Not Even a Horse Can Throw Xena for a Loop


Fighting cruel mythological gods and evil monsters, nasty giants and blood thirsty warlords--pshaw, mere saber rattling for actress Lucy Lawless, who plays “Xena: Warrior Princess.” Lawless had plenty of practice--she grew up with five brothers (four of them older) and one sister.

“I had a fairly rough-and-tumble childhood,” Lawless said in a soft voice. “I’ve got a good kick, I can throw a punch and I learned not to cry.”

The syndicated show is filmed in her native New Zealand, where Lawless, 28, learned to ride horseback as a kid.


Last October, she was injured while taping a skit on horseback for “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

“It just took me a long time to learn to walk again,” Lawless said about the multiple pelvic fractures. “But I’ve got them good child-bearing hips”--daughter Daisy is 8--”and I did drink plenty of milk when I was a kid and that prevented me from snapping anything.”

Question: Are you back to doing all your own action shots?

Answer: Running is not really on yet, but I’m doing all my fights--just toning down the kicks a little. And I’m ready to get back on the horse. There’s no medical reason why I can’t. It’s just psychological now.

Q: That has to be scary. You took a helluva spill.

A: I don’t think I’ll ever get on a horse again without thinking of Christopher Reeve. See, I won’t ski for that reason. I don’t want to hurt myself and let people down, but I can’t not do everything, so I’m going to get back on that horse. It’s important for me to give myself that challenge. Otherwise, I’m forever going to be frightened.

Q: What kind of an exercise program have you been on since the accident?

A: I took up swimming. You put on a flotation belt so you’ve got full range of movement and then instead of using weights, you use floats--like polystyrene dumbbells--and push them down in the water, which gives you a good workout. Then I jarred something at work by running across uneven ground. So, now I also walk fast with hand weights. I go up around the mountains near my house for about an hour at a good clip.

Q: Has your diet changed since the accident?

A: Not much, no. I’m sitting here eating beans for breakfast.

Q: Out of the can, right?

A: Yep. With sausages. I went out last night for the first time in donkey’s years and didn’t get home till nearly 2, which is really late for me. I just had such a great time and now I’m just starving. I’ve got a garden here full of organic vegetables so what I should have done is gone out and picked some of that. I usually do.

Q: You don’t have to watch what you eat, do you? How much do you weigh?

A: I don’t have any idea how much. I don’t own a set of scales. I just know if I fit in my clothes. I eat everything. I do have a sweet tooth but that seems to be manageable. I do like wine. I like Scotch. I don’t smoke but I sure would like to.

Q: You used to?

A: Yeah.

Q: So when you’re not eating out of the can?

A: When I’m sitting in the makeup room, they bring me a big old bowl of porridge and a couple of eggs. It’s dull but it sticks all day long. And I’ll have a big lunch. My all-time favorite is lamb shanks. I generally wouldn’t care if I ever saw meat again, but I do need it because I don’t seem to lose the bruises. I’m extremely bruised at night, so it’ll be red meat and dark green veggies. In this kind of show, you are going to get hit. You live with bruises and your pain tolerance goes sky high. I can suffer all sorts of torture now without complaining.

Q: Even Xena’s leather corset-breastplate?

A: It really is tight. The problem is, nothing looks like leather--Lycra films shiny. Then there’s copper plating on the outside, but they have made it as comfortable as they can.

Q: What’s the biggest Xena-ish challenge for you?

A: Two weeks in the cold and the rain, up to your shins, no exaggeration, fighting in the mud. There were days when I’d just crawl down under a coat, and this hail is coming at you and you’re muddy, and the wet sand and you’re in it for maybe eight hours straight and you have to climb a tree and jump.

Q: You have the best sneer I’ve ever seen on an actress.

A: That’s funny but you’re right. That happens unconsciously. That Xena look--sometimes when I see her doing that sneer, I see my oldest brother so clearly. It’s just his face when he was an angry, young man. That’s how much we look alike.

Next week, the action continues with Kevin Sorbo of “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.”

* Guest Workout runs Wednesdays in Life & Style.