By Rick Bentley
Tribune News Service
Lucy Lawless has an unusual way of determining what makes something intense.
On her last series, “Ash vs Evil Dead,” she played Ruby, a demon who dished out death and destruction like a cafeteria spoons out mashed potatoes.
Lawless wanted to take on a character that was more intense for her next project, and that ended up being the Australian mystery “My Life Is Murder.” It will be available starting Aug. 5 through the streaming service Acorn TV.
The way Lawless measures the intensity of a role is how close the job comes to real life.
“If you are playing a demon, you’re kind of two-dimensional,” Lawless says. “It’s hard to play that same note year after year. So, I like getting to play this modern woman who is flawed but utterly real. She’s doing real things.
“It is good character exploration and I think she’s more like me than any other role I have ever played.”
Lawless pauses, laughs, and points out the other selling point was that to play the character she got to wear “sensible clothes,” something she has rarely been able to do with flashy projects like “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” and “Battlestar Galactica.”
The intense, sensibly dressed character Lawless is playing in the 10-part series is Alexa Crowe, a private investigator and ex-homicide detective in Melbourne who is the first person called when there are baffling crimes. She does this while dealing with everyday issues such as a broken coffee maker. She is ably assisted by an ambitious 20-something, Madison Feliciano (Ebony Vagulans), and her former boss, Detective Inspector Keiran Hussy (Bernard Curry).
FAN OF MYSTERIES
A major reason Lawless connects with Crowe so closely is that she always has been a rabid fan of mysteries, whether they be real or fictional. It is not unusual for her — when not working — to travel to a courthouse to watch real trials.
“I watch interrogations online. I will watch the legal dissection of how a case is going,” Lawless says. “I think it is really important to have cameras in the courthouses because that’s like having all courthouses available to the public.
“The way to keep transparency and make sure the courts are working for the people, they must be available to be seen by the public.”
CASES SOLVED WITHIN HOUR
The difference between her new procedural show and what she’s observed of real court cases is that the crime her character is investigating will be solved within the hour. The case won’t cover months or years as many real investigations and trials can last.
Lawless understands the need for immediate satisfaction with these kind of stories. She admits to being so weak that when she starts reading a new script for “My Life Is Murder,” the first thing Lawless does is jump to the end to see the solution. There’s a more important reason than just liking spoilers for such an approach. Once Lawless knows the end, then she can look for key moments through the script that set up the solution.
She takes no such tactic with mystery novels. The only hitch with books, she said, is finding the time to read. Along with a long list of science fiction and fantasy series, Lawless has appeared on the TV shows “Parks and Recreation,” “CSI: Miami,” “The L Word” and “Flight if the Conchords.” She also worked in films (“Bedtime Stories”) and as the voice of Wonder Woman in the animated “Justice League: The New Frontier.”
NICE CHANGE OF PACE
Her credits include a diversity of characters and playing a private investigator is the latest change-of-pace role for her. Building such an eclectic resume has had very little to do with wanting to play a sword-swinging hero or an everyday person.
“I am usually attracted to roles by the opportunity to get to work with certain people,” Lawless says. “In the case of ‘My Life Is Murder,’ I met Claire Tonkin, the series creator, and she pitched me the show. I told her the script wasn’t quite there but there was something about her that made me think ‘I’m going to go to war with her.’
“Picking a role is a lot like a marriage — you want to be careful who you get in bed with. You don’t run off and produce a show with any old person. She so impressed me at the meeting and proved to be the real deal.”
Acorn TV streams mysteries, dramas and comedies from Britain and other countries. The first two episodes of “My Life Is Murder” will be available Aug. 5 followed by a new episode every Monday through Sept. 30.