‘Spartacus’ Prequel Promises More Drama, Battles and Creative Cursing

'Spartacus' star Andy Whitfield greets the Comic-Con crowd (Karl Walter/Getty Images)

'Spartacus' star Andy Whitfield greets the Comic-Con crowd (Karl Walter/Getty Images)

Spartacus: Blood and Sand‘ quickly became Starz’s most popular original series, with its blend of sophisticated historical drama and intense violence and sex.  Sadly, just as the show was taking off, Andy Whitfield (who plays Spartacus) was diagnosed with cancer.  Fortunately, he has now recovered and was in fighting form at the San Diego Comic-Con on Friday.  Still, the show was forced to postpone taping its second season.  Creator Steven S. DeKnight’s innovative solution was to create a six-part prequel, ‘Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,’ focusing on Gannicus (Dustin Clare), the first champion of Capua.

What this means is that viewers will get a chance to see more of Batiatus (John Hannah) and Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), the popular characters who died in the first season.  The ‘Spartacus’ stars and DeKnight revealed a few tantalizing tidbits about the new miniseries, which will air in January 2011.

The Prequel Will Explain The Backstory of Numerous Characters
“We dropped little things in Season 1, little bits of information [like] a few sentences here and there about Batiatus’s father [and] about Doctore’s wife, who had died,” DeKnight explains. ” We don’t explain any of it because we always thought in the future we will get into these back stories. This was the perfect opportunity to reverse the clock and actually show them.  You’ll see some characters you didn’t know a lot about brought to light, particularly Doctore (Peter Mensah), and you’ll get to see his wife and find out what that relationship was like.  We cast a wonderful actress, Marissa Ramirez (‘General Hospital’), as his wife. You also get a glimpse of what life was like for Batiatus and Lucretia at the very start of their social climb. We cast Jaime Murray (‘Dexter’)  as Lucretia’s old friend who returns to Capua.  We have a new gladiator, Gannicus, played by Dustin Clare (‘MacLeod’s Daughters’).  You will see Asher (Nick Tarabay) before he was crippled.  There’s things that he says in episode 13 of Season 1 about how he was treated, about how no one ever respected him. You’ll understand why in the prequel.”

The Prequel Will Kick Off With A Bang
Teases DeKnight, “We like to start it off pretty hot in the prequel.” Adds Hannah, “”I believe there’s prosthetics for violence that happens in the first episode.”  Says Lawless, “It’s jam-packed with maneuvering.  It doesn’t ease into the series.”

The Ludus Is A Shadow Of What It Will Become
“The Ludus is not at the top of its game. It’s all second rate,” says Lawless. ” I don’t think anybody’s killed anybody yet so they’ve got that going for them. They’re pretty normal Roman folks at the start and you just see them being corrupted by their circumstances.” Hannah reveals, “The prequel will be about the rise of the gladiator arena as a spectacle in the city.  At this point the arena itself is a much smaller affair.”

The Prequel Will Detail The Beginning of Lucretia and Batiatus’s Romance
Lawless recounts with a sigh, “It’s how any relationship starts: bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and full of hope and admiration, and then… what happened?  His father shows up and that’s a great source of conflict.  The father doesn’t approve of my character. You get to see a former girlfriend who shows up who starts to encourage Lucretia’s bad behavior.”

The Costumes And  Make-Up Are Potential Spoilers
Lawless reveals, “You’ll find that the hair and make-up on the show often hints at what’s going to happen.  There are lots of little motifs on the show. The hair and the costume designers are so brilliant that death is coming to this character or bad cards are going to be dealt to them.  You might start to see it in the form of spiders in the jewelry.  You have to have very sharp eyes and HD to appreciate it.”

Andy Whitfield Has Recovered From His Cancer; Spartacus Will Be Back With a Vengeance
Said Whitfield, “It’s been a profound little chapter in my life. Amazing support from people I don’t know. They sent these incredible messages. It moved me. It was profound and gave me an amazing lift when I really needed it. So I have a duty now to get back into shape, and I’m loving it.  I literally was incapacitated for months and now my training is rehab stuff, getting stabilized before we start hitting the big weights, but I treasure it.  To be able to do it again is a real privilege.”

Spartacus Is An Allegory
DeKnight explains how the show comments on the present. “In the United States the middle class has been disappearing for years and you have people who are really, really rich and people who are not.  With immigration, we have a lot of people from Mexico and South America to do our hard labor because we don’t want to do it.  It’s almost like you’re creating a slave class. There are definite social parallels to what’s going on in the United States today.”

Spartans Say The Darndest Things
“They were dead from the neck down and the groin up.” – Whitman on the people of Sparta

“He’s the secondhand car salesman who does really well. – Hannah on Batiatus

“One of the reactions to the dialogue that I heard when the show was first coming out was, ‘Well, they’re cursing.  That takes me out of it.  They didn’t have these words back in ancient times.’ I kept having to explain to people, ‘Yes, they did have those words.  They were in Latin, but they did have them.'” –DeKnight on the shows’ profane dialogue

“I don’t think some shows can hold me.  If something’s already cast and you have a couple of stars, you don’t bring in Lucy Lawless because it will upset the balance.  I like to think it’s like ‘Chorus Line’: Sorry, I can’t blend.  I stand out.” – Lawless on why she is often cast in historical dramas

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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