After an exhaustive worldwide search, Starz has found the actor to portray the gladiator warrior hero title character of its new series Spartacus: Blood and Sand: Andy Whitfield. The actor joins a talented cast of mostly newcomers in the series that begins production April 1 in New Zealand and is slated to premiere on Starz in January 2010. Lucy Lawless has also been cast as Lucretia, who along with her husband Batiatus, own the Ludus (a gladiator camp) - as well as Spartacus. The couple has fallen on hard times financially and has bought Spartacus hoping his fighting prowess will help them regain their status in the brutal world of gladiatorial contests. Among her many roles, Lawless is best known for portraying Xena: Warrior Princess in the long-running global hit series, and has appeared in SCI FI Channel's critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica.
The world of gladiators comes to life as the Roman Republic's most brutal fighters clash in the ultimate arena. Spartacus: Blood and Sand is an entirely new vision of the ancient legend and will utilize virtual environments giving it a unique graphic novel look and style, along with a fresh narrative approach. Debuting exclusively on Starz, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is produced by Starz Media with Executive Producers Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi and Joshua Donen.
The UK-born and Australia-based Whitfield portrays Spartacus, a soldier in the Roman Auxiliary who has been taken prisoner. As punishment for defying a Roman Legate, Spartacus has been sentenced to die in the gladiator arena. But after surviving numerous fights, his sentence is commuted and he has been sold as a slave to be trained as a gladiator. While he is a newcomer in the U.S., Whitfield has gained acclaim in numerous Australian drama series (McLeod's Daughters, Packed to the Rafters, The Strip and Out of the Blue) and also starred in the feature film Gabriel, one of the highest grossing films at the Australian Box Office in 2007. He just wrapped shooting on the Australian feature, The Clinic.
Additional cast members include: Erin Cummings (Dollhouse) as Thracian priestess Sura, Spartacus' wife; Peter Mensah (300, Avatar) as Doctore, Batiatus' most loyal and trusted slave; Manu Bennett (30 Days of Night, The Condemned) as Crixus, the top gladiator at Batiatus' Ludus; Antonio Te Maioha (Xena: Warrior Princess, Legend of the Seeker) as Barca, a big, hulking brute of a man who is Batiatus' bodyguard and hit man; Craig Parker (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Legend of the Seeker) as Glaber, a Roman Legate, who blames Spartacus for his failed military campaign; and Nick E. Tarabay (Crash, The Sopranos) as Ashur, a former gladiator who is now the Ludus' resident bookie.
Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight (Smallville, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has been tapped as the head writer for the series, which was originally developed by Tapert (The Grudge, Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), Raimi (Spider-Man and The Evil Dead) and Donen (The Quick and the Dead) and is being produced in New Zealand by Starz Media's Starz Productions. DeKnight just finished consulting on Joss Whedon's Dollhouse and will be writing the upcoming eighth installment of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book series.
Starz's new "Spartacus" series was inspired by the actual slave of the Roman Republic who in 73 BC led a slave revolt that grew to more than 120,000 fighters. Defying the Roman Republic's legions of soldiers, they campaigned for two years through much of what is now Italy before succumbing to a much larger army. The new series will tell a new set of stories rich in character, action, sex and combat.
Anchor Bay Entertainment will hold exclusive worldwide home entertainment distribution rights to "Spartacus," while Starz Media's Worldwide Distribution group will handle international television and domestic syndication sales and Starz Digital Media will be responsible for all digital distribution globally.