Exclusive: Spartacus Vengeance’s Ellen Hollman on her warrior role, superheroes, Marvel vs. Capcom & pranking Xena

Ellen Hollman will play Saxa, a German warrior, in Spartacus: Vengeance tonight, March 9th, in the episode “Sacramentum”. What makes her role different from the other female roles is that she’s the first female character to be a warrior. She would never be put in a submissive position.

Nerd Reactor had an opportunity to talk to Ellen about her role as Saxa, video games, and superheroes. She fills us in on how she started out in acting, cosplaying as Xena, pranking Lucy Lawless, and more.

Tell us about yourself and how you got into acting?

It’s a sort of thing that I didn’t necessarily grow up wanting to do. I come from a family of classically trained musicians, so I was always backstage in the theatre watching the performers (ballerinas, opera singers, and the musicians). I’ve always admired that world.

Actually, I went to school for business and marketing, and had a minor in German. So how I ended up doing this, I don’t know.

But I always loved action heroes. I’m basically a tomboy growing up. I’ve watched X-Men, Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman. I’ve got quite a collection of comics including Rogue’s first appearance. I guess I’ve always admired a strong female hero. I somehow ended up being a real life one. It’s pretty amazing how that pans out, but not necessarily through wanting to be an actor, but the whole idea of being a heroine.

Since we’re talking about heroes, do you have a favorite?

I love Rogue from X-Men. Her weakness is actually her strength. She isn’t able to actually have any physical connection to anyone, but that just happens to be her biggest strength. She’s also got a great sense of humor to boot.

How did you get into Spartacus: Vengeance?

I did an audition with other girls reading the part. It was the longest I had to wait for any audition…ever. It was worth it. It was an extremely physical role that required German, so it’s a pretty small category of people who can be considered for the role. I must have done something right.

They actually didn’t give me lines for Saxa. I had to read the monologue from the other characters. That was interesting. It was completely different than the character that I play on screen. I show up in New Zealand as a German warrior savage. That was quite a thrill.

Did you get to watch the Spartacus series before you auditioned?

I saw the show two weeks before I got the audition. I was in Spartacus mode when I received the audition.

What do you think of the violence on the show?

I couldn’t get enough of it. I was counting down the minutes I was able to deliver on screen, since I worked so hard on the choreography, gladiator bootcamp, and freshening up on my German because Saxa actually doesn’t speak English.

What was the most memorable moment on set with the cast members?

It would have to be the epic battle scene. There’s one moment where I was completely destroying a Roman, slicing him into pieces, and I look over my shoulder and see Agron, Crixus, Oenomaus, and Spartacus. And it was that moment that I knew all my hard work paid off because I was sharing the battlefield with legends. It was surreal.

How is your character different from the regular female roles in Spartacus?

Saxa is 100% alpha heroine. There’s nothing submissive about her. Even Lucretia’s character gets into submissive situations, along with being a diva. The other female characters are submissive characters. Saxa is the first female character that is never put in a submissive position, or accept it when she is. She’d rather die standing up than live on her knees. She’ll remain dominant.

There’s your superhero right there.

Yeah, absolutely. She fights for what she believes and hasn’t allowed her feminine aspect to be a hindrance. If anything, she uses that to her advantage. The Roman gladiators use their heavy sword, while Saxa uses her reverse grip double daggers. She’s faster and more cunning. You’ll be sliced three times before you even know what hit you. Oh yeah.

Speaking of superheroes, there’s Marvel vs. Capcom. That’s my new conquest [laughs]. Liam (Spartacus) and I, on the weekends, would battle it out.

What’s your favorite character in Marvel vs. Capcom?

I love Phoenix, but X-23 is my favorite.

Are you excited about The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises?

I can’t wait for those movies to come out. It’s about damn time. They’ve been trying to do that forever, and they finally got their shit together.

Will we see Saxa in the next season of Spartacus?

You can’t get rid of Saxa that easily. We start shooting in April. They’ll be shipping us back to New Zealand soon. I’ll actually be getting right off the plane and into gladiator bootcamp. No rest for the weary.

That means we’ll be seeing you at San Diego Comic-Con then.

Oh yeah. Are you going to be dressed up as Saxa? I’ll be looking for you.

I’ll dress up as Lucretia [laughs].

Uh oh, we may butt heads then.

There was a Xena Convention in Burbank that happened, and I’m like, “Whoa, Michael Hurst and Lucy are going to be in town at Xena Con? Are you kidding me?”

So I actually dressed up as Xena Warrior Princess, and I stood in line for the questionnaire and asked her what advice she would give a German warrior. It wasn’t until I said, “Well, what if we were put on a Roman slave ship, Lucretia?”

And then she finally says, “Oh my god, it’s you! Get your ass on stage.”

She didn’t see it coming. The entire producing team was in on it. We were in the backstage cracking up before I went up, and I was like, “How am I going to keep a straight face?” She was amazing and a real trooper about it.

Any parting words?

Life’s too short to not do what you love. Never give up and never compromise.

Thanks Ellen!

Absolutely! Thank you so much. It was such a pleasure to talk to you.

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