She was born in Auckland's Mt Albert 45 years ago, the fifth of seven children for Frank and Julie Ryan, she a teacher, he a banker-turned-long-time mayor of the suburb. After dropping out of the University of Auckland and ditching her opera studies at 18, she embarked on an OE, only to fall in love with and then pregnant to Garth Lawless the following year. Her daughter Daisy was born the year the couple married, 1988.
As a kid Lucy dreamed of being a singer, but fell into acting the year after Daisy was born when she joined the cast of local television sketch comedy show, Funny Business. Her big break came in 1994 when American TV producer (and future husband) Rob Tapert cast her as a man-hating Amazon in Hercules And The Amazon Women, the pilot for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The following year she was cast as a warrior woman called Xena in the same series.
The character was so popular Lawless and Xena were given their own show, Xena: Warrior Princess just months later. In 1998, she married Tapert.
They have two sons. Lawless' post-Xena career was mostly cameos and bit parts until Tapert cast her as the oversexed Lucretia in his Spartacus: Blood and Sand in 2010.
Off screen, Lawless has developed a second career as a charity fundraiser and Greenpeace activist.
Lucy Lawless stars as the vampish Velma in Chicago at Q Theatre until December 15.