On Thursday, I sat in on a conference call with Lucy Lawless about ''Vampire Bats,'' a CBS movie she's co-starring in. It was not heavily attended. In these calls, you punch in a code to get in line to ask a question; I punched in well after other people had had a chance, so things would be rolling before I began talking, and still ended up second in line. The reporter who was first in line sounded very surprised to be there. And while such calls start with a warning that you should ask one question and one follow-up, it was possible to ask a bit more -- since it was clear there weren't many people waiting, and Lawless's conversational style pretty much invited more back-and-forth.
I did the conference call mainly because I needed a few quotes for a TV-book cover I'm doing on the movie, but also because Lawless is well known among TV critics as a good sport. The sense of humor that was evident in ''Xena'' is there in real life,too, and it's good to have one, since she still has to deal with ''Xena'' questions even though she moved on years ago.
The press conference had its serious spots: ''Vampire Bats'' was shot in the New Orleans area at first, but the production team had to flee as Hurricane Katrina belted the area; Lawless was shaken by the experience and saddened by the devastation.
But there were also lighter times. Praising ''Vampire Bats,'' Lawless sounded as if she was less fond of ''Locusts,'' the earlier movie in which she played the same character. When I asked if that was the case, she began an answer that felt like a struggle to be tactful -- then just laughed and told me not to box her in.
I thought one of her most interesting answers came when asked about Brett Butler. The former ''Grace Under Fire'' star has a small role in ''Vampire Bats,'' and it looks as if she is lining up more onscreen work. Lawless said she hoped that ''Vampire Bats'' will be ''a coming-out party'' for Butler, leading to more roles.
''She was such a pleasure,'' Lawless said. ''What a good woman.'' She said that Butler had been a hero of hers. ''She and Roseanne showed that big girls can make it,'' Lawless said, adding that both women were smart and funny -- and ''dangerous.'' You got the feeling that Lawless would like to be thought of in the same way.
Also, for those you wondering who writes this stuff, I have posted a biography. Just click on ''About Beacon TV.''