Lucy Lawless knows some viewers will be offended by her new series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” premiering tonight at 10 on Starz.
“I think a lot of people are going to be shocked and they are going to shut off their televisions,” Lawless said in a recent telephone interview from Los Angeles.
“And I absolutely encourage that because if they’re shocked by the first few episodes, it ain’t going to let up. But for the people who have the stomach for it, this is a bloody good yarn.”
Lawless plays the conniving Lucretia, who owns the slave Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) with her husband, Batiatus (John Hannah).
“She does terrible things, but she does them out of desperation and need, which is how most people get involved in criminal activities,” Lawless said. “She is venal, but she is also religious. She is full of contradictions, and my aim is to make her so real and so believable that the audience will say, ‘Yes, you know what? I can see myself doing the same thing if I was in her shoes.’ ”
For the part, the 41-year-old appears topless and in explicit sex scenes.
“Really, I just feel like as long as it’s germane to the scene, it’s not offensive to me,” she said. “If it is relevant and historically accurate, then artistically it makes sense. People in ancient Rome had completely different relationships to people and their bodies and sexuality and the law and religion.”
The former star of “Xena: Warrior Princess” is also happy to not be the one involved in the action sequences. Though some may draw comparisons between “Xena” and “Spartacus,” Lawless thinks they are very different.
“There’s no ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ on this show,” she said. “The conceit of the show is so out there. There’s so much blood. It’s larger than life and very operatic. We had to keep the acting and the characters very real.”
The series also allows her to work with her husband, executive producer Rob Tapert, and film in her native New Zealand.
“For the last few years, we’ve had a lot of separation,” she said. “I was working in Vancouver, he was working in New Zealand. This was a great time for our family to get everybody back under one roof and really enjoy what family means. My home life got so much richer.”
Lawless and the rest of the cast will begin production on season two in April. What can viewers expect as season one unfolds?
“Things get very, very dicey for everybody,” she said. “The stakes just get higher and higher, and you see the frenenemies come out to play. You see that the women are more vicious than the men.”