In 1994, Lawless appeared in "Hercules and the Amazon Woman", the television pilot for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. In that episode, she played a man-hating Amazon named Lysia. She went on to play another character, Lyla, in the first season episode "As Darkness Falls," but her key role was given to her when she was asked to play a villainous warrior woman named Xena in the episode "The Warrior Princess" - aired in March 1995. Vanessa Angel had originally been cast in the role, but fell ill and was unable to travel to New Zealand for shooting. To differentiate between Xena and the similar Lysia, Lawless' hair, naturally ash blond, was dyed black. Xena subsequently returned in two more episodes on the first season of Hercules.
The character was popular enough that a spin-off series was created for her. Xena: Warrior Princess debuted on 4th September 1995 (although Lawless appeared as Lyla once again, in the second season Hercules episode "Outcast" - aired in October 1995.) Xena: Warrior Princess, like its parent program, was a hit, lasting six seasons, and Lawless became an international celebrity.
While taping an appearnce on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in October 1996, Lawless suffered a fractured pelvis when the horse she was riding lost its footing in the studio parking lot. She made a complete recovery, and her absence from the Xena set ultimately had minimal impact on the show.
In 1997, Lawless was named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World", by People magazine. Days earlier on 6th May 97, Lawless inadvertently exposed a breast as she concluded a performance of the US national anthem at an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, California between the Mighty Ducks and Detroit Red Wings. Lawless was quoted in Newsweek as saying, "Obviously, I was mortified .. It was quite a bit more exposure than I want".
Lawless first appeared on Broadway in September 1997 in the Grease play remake, as the "bad girl" Rizzo character. She had wanted to play the lead role of Sandy, and later stated her belief that the producers had typecast her to play "bad girls" following her success as Xena. She said the sandy character was very similar to her sheltered childhood, growing up in New Zealand with many protective older brothers.
Lawless has since appeared on stage in the Vagina Monologues and as a television guest star in episodes of The Simpsons, The X-files, Just Shoot Me!", Veronica Mars, Burn Notice and Curb Your Enthusiam. She was also featered in the short-lived television series Tarzan. Lawless has made cameo appearances in the movies EuroTrip, Spider-Man and Boogeyman (2005). She returned to television i the TV movie Locusts! and its sequel Vampire Bats. Lets not forget the movie The Darkroom.
From 2005 to 2008 Lawless has had a recurring role in the television series Battlestar Galactica. She portrays 'Anna Biers, a reporter with the Fleet News Service who works on a critical documentary about the crew of the Galactica and is later revealed to be Cylon (Number Three).
Lawless appeared in an episode of Curb Your enthusiasm, in season 6 as herself. She goes on a date with Larry David, only to finally walk away after Larry makes an inappropriate suggestion about his underwear and the potential for sex between them.
Lawless completed as one of the celebrities singers on the reality TV show Celebrity duets in 2006, finishing as the runner-up to winner Alfonso Ribeiro. She has also performed as a voice actor in several animated features.
Lawless has a cult following in the lesbian community, largely because of xena's ambiguous relationship with traveling companion Gabrielle. Although Lawless is heterosexual, she has
appeared at gay pride events such as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. In a 2003 interview with Lesbian News Magazine, she said that she had come to see Xena and Gabrielle' relationship as gay after viewing the series finale, though she has also stated on several occassions that she was undecided on the nature of the relationship while playing the role. She also made her appearance as singing guest at the Dina Shore's White Party at L.A.
She returned to television November 10th, 2008 in a guest-starring role on the hit CBS television series CSI MIami playing a madame with connections to a murder. She is also set to guest star in the show, The L-Word, and also has a role in the Adama Sandler movie Bedtime stories (went into premiere in Belgium/Europe 24th Dec 2008). In 2008 she also stars with her former stuntwoman Zoe Bell in Sony's new web series Angel of Death which will debut online in early 2009.