Battlestar Galactica's Lucy Lawless finally bares it all for her role as Lucretia, the rapacious wife of John Hannah's Batiatus, in Starz's upcoming Spartacus: Blood and Sand, and she's not shy about it. At all.
"It's a way of telling the audience, 'You ain't in Kansas anymore,'" Lawless said in a conference call Wednesday. "It certainly jolts you into a new reality where people had completely different relationships to their bodies and other human beings. Slavery, different attitudes to sexuality, prostitution, you name it. They thought of things differently, but essentially human beings haven't evolved so very much, so you're still able to relate to them."
The hourlong drama is a new take on the story of a Roman gladiator who eventually leads a slave rebellion against Rome itself. A kind of mixture of HBO's Rome and Zack Snyder's 300, the show is notable in part for introducing us to Lawless in the buff, beginning with the second episode. But there's a reason for it, she assures us.
"In fact, all of us, the actors and writers, are very serious about what we do," she said. "We do not want one single thing to be gratuitous. It's not what we're about. Even when there's a sex scene, in fact there is business being transacted. The scene is about something else; otherwise, it would be on the Playboy Channel. It would be somewhere else. This is not soft porn. It's a bloody good yarn, and you want to be on board."
In her first nude scene, Lucretia and her husband happily discuss political plans while stripping for bed. Meanwhile, off-screen "fluffers" prepare them to consummate. The fluffing is off-screen, but that's still something you've never seen on TV before, said series creator Steven S. DeKnight.
"In the first draft it was written they were engaged in the act and having this conversation," DeKnight said during the conference call. "[Executive producer and Lawless' husband] Rob [Tapert] felt like this is something we could see anywhere in TV. How can we make it different for our show? There were a lot of extremely graphic, crazy suggestions thrown out that I can't even repeat on the phone. They shocked even me, but, finally, I really started thinking about it, and I thought this first scene really needs to set up the master/slave relationship. Why not use that in the sexual connotation and actually have them be fluffers, but not just the woman fluffer for the guy, but also have a fluffer for the woman? It's interesting, because the way it's shot, you really don't see anything with the fluffing going on, but it's the implication that just makes it extremely racy."
There is even more outrageous debauchery to come, Lawless promised. "They would have conversations while I'm in a bath with slaves," she said. "So naturally you are in a state of undress, but there is something going on in the scene that is more riveting than me."
"I will say with regards to the nudity, you get kind of used to it," Lawless said. "It's historically accurate that there are slaves standing around in states of undress, and after a while it becomes a non-issue. It loses its taboo, and it's irrelevant to your day."
DeKnight said that the series won't shy away from further sexual depictions, but he seconds Lawless' assertion that there's more to the scene than the physical. "Everything I've read is it was a very visceral place, both in its regards to sex and its regards to violence," DeKnight said. "Particularly with the sex scenes, I certainly don't shy away from it, but it's always about something else. You'll see some background sex going on that's obviously part of a bigger scene, but when it's our main characters, there is always something else going on in the sex scene. It's a discussion, it's a power play, it's an exploration of love. It's never just for the sex or titillation."
Spartacus: Blood and Sand premieres Jan. 22 at 10 p.m. on Starz.