The Spine Of Night Star Lucy Lawless Talks Voice Acting, Animation, And Pumpkins [Interview]

Lucy Lawless is no stranger to heroism. The actress, who rose to stardom on the television series "Xena: Warrior Princess," has played all kinds of characters who save the world. In her latest, "The Spine of Night," she voices Tzod, an ancient swamp witch who must fight with all she has to save the planet from the forces of evil. In real life, Lawless has been busy fighting for justice herself, traveling to the Amazonian rainforest and actively fighting on social media to free human rights lawyer Stephen Donziger. 

I had a chance to chat over the phone with Lawless about voice acting, protecting the planet, and what kinds of projects she wants to take on next. 

(This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.)

A Protector of the Earth — Animated or Not

Your character in Spine of Night is this ancient protector of her swamp and of the Earth. And I feel like you're basically doing that in real life with your work with Greenpeace and now in Ecuador. And so, I was wondering if you see some of yourself in Tzod.

I am fully in Tzod mode at the moment. Yeah, very much. When I think about, I mean, Xena was always hanging out with Amazons and part of not only this, but "Mothers of the Revolution." Yeah, a lot of my life has been taken up with different things. I feel like that is most of my life right at the moment.

I wanted to ask you how is doing voice acting different from acting on a set.

It's so lovely, because you don't have to get up at sparrow's fart and put on makeup, and you don't have to wear uncomfortable clothes. And there's no stunt fighting and it's so heavenly. It's the ideal way to go. And you stop for lunch, and you have whatever you want. Voice acting is a treat. And the difficulty with this one, the challenge was that we were having to voice to somebody else's movements. So somebody else's rhythm. So it was kind of this hybrid performance of two people. And you had to make it work. Got to try to move somebody, even though you're using somebody else's sort of sort of vocal rhythm.

Surprisingly Not a Fan of Fantasy

Did you have a chance to hang out any of your co-stars?

No, because we were fully in ... Were we in Covid mode at the time? It might have been prior to that, but I was in New Zealand. And they were all over the world. So no, it just doesn't work like that unfortunately, in the world of voiceovers. Even if you're in the same scene, in some, like I did "Minions" coming up. And you might be in scenes with other people, but you do all your stuff alone on different days probably.

I know that your co-star, Joe Manganiello hosts Dungeons & Dragons games and you've done lots of fantasy stuff. So I was wondering if that was something that you would want to, to try if you'd be interested in Dungeons & Dragons.

I don't know. I've never been exposed to it.

It's basically acting, but for fun.

Probably not, to be honest with you. No, I've got to be honest. Yeah. I can't imagine. I would much rather watch some foggy English drama than watch people with pointy ears. [laughs] That's all I can say.

Fair enough. Well, that leads me to my next question. What draws you to being in fantasy stories?

No, they just own me. I've never ever begged to be in one. It just kind of happened. It's such a weird twist of fate.

"I kind of want to move behind the camera."

I know you're getting to play something very different now on New Zealand TV (on the series "My Life is Murder.") So what kinds of characters would you like to get to play?

I kind of want to move behind the camera.

Ooh. Then what kinds of things would you like to bring to the screen from behind the camera?

I'm thinking documentary at the moment. Got to be things that reveal something about the human condition. So yeah, that's where my interest lies at the moment. So I'm just working on those kinds of projects at the moment.

And what's coming up for you next? What are you passionate or excited about that you want to share with people?

I am deep in the mission to get Steven Donziger out of ... make sure he doesn't go to jail. He's a human rights lawyer who worked in the Amazon. And it's all I can think about right now. I'm have an obsessive personality evidently and this is all I can think about, though I am also chasing a certain documentary, but I can't talk about that 'til it's real. Yeah.

It's just meat and potatoes to me, I'm afraid.

Understandably. And so, back to Spine of Night. I was curious. You're no stranger to onscreen violence, "Ash vs. Evil Dead" had some of the nastiest gore I've ever seen, but what did you think about the rawness of the carnage in "The Spine of Night"?

I don't know. Compared to "Spartacus" or something. It says ultraviolent, but I think because of the way it's been, the rhythm of it makes it more ghastlier. It's almost, it's a little bit slow. Seems more explicit to be doing it in cartoon with ... It doesn't have the rhythm of say a stunt fight, which will have all kinds of ... The pace changes all the time. I've done a thousand stunt fights. This isn't like that. There is something very slow and rhythmic, which makes it kind of gross. It's uncanny. That's what it is. It has a sort of an uncanny rhythm to everything they do on this show, on "Spine of Night." Yeah, but as for ultraviolent, but I've done ... It's just meat and potatoes to me, I'm afraid.

And do you have any fun plans for Halloween?

I don't. You know what? Because I'm not American. We do, actually these days, they have started to doing trick-or-treating around my city. And I always do go sit with my friend down at front gate and hand out lollies and dress the dog up and all that stuff. I love welcoming the kids in the neighborhood. But this year I'm in America, so there's no little kids to hand lollies to. So I don't know what to do. I adore all the pumpkins all over the place. Oh my God. They're so beautiful. Those great big ones that look like they've been ... They're all flat on the bottom that, that look like they're melted. Do you know what I mean?


Those huge ones. People have got those on their doorsteps in New York and shops. It's really cool.

"The Spine of Night" is now playing in select theaters and is available to rent on VOD and digital.