“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” has been a breakout hit for Starz, giving the premium cable channel newfound cachet.
Audiences have been drawn in by the hyper-stylized violence reminiscent of “300” and buckets of gore as “Spartacus” tells the story of a rebel slave who is forced into servitude as a gladiator-in-training to the society-climbing Lucretia, played by Lucy Lawless, and her husband, Batiatus, played by John Hannah.
We talked with Lawless in advance of Friday night’s season finale.
Q. What is drawing audiences to this show?
A. It’s a really rewarding show, rich with intrigue. There’s blood and sex, and everything that is very base and basic, everything that is very carnal is on full display here. You can’t help but be pulled in.
Q. What attracted you to the role of the scheming Lucretia?
A. My husband (Robert G. Tapert) happens to be the executive producer and had been working on this for years. ... Even though the role scared me a little, I knew it was just a new kind of television and I wanted to be part of that. ... I had never played a Lady Macbeth role, and who doesn’t want to do that?
Q. How do you tackle a role like that?
A. You have to just keep (the performance) really small, and real. The hard part is that you have to resist being over the top with it. That has no tension in it.
Q. The series is called “Spartacus,” but the women are running the show. The men only think they are running the show.
A. Isn’t that the way it always is? (Laughing) The women are certainly more vicious and every bit as bloody and more Machiavellian than the men. It’s the polite society you have to fear in ancient Rome.
Q. Seriously, do you need all that blood and violence?
A. When I saw the pilot, I did go “Oh, my God, perhaps those scenes are a little over the top.” My husband calls it “pilot-itis.” I think it reined itself in a bit, though.
Q. Really? Did you see the scene when the men are fighting in the underground battles and the one guy slices off the other guy’s face?
A. The crew was so excited about that, they thought that was one of the greatest things ever shot. Every single one of these episodes has one of those “Oh, my God, did you see that?” water-cooler moments.
Q. Why do you think audiences like that so much?
A. It’s everything that we are not allowed in our society. It’s like the flip side of our lives. It’s lovely to be a voyeur when there’s no real danger. ... We love to watch.
Q. There’s a scene — you know what scene I am going to ask about: You and your husband are being “prepared” for sex with each other. In your case, a slave reaches beneath your gown. What were you thinking when you first realized what the scene called for?
A. I was thinking, “Hello, we’re not in Kansas anymore!” I knew this was one of those OMG-water-cooler moments. But the cool thing is that the whole time the husband and wife are talking business. It’s as if they are just scratching an itch. Bizarre, repellent and you can’t look away!
Q. You have three children, an adult daughter and two young sons. Are they allowed to watch?
A. God, no. This is not for kids. This is “put your kids to bed, watch it with your significant other, and let it rip.”
Q. You are 42. How do you stay in such great shape?
A. I get them to airbrush every image. Really, I don’t stress, and I have been working out with a trainer. I am in better shape now than I was when I was 20. I gave up added sugar. My God, how that evens out your cravings.