Lucille Frances “Lucy” Lawless, MNZM (née Ryan; born 29 March 1968) is a New Zealand actress, activist, and musician best known for playing the title character of the internationally successful television series Xena: Warrior Princess.
She is also widely known for her role as Number Three on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series, and for the role of Lucretia on the television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance. Lawless had a recurring role on the fifth and sixth season of the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation as Diane Lewis, a single mother who falls for Ron Swanson. In 2015, she had a recurring role as Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg on the WGN America series Salem, and appears in the series Ash vs. Evil Dead.
Lucille Frances “Lucy” Ryan was born in the Auckland suburb of Mount Albert in New Zealand, the daughter of Julie Ryan, a teacher, and Frank Ryan, who was a banker and Mount Albert mayor. She has four brothers and one sister, and was the fifth of the six siblings herself, having described her family as “this big, sprawling Irish Catholic family, While filming in Ireland for the Discovery Channel in 2004, Lawless told Ireland on Sunday that her father’s family originated in Quilty, County Clare, and her great grandfather arrived in New Zealand as a convict.
Ryan appeared in her first musical at the age of 10, and began acting in secondary school. She attended Marist College, Auckland. She later said she “used to quite like bulimia”, but was able to overcome the illness.
At 18, like many young New Zealanders she went on her “overseas experience”, traveling through Europe and Australia with future husband, Garth Lawless, and at 21 she won the 1989 Mrs New Zealand competition.