Lucy Lawless and Katrina Law tease this winter’s “Spartacus: Vengeance”

The Spartacus panel held on Friday at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour may have included six people, but the woman in the slender white dress was the one that drew the majority of the attention from everyone in the room. That woman, of course, was Lucy Lawless, who has played the compelling, shocking and sexy Lucretia in both Blood and Sand and last year’s prequel Gods of the Arena, and was there to talk about the new season of the Starz series, Spartacus: Vengeance that will launch on the pay channel in January 2012.

But, wait a minute — didn’t we all assume Lucretia bled to death at the end of Blood and Sand? Lawless laughed to the crowd of journalists and explained, “She just scabs over.”

And while Lawless was mum about giving away too much — her boss, Executive Producer Steven DeKnight, was only a few seats away on the stage — she did promise, “You do find out how she survived and it’s going to backfire horribly on her. So, poor little Lucretia.”

Another preview of the new season came when Lawless was asked how many scenes she’d be sharing with Viva Bianca, who plays the conniving Ilithyia. Lawless said there are many scenes to come and then elaborated, still being careful (dammit) not to leak too much.

“If you remember, when Ilithyia left us at the end [of Blood and Sand], she barricaded the door and effectively enabled the massacre to happen against her own people. So, the series is called “Vengeance,” and my relationship with Ilithyia will certainly be a testimony to an act of vengeance. You know what I’m saying? Anyway, lots with her, lots of vicious parlor games, which is where all of the real punishment is meted out.”

Lawless also promised that favorite characters like Naevia (played by Lesley-Ann Brandt), Crixus and Oenomaus/Doctore are also back in the new season.

Also during the panel, asked both Lawless and Katrina Law, who plays newly freed House servant Mira and was present for the panel, about playing strong women in a very testosterone-laden series. Lawless actually said she doesn’t see Lucretia as strong, but she is a survivor.

“I don’t feel that Lucretia has any power whatsoever and never had,” she said. “If you watched Gods of the Arena, you can see that she’s purely reactive. She’s always toeing the line of whatever her husband wants, and she pays the price every time when things come unstuck. So I don’t know what it looks like from the outside, but what it feels like to play her, she’s a little fish swimming for her life with all of these sharks on every side. So she’s a she’s a survivor. She’ll chomp a few little fish, smaller fish on the way, but really, she’s in the shark tank.”

Law added her thoughts about women in the series as well as what Mira will be up to in the new season of the series.

“I think this is a great series for women to be on because we do get a lot of range. We do get to express a lot of our sensuality, our power, and get to explore that side, and we don’t have to stand in the background,” Law said. “This year, Mira is on the realm with Spartacus and the rebels, and she gets to figure out what it means to be free and what it means to be able to make decisions and have choices. She finds herself in love for the first time and all of these are emotions to be able to go through. And how she ends up fighting for love and for her freedom, I think it surprises her, and I think it’s going to surprise some of the audience members when they see what she ends up doing. And with Lucy, I mean, Lucy herself is just a very powerful woman. So it’s great to be on set with her and feed off of her energy.”

Series creator DeKnight said that part of his goal in writing the series is to not to write weak women, even if they are slaves in the world of Spartacus. “I love writing women in this show,” he explained, “because even if it’s a slave who you would think has no power whatsoever, if it’s Lucretia who really has no rights in this society, the interesting thing to me is to find ways to give them strength. I mean, no one is a wilting flower. I think we have some of the best female characters out on TV right now.” In response, Lawless and Law both thanked him for writing their characters.

Law also marveled at how she is still surprised when she sees the final product of Spartacus since so many different components go into shooting every scene.

“Sometimes when you walk on the set and you see these epic, epic sceneries in the background, you just think, wow, they really did manage the impossible. When you see the final product, you are going to think it’s stunning and amazing, and just everything they do from being on set to post, it’s going to be jaw-dropping,” Law said. “Everybody knows that our film is a collaborative effort, but on this show, you can really feel the collaboration of everybody because, as an actor, you walk on, you do your part, and you know what that part entails. But by the time you see everything put together with the hair, the makeup, the posts, the writing, the acting, it just becomes this …  it’s just bigger than you could ever have expected it to be in the first place.”

Finally, not that any of us needs another reason to love Lucy Lawless, the 43-year-old actress has never forgotten her past (when she first captured legion of fans as the star of Xena: Warrior Princess) and appears genuine when she receives accolades from the sci-fi/fantasy community. Asked how she felt about her recent Saturn Award win for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series and she replied with a smile, “Lovely. They are all, I feel, like family to me because they were there at the beginning of my career, and that sort of carried me through. And I’m very grateful for their support. And it’s nice to be recognized. I’ve never won anything — a hula hoop competition when I was about eight — but, yes, this is a nice one-two-punch for a talent locking mission.”

Spartacus: Vengeance premieres on Starz in January 2012.