Like his character Gannicus in "Spartacus: Vengeance," Dustin Clare is a man of few words, at least if you're trying to get him to reveal much about his return to the series.
"No, you're going to have to tune in Friday," the star of last year's prequel,"Spartacus: Gods of the Arena," told me during a conference call with journalists last week. He also rebuffed me with:
- "I just don't think I can [say]. I'm sorry, that's what I can give you."
- "Go fishing in another pond."
- "Curt, you just keep changing the bait and just throwing it in there for me."
The Aussie actor was perfectly pleasant and laughing, just tight-lipped when asked to get specific. We did get him to bite at a few questions, however, concerning what the gladiator has been doing since the end of "Gods of the Arena," when Gannicus became champion of Capua and earned his freedom.
Clare politely declined to explain Gannicus' circumstances in "Libertus," which debuts at 9 p.m. Feb. 24 on Starz, but did offer one hint when asked if the champion had lost any of his fighting skills during his five years away from the gladiator arena.
"Is he still a mad fighter?" he asked, laughing. "Yes."
So he will be fighting again? Not much of a reveal for this show, but I'll take it. Read more excerpts from the call below, and watch the video from a round table interview at San Diego Comic Con last July.
What has Gannicus been up to?
It's been around five years between the prequel and "Spartacus: Vengeance." So there are a lot of changes that he's gone through. And he's spent a lot of time away from the brotherhood and these people that he kind of had a connection with. He's also seen the other side of life, which is being a free man, and he's really enjoyed that opportunity and obviously the freedom that comes with it. He's traveled a lot. ... He's just been getting some cash together to get a meal. Just looking for a roof over his head really...
He's still very much that man who's the master of his own destiny. He's an individual and I think he's kind of the anti-hero of the story. He's still very much the Gannicus we left in some ways, but also he's definitely had some time to mature and time to see the world and discover it."
As a free man already, does Gannicus support Spartacus' fight to gain freedom for everyone else? Or does he find that Spartacus' plan to rebel is not going to work?
He is eventually going to meet up with all those old characters, and that's going to be really interesting for the audience. But also there's a character that he's never met that is kind of integral to the story, and that's Spartacus.
There's a real clash of ideals between the men. And you know, I don't think Gannicus really thinks what Spartacus is doing is really all that sensible. He's sort of putting the lives of a lot of people in danger and risking freedom for them. He sees that as pretty careless.
Gannicus left Capua after betraying his mentor and friend, Oenomaus (Peter Mensah), by sleeping with his wife. Has his guilt over how all that went down brought him back? And will he be able to resolve the situation.
I think that that is going to sit [badly] with Gannicus always. It'll always be a part of him until it's resolved, yes. It's something that definitely sits heavy on him. Yes.
Oenomaus and Gannicus have spent a lot of time together, which means you and Peter Mensah have as well. Tell us about working with him.
Peter is physically a really giant man. [Laughs.] It kind of worked well because I guess anyone looks smaller standing next to that guy. But just in terms of the two men, they're quite different, you know, and [stand in] stark contrast.
But they had that great friendship. And Peter has a bit of that Doctore kind of feel about him, I think, that kind of sensei sort of thing. Which is obviously part of the reason he was cast in the role, because he sort of carries that presence with him.
What can you tell us about the return of Gannicus and how he is going to be received by Crixus?
Gannicus was always a mentor in a way, to Crixus (Manu Bennett) as well, but it's been some time, you know? And there's been hopefully some mending on Crixus' part over that time.
What are your thoughts on your character's development since the last time we saw him?
For the audience, I wanted him to grow and I wanted him to have changed., I think it's pretty boring to see the same kind of character reintroduced, although he has a lot of those same habits. ... He's had some time to spend as a free man which he's really enjoyed, and spent a lot of time journeying and traveling ... He's a free man, so he can move between both worlds, the Roman world and the rebel world.
What is it like working with Lucy Lawless?
I'm really fond of Lucy and I think she's doing great work in this show. Personally I think it's some of the best work she's done in her career. She's really flown with this role, and it's wonderful to see her kind of attack it so wonderfully. We worked together this season and that was fun; I really enjoy working with her. She's a consummate professional. And yes, she's really down to earth and a lot of fun and she's great for the show, I think really great for the show.
Have you ever been grossed out shooting one of the fight scenes?
In the final episodes of "Gods of the Arena," in the arena where Gannicus is the last man standing and he's fighting the final gladiator ... and he breaks his spear and puts it in his mouth and sort of wrenches his jaw off. Although that was just a head stuck on the kind of stick, it still felt pretty lifelike. In saying that, that's kind of kudos to the special effects team.
How much historical preparation, if any, did you have to do to play Gannicus?
We have researchers involved with the show and they pointed me in a pretty great direction in terms of what to read, what to look at or look for, and also provided me with some material as well. There's not a lot about Gannicus really in any of the writings of the histories. So it was really hard to pull out any kind of character motivations or character traits out of the small amount of information that existed about him. So it was really about historically researching the time and the gladiators' lifestyle and yes, how they kind of existed in the world really.
What personality similarities do you have with Gannicus, if any?
I think there's always pieces of yourself that bleeds into your character. I think that's inevitable. In some ways we have similarities, but in other ways we're completely different. It's hard to say because I'm an actor living in a world we're all pretty privileged to be in, and this guy's fighting for his life. So they're kind of very different circumstances. Within those circumstances there are probably ways that we react to certain situations that are similar.
Did you always want to work in this industry or did you have other professions in mind?
I think I was about 18 before I decided I wanted to pursue acting. ... I wanted to be a fish farmer to be honest with you. I wanted to be an agriculturist; I wanted to have my own fish farm setups. I also was sort of contemplating something I enjoy just sort of as a hobby, which I always thought would have been nice to pursue as a career, [and that] was surfboard building.