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‘Spartacus’ Talent Discusses Working on Prequel at Comic-Con

23 Jul, 2010 By: Chris Tribbey

SAN DIEGO — When Andy Whitfield, the lead in Starz’s hit series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma after the network had already green-lit a second season, it could have spelled the end of the show.

Steven DeKnight, the show’s creator and executive producer, found a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

Knowing Whitfield would be out of action for a while, DeKnight and the network decided to delay the second season in favor of a six-part prequel, with production beginning in late July in New Zealand. After the prequel wraps, the cast and crew are expected to get right to work on the second season.

“They could have just said stop, quit, we’re done,” Whitfield said July 23 at the 2010 Comic Con International. “This time it won’t be about Spartacus. It will be more about the [gladiator] arena.”

The prequel will focus on the beginnings of the characters Lucretia and Batiatus, played by Lucy Lawless (“Battlestar Galactica”) and John Hannah (“The Mummy” films), respectively, with Whitfield, who’s been given a clean bill of health, well enough to appear in two episodes.

“I’m glad to have the opportunity to go back,” said Hannah. “It just gave us all a lift seeing it [return]. There are no egos, no stars. Just a bunch of actors grateful for our job.”

Viva Bianca, who played Ilythia in the first season, said she was surprised at how big a hit the show was for the Starz network when it aired in early 2010.

“I had no idea what type of impact it would have here,” the Australian-born actress said. “It hasn’t screened yet in New Zealand or Australia.”

DeKnight said the biggest arguments among the staff usually stem from the rough, tough and dirty dialogue among the characters, with fewer quibbles about the violence or sex.

“We didn’t want it too Shakespearean, because no one would understand it, and we didn’t want it too Conan [the Barbarian] because we wanted it elevated,” he said. “We do try to stay as true [to Roman history] as possible. We have to bend it slightly when it comes to the female characters.”

For the prequel, DeKnight said fans should look forward to a more in-depth look at the rise of a gladiator school and the people surrounding it.

“It comes out of the starting gate hard and fast,” Lawless said of the prequel. “It doesn’t ease into the series, let’s put it that way. It’s only six hours.”

The actress also pointed fans of the first season to the DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases Sept. 21 from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Along with all 13 episodes it includes four director’s cut episodes (a Blu-ray exclusive), enhanced visual effects, featurettes, commentaries, a blooper real and more.

“You have to have very sharp eyes and an HDTV to notice” some hidden details in the series, Lawless said.

As for Whitfield, he’s glad for his health, as well as the return of “Blood and Sand.”

“It’s been a profound chapter in my life,” he said. “So I kind of have a duty to come back. I treasure it.”

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