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Lucy Lawless (Photo: Supplied / Design: Archi Banal)
Lucy Lawless (Photo: Supplied / Design: Archi Banal)

Pop CultureAugust 30, 2022

My Life is Murder is Lucy Lawless’s love letter to Auckland

Lucy Lawless (Photo: Supplied / Design: Archi Banal)
Lucy Lawless (Photo: Supplied / Design: Archi Banal)

As a new season of the lighthearted murder-mystery series launches on TVNZ and internationally, its star couldn’t be happier to be showing off her home town to the world.

It’s not often a series about murder is full of joy, but My Life is Murder breaks the mould. The third season of the murder-mystery series dropped on TVNZ+ this week, and the show’s star Lucy Lawless has never been prouder to see her home town on the telly. My Life is Murder is a vibrant love letter to Tāmaki Makaurau, and Lawless says she was ready to bring some sunshine to the small screen. “I didn’t want to make anything dark anymore, because I’ve made a career of making some pretty dark shows, and I was tired of it,” Lawless says over Zoom.

The entire My Life is Murder production shifted from Melbourne, where the first season was set, to film its second season in Auckland after Covid-19 hit. And the city has never looked better – despite all the murders – with scenes taking place against an impressive backdrop of blue seas and lush green hills. Acorn TV streams the series to audiences around the world, and Lawless says the response has been hugely positive. “The people who are bankrolling My Life is Murder want to keep making it because it’s doing good numbers for them. It’s so colourful and joyous, it’s just such an easy sell,” she says.

Lucy Lawless as Alexa Crowe in My Life is Murder, with co-star Rawiri Jobe as Harry (Photo: Greenstone)

Lawless was originally approached for My Life is Murder by writer and producer Claire Tonkin, and says it was a case of the right project at the right time. “I think we just hit a serendipitous streak where people were looking for something that made them feel good instead of feeling dystopian and bad,” she says. The show is a lighthearted, easy watch full of quirky characters and quick one-liners, and Lawless is supported by a strong Antipodean cast that includes Martin Henderson, Rawiri Jobe, Joe Naufahu and Ebony Vagulans. The new season also features well-known New Zealand acting talent like Temuera Morrison, Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Roy Billing.

But it’s Lawless who steals the show as Alexa Crowe, a former detective turned private investigator who helps police solve perplexing murder cases. She manages to uncover the truth thanks to a fearless sense of determination and an uncanny ability to wheedle the truth out of people, as well as her biting sense of humour. She loves her cat; she’s still struggling to make the perfect sourdough loaf. Alexa is a dynamic character, bold and independent and sharp as a tack, and it’s a joy to see a middle-aged heroine brought to life with such energy and complexity.

Alexa is the latest in a long line of fierce and funny roles for Lawless. She began her career on New Zealand screens in shows like Funny Business and in a series of ads for ASB, but cracked the big time when she landed the role of Xena: Warrior Princess in 1995. Nearly three decades later, Lawless looks back fondly on the iconic character that made her an international star and is still beloved by many today. “I’m very grateful for that show and everything it gave me – a husband and a family and a career and amazing fans who do a lot of good in the community. What’s not to like about that?”

Lawless went on to build a rich, diverse career both here and in the United States, featuring in dramas like Spartacus and Top of The Lake, and comedies Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live. She also appeared on Broadway as Rizzo in Grease, and most recently played Nunchuck in Minions: The Rise of Gnu. As you’d expect, voicing a cartoon nun villain is worlds away from playing a savvy private detective. “It’s heavenly not having to get up and put on makeup at four in the morning,” she jokes.

Alexa Crowe and Auckland’s very nice bridge (Photo: Greenstone)

Lawless is a big true crime aficionado and often pops into public galleries to watch court trials, including Jeffrey Epstein’s bail hearing in 2019. (“I just wanted to see what a monster like that looks like in person,” she says.) She also admits to enjoying the occasional Miss Marple episode, and while other murder-mystery shows like The Brokenwood Murders become more and more inventive with their deaths, Lawless says there’s a knack to creating the perfect television murder.

“It’s one thing to come up with how to kill them, but crafting the mystery around it, that’s the hard thing,” she says. “Kate McDermott and her team of writers have become really adept at this form of entertainment, because it’s a hard craft to master.” She reckons My Life is Murder doesn’t coast on the show’s good vibes, but puts thought and care into creating a crime scenario that invites the viewer along for the ride. “The clues really are there, if you’re watching, but they’re twisty. You’ve got to be pretty smart to be ahead of Alexa.”

In the future, Lawless hopes to direct a movie, but for now she’s proud to see the new season of My Life is Murder launch both in New Zealand and across the globe. “I’m really delighted to bring my city to the world,” Lucy says. “You know, they’re watching this all across America and England, and Auckland looks beautiful. Everybody comes here and runs straight to Queenstown or Hobbiton, but Auckland is a beautiful, vibrant, modern city. I think we should all start celebrating it.”

The new season of My Life is Murder screens on TVNZ 1 on Mondays at 8.30pm and streams on TVNZ+.

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