing the grueling work which included digging core samples, mapping, and driving trucks.
Lucy and Garth were married while in Australia and then returned to New Zealand where Lucy gave birth to their daughter Daisy, who is now 9 years old. Lucy was chosen Mrs. New Zealand in 1989. But she was determined to pursue a career as an actress and to that end, she landed a part in a television commercial. She describes this, her first acting job, as a "really bad, cheesy commercial for travel, and I wore a bathing suit. And I am not a bathing suit girl!" But that commercial led to others and shortly thereafter Lucy landed her first real acting job in a NZ comedy troupe show called Funny Business. Lucy moved with her family to Vancouver, Canada where she enrolled in the William Davis Center for Actors Study. She studied under Davis for eight months while husband Garth worked as a bar manager. When she returned to New Zealand in 1992 after eight months of study, she landed the job as co-host for Air New Zealand Holiday, a NZ travel magazine.
Lucy worked in a number of television and film productions, appearing in such television shows as Marlin Bay, The Ray Bradbury Theatre, and The Black Stallion. She also appeared as a tow truck driver in "Peach," an Australian film that was part of a lesbian film series entitled "Women From Down Under." Her first real exposure to American audiences came when she landed the role of Lysia in Hercules and the Amazon Women, an episode of Hercules:The Legendary Journeys which was being filmed in her native New Zealand. That appearance led to another one, this time as Lyla in another Hercules episode titled "As Darkness Falls."
Lucy's big break came in yet another Hercules episode when actress Vanessa Angel became sick and could not appear in the Hercules episode as originally planned. This time Lucy was cast because the producers couldn't find a replacement for Angel. Lucy was thus cast as Xena in a three episode arc, that ultimately spun off into her own series, Xena:Warrior Princess in September of 1995.
With no special training in martial arts or sword play, Lucy trained briefly with martial arts expert Douglas Wong from whom she learned some basic kung fu moves, as well as sword and staff fighting techniques. She did have experience riding horses, but hadn't been on one since her early teens. Xena was her first experience on horseback since she was thirteen years old.
During September and October of 1997, Lucy made her Broadway debut when she took advantage of the opportunity to play the tough talking Betty Rizzo in Grease. The opportunity arose when Lucy, appearing on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, sang "I'm An Old Cowhand." O'Donnell commented on her voice and their conversation drifted to the role of Rizzo. The producers of Grease saw Lucy on Rosie, they liked what they heard, and offered her the opportunity to star on Broadway as Rizzo. The rest, as they say, is history.br>
Lucy makes her home in Auckland, New Zealand. Divorced from Garth Lawless, Lucy and Garth share custody of Daisy. Lucy became engaged to Xena:Warrior Princess executive producer Rob Tapert while in New York City in the Fall of 1997, and the couple were married in Santa Monica, California on March 28, 1998.
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