A quick word with Jaime Murray, who plays the naughty, social-climbing seductress who corrupts our very own Lucy Lawless - well, her character Lucretia at least - in the latest instalment of Spartacus...

In the first episode of Gods of the Arena Jaime Murray's Gaia fed Lucretia opium and then lured her into the sack.

The English actress knows a thing or two about doing risque scenes, having rolled around with Michael C. Hall in Dexter as the serial killer's unhinged fling Lila. But she insists she's quite modest in real life.

"I take off my clothes and I'm a little shy," she says.

Not that you'd know it from her pivotal role in the Spartacus prequel.

You realise you will be forever known in New Zealand as the actress who corrupted one of our national thespian treasures?
I love Lucy Lawless [laughs]. And I'm not afraid to admit it and she's become a very close friend of mine.

So what was it like working alongside her - and very intimately too?
I was so lucky, because some of those scenes can be pretty difficult and gruelling and awkward - and all the things that you can think they might be, they are. Luckily, I was with the least neurotic, down-to-earth actress, and we tried to laugh our way through our discomfort. And we would talk candidly, too, so we were both on the same page.

So how do you prepare for those sorts of scenes?
It's new territory for everybody, and as difficult as it was for the actors, it's also difficult for the directors, and everyone is difficult about those subjects and no one really knows how to deal with it for the best. Should you just ignore it and get on with it? Should you do it quickly? Should you be really gentle and talk about it for hours? But for me personally, in order for me to feel comfortable I needed to be as creative and in control as I possibly could. My favourite scene was with Lucy with the opium because we looked at the physical state the opium would have taken us to, and that broke down the boundaries that brought us together. We also looked at why Gaia was needy for that affection, and why Lucretia wanted to go there - probably because she needed to let loose from [husband] Batiatus.

Gaia is instrumental in shaping Lucretia's character but what is her motivation in the series?
Yes, she's a catalyst in many ways. But it's a very barbaric world, women have no rights whatsoever, and Gaia was married to a sugar daddy, someone who was looking after her and then they lost all their money and now he is dead. So really she has no one in the world to protect her or look after her. It was looked down upon in that day for women to travel, or to be seen without a husband, so she's in a very precarious position and Lucretia is her only friend really. And it's very important for her to find another husband.

So how does Gaia know Lucretia?
They are old friends, and were party girls together, back in the early days before Lucretia met Batiatus. They have a friendship going way back.

Back to when they took opium together then.
Oh yes, exactly.

The other role we know you for in New Zealand is as Lila in Dexter. Are there similarities bewteen Lila and Gaia do you think?
They are both strong women with a dark side - and they're kind of sexy I guess. But I think Lila's a little more unbalanced than Gaia is and Gaia has a sweetness that Lila didn't possess. So whereas Lila was a bit harder and darker Gaia has more of a sweetness and vulnerability.

What sort of research did you do for a role like Gaia?
What I really wanted to do was understand how women felt at that time. With it being a patriarchal society women weren't allowed to vote, they weren't allowed to own property, they had no legal rights, and they were kind of one step above slaves. They were the property of men, and it's actually quite difficult to read history of that time and actually understand what it was like for women because they weren't even represented historically. But I read this amazing book, Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves, and it focuses on tragedies and comedies and stories about men that in turn tell you about what it must have been like, and the attitudes towards women. It was a very misogynistic culture. So we may judge Gaia because she's using her sexuality a lot, but she is really using the only little bit of power she has, so I feel quite protective of Gaia.

And she has got a sweet smile ...
Yes. Thank you. And a great rack.

Who: Actress Jaime Murray
What: Plays Gaia in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Sundays, 9.30pm, The Box

- TimeOut