Perhaps the most iconic role for which Lucy Lawless is known is her portrayal of the title role in Xena: Warrior Princess and now, with Lawless’ latest role as Countess Marburg on WGN’s Salem, Ms. Lawless finds that playing a character within yet another historically significant time period has brought back memories of that popular Greek heroine. Things have changed, Lucy admitted in a recent interview, and the female hero is no longer as cut and dried as it once was when Lawless fought evil as Xena, as writing has become more clever in the creation of anti-heroes with human frailties and human vices.
Again becoming historically relevant within the realm of fiction, Lawless’ Countess Marburg is the last in the extensive lineage of Germanic witches and, carrying that burden, has come to Salem to wrestle the power so wickedly wielded by Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery). Lawless cautions fans of Salem not to take their entertainment so lightly. Lucy confesses that much of the detail in Salem is taken from historical accounts of real witches and the few records that have stood the test of time.
“I cherry-pick some of those awful awful stories and feed them into my character. The horrifying things that she does — like her beauty regime, for example — are stolen from historical accounts of witches in history.”
Lucy is the first to recognize that Salem brings a more insidious kind of horror to television. Lawless reveals that she grew up on horror, particularly the standard Dracula flicks of the ’70s and ’80s. But Salem lacks the cheesiness of those long past decades and Ms. Lawless admits that it can be easy to forget one isn’t watching an accurate historical recreation. After all, Lucy jokes, Salem certainly lacks Xena‘s wands and thunderbolts.
“Horror when I grew up was cheesy and you knew you were watching it. This is so high-end that you could be forgiven for thinking it is a historical account of something. In fact, it’s very educated horror. This is so high-end.”
Ms. Lawless sees much more than mere entertainment in Salem. Lucy’s critical eye and passion for activism recognizes a real relevance between the Salem witch trials and the events going on in contemporary society. Ms. Lawless credits the success and the growing interest in shows like Salem for the commentary they make on current events.
“Witch trials are really about the suppression of ideas. When conventional religious constructs become bullies, as we see happening in the Middle East or many places of the world, you’ve got rich pickings for a television show. It’s happening everywhere. It happens in the South.”
So, with the success Lucy Lawless has achieved in recent years, including her stint on Parks and Recreation and Veronica Mars, fans must have forgotten all about Lucy’s role as that warrior princess. Not so, Lawless answers.
“No, they’re watching Xena! They just had a convention in Los Angeles. Because it was the last one, I went to honor the early fans, and one third of the audience was new fans from Netflix! A third! A third of the audience was brand-new! So, yeah, that show’s got legs. Xena — she’s got legs.”
Catch Lucy Lawless in all of her wickedness, when Salem returns with a new episode on April 12.
[Image from Kevin Winter/Getty Images]