Entertainment Television

'Spartacus' returns with a vengeance, and a new star

When I first met Andy Whitfield in 2010, the "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" star joked about creator Steven S. DeKnight's penchant for killing off lead characters on what he would help make a hit series for Starz.

"Who knows, maybe I won't survive this season," he said. "And that would be OK, because Spartacus isn't just one man; it's a movement, the rebellion he launched. If he died, any one of his followers could carry on and say, 'I am Spartacus.'"

Liam McIntyre will do just that when "Spartacus: Vengeance," the long-awaited second season, begins at 9 p.m. Jan. 27. The Aussie actor assumed the role of the legendary gladiator after Whitfield, the wildly popular Welsh star of the series' first season, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Whitfield’s illness delayed Season 2—Starz aired a six-episode prequel called "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" in 2011—and he eventually had to bow out of the series after his cancer returned.

Whitfield died in September at the age of 39, but not before he gave McIntyre his blessing.

"To know that the person who made [the role of Spartacus] so wonderful was on your side, as it were, especially considering all the harrowing personal experiences he had to survive at the time. That means more to an actor than you can possibly imagine," McIntyre said last week during a call with reporters.

McIntyre's task is a daunting one. The 29-year-old will be fighting as hard for fan acceptance as his character will be for the rights of the slaves he leads in rebellion against the Roman Republic. The actor understands and even expects the scrutiny of fans, who will no doubt be quite vocal on message boards, Twitter and Facebook after the premiere.

What they'll see is a different Spartacus than Whitfield's, and not only because a new actor is in the role. In the first season, Spartacus was a slave broken by the loss of his freedom and the death of his wife. He was fighting for his own survival in the brutal world of the gladiator arena.

Now, he's a liberated man on the run, but he's responsible for the slaves he's freed and not just himself. He must put aside his personal pain to become a leader.

"The world is a different place for [Spartacus]," McIntyre said. "So I guess I had a unique situation of trying to create a new Spartacus that felt like the same kind of guy that Andy’s Spartacus was. It was a fantastic and very unique process."

McIntyre was shocked that he was cast in the first place. His early audition came after he lost 45 pounds for a previous role. Once hired, he had to get busy to prove he could look like the muscled Spartacus. He hit the gym four hours a day, stuck to a strict diet and worked with a tough ex-military trainer.

"Do you get used to lifting ridiculous amounts of weights? Not really," he said, laughing. "I think the point is that you do it and it really hurts. But it's one of the few things in life where you get to see tangible results."

The fun really began once he got on set, where McIntyre says he was embraced by a supportive cast and crew that felt like family. Not only did he love getting paid to "be a 10-year-old for a year," he said, but it was his great honor to carry on the legacy Whitfield started.

"I just hope that I do the character justice."

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • 'Spartacus: Vengeance' photos: Meet Liam McIntyre

    'Spartacus: Vengeance' photos: Meet Liam McIntyre

    Starz released three photos of the new Spartacus, Liam McIntyre, in anticipation of "Spartacus: Vengeance" being unveiled at San Diego Comic Con this week. I'll be chatting with McIntyre at SDCC along with "Spartacus: Vengeance" cast members Dustin Clare, Lucy Lawless, Manu Bennett, Katrina Law...

  • 'Spartacus' star Andy Whitfield dies

    'Spartacus' star Andy Whitfield dies

    Andy Whitfield, who starred in "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" on Starz, has died.

  • 'Spartacus' gets 3rd season before Season 2 'Vengeance' begins

    'Spartacus' gets 3rd season before Season 2 'Vengeance' begins

    Starz has signed on for a third season of "Spartacus" months before the Jan. 27 premiere of Season 2, which is titled "Spartacus: Vengeance." That's not really a big surprise, considering the franchise is one of the network's biggest hits. And it's awesome to boot. The network made the announcement...

  • Lucy Lawless on Lucretia's bedraggled state in 'Spartacus: Vengeance' trailer

    Lucy Lawless on Lucretia's bedraggled state in 'Spartacus: Vengeance' trailer

    Starz on Friday released the extended trailer for "Spartacus: Vengeance" that caused the crowd to cheer, scream and applaud both times it was shown at San Diego Comic-Con July 22. The exciting clip not only shows the new Spartacus, Liam McIntyre, but also Lucy Lawless' entrance as Lucretia, who...

  • Taste of Chicago 2015 lineup includes 19 new food vendors

    Taste of Chicago 2015 lineup includes 19 new food vendors

    The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced its lineup of participating restaurants for this year's Taste of Chicago event, scheduled for July 8-12 in Grant Park. Of the 60 food vendors total, 19 are new this year.

  • What will be 2015's 'Song of the Summer'?

    What will be 2015's 'Song of the Summer'?

    Ever year, fans, music writers and industry suits talk endlessly about a “Song of the Summer,” a fun and beach-ready pop anthem to soundtrack the season. Figuring out whether there is a definitive “Song of the Summer” or whether it's just a craven but brilliant marketing idea isn’t the point of...

Comments
Loading