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Kiwi actress Lucy’s new lease of life

The in-demand actress is busier than ever since her kids have left the nest

You’re never too old to try something new – even after your kids have grown up and moved out! That’s the attitude 56-year-old Lucy Lawless is currently living by. When we chat, the My Life Is Murder star is in Boston on a work trip and is getting ready to go out line dancing with friends.

“We did square dancing at school when I was about 13 and that was fun, but I’ve never tried line dancing before,” she says cheerfully.

For Lucy, middle age has been a time for pushing herself out of her comfort zone. She’s not afraid of failure – or the prospect of looking a bit silly in the case of the line dancing – and says that her 86-year-old mother, Julie Ryan, is her role model.

“My mum’s such a self-starter and she’ll always give things a go. She’s writing a book – she writes poetry. She’s actually a very big inspiration to me. Recently, she was in the news because she made a felted dog picture out of dog’s hair… It’s hilarious!”

Lucy Lawless standing on a boardwalk
Lucy’s new project was both “exciting” and “terrifying”.

When Lucy’s kids were leaving home, her mum was particularly helpful. Daughter Daisy is 35 now and working in the film industry. Sons Julius, 24, and Judah, 21, are at university in the US and are studying science.

“It wasn’t easy when they left and I was really quite upset,” admits Lucy. “But my mum had warned me that I had to make sure I had something else going on. Your kids are going to leave, so you don’t want to give up everything for them. You’ve got to save something for yourself.

“What happened to me is I got all this brainpower back. I don’t have to think about my kids all the time now because I know they’re not thinking about me. I’m off the hook!”

With her renewed zest for life, Lucy has been busy tackling a range of very different projects. There is season four of TVNZ’s My Life Is Murder, of course. In the comedy-drama series, Lucy plays private investigator Alexa Crowe, who is busy solving a series of increasingly bizarre crimes.

She loves the show and not just because she doesn’t have to wear a corset or do high kicks like she did while starring in Xena: Warrior Princess.

Lucy standing on a boardwalk with her My Life As Murder co-stars
With My Life Is Murder co-stars (from left) Joe Naufahu, Ebony Vagulans and Rawiri Jobe.

“It’s one of the few shows that I’ve ever made that I love to watch,” says Lucy. “It’s kind of like my sunshine. There’s something good and wholesome about it.”

In between having fun shooting the series, she’s been busy making her debut as a director, with a documentary, Never Look Away, about Margaret Moth, an intrepid New Zealander who was a camerawoman in war zones for CNN.

It was a hugely challenging project, particularly as some of it was shot amid COVID lockdowns, but Lucy wouldn’t give up and it has now screened at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

“A documentary with no script is the most exciting, terrifying and rewarding journey, and it really made me test my mettle,” she enthuses. “I didn’t know this about myself, but I have the ability to obsess about something to the exclusion of almost everything else in my life.

“This project owned me. I had no intention of directing – I’d never wanted to. But no one else cared in the way that I did, so it had to be me.”

Lucy is now training her laser focus on new projects and hoping to get another doco, as well as two drama series, off the ground. When she’s not caught up with work, she’s busy with another big passion. This time, a rural North Island property where she has been planting hundreds of trees and decorating a tiny house.

Lucy and My Life Is Murder co-star Ebony Vagulans sitting at a table having a discussion

Her TV producer husband Rob Tapert, 68, isn’t quite so keen on the small home, so Lucy is often there alone, accompanied by her “extremely large” German shepherd Dino. It’s a long way from the glamour of the film industry, but she couldn’t be happier, wielding a chainsaw and getting her hands dirty.

“When you grow trees, it’s a lot of work for the first six or seven years,” she explains. “I spend hours trimming with a pole saw and getting a sore neck, then I’m down low pulling all the weeds out from around every one of them.

“I’m quite handy. I’ll pull the tractor apart and fix things. We’re an hour away from the nearest town, so I’m not going to wait for someone to come. I’ll watch a YouTube video and work it out.”

Lucy has never had a grand plan for her life, but instead has taken opportunities as they’ve come along and given them her all. That’s the way she intends to continue for the foreseeable future.

“I’m doing things that excite me and loving it,” she says. “For 55 to have been the best year of my life, that’s cool. I’m really surprised and delighted.”

My Life Is Murder screens 8.30pm Sundays on TVNZ 1.

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