Spartacus at Comic-Con

8.9.2010

By Nick Stergiopoulos

After steadily increasing ratings turned Spartacus: Blood and Sand into a surprise hit for cable network Starz, the makers of the gladiator series were ready to tackle a second season. But when star Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with cancer, production ground to a halt. So creator Steven S. DeKnight got creative. “We were faced with a couple of options,” he tells Out while promoting the series at Comic-Con in July. “One was just to take a vacation, but we were a little concerned that the show wouldn’t be on the air for another 18 months after we went off and we would lose the momentum we’d built up.”

Instead, DeKnight and his producers devised a six-part miniseries prequel focusing on Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) and her husband, Batiatus (John Hannah), who bit the dust at the end of season one. “It was a very clever fix,” Lawless says. “You get to see Lucretia going from a fairly early stage in her marriage where they’re pretty shiny and new. They haven’t killed anybody yet.”

A Comic-Con veteran thanks to her work on Xena: Warrior Princess and Battlestar Galactica, Lawless feels at home at the San Diego convention. But that doesn’t mean she’ll accept the title of Queen of Comic-Con. “I’m going to give that one to Sigourney Weaver,” she says. “I’ll settle for being, like, the high priestess. Sigourney Weaver will be -- for me, forever -- the woman on top. And to whom I certainly owe my career. I think she broke the mold.”

Whitfield, who is now cancer-free and ready to get back to work, is thrilled about the prequel. “Clearly there’s a prequel because I had other things going on,” jokes Whitfield. “I feel amazing. I feel unbelievable. I finished treatment six, seven weeks ago, and I feel better than I ever have, to be honest,” he says. “You spend a lot of time fearing things, but when there’s something actually to really fear, it puts things in perspective. I feel great, I feel awesome.”

DeKnight ensures viewers that the prequel and the second season to follow will be filled with the same sex and violence they’ve come to expect from the graphic show, despite criticisms labeling the show pornography. “I would like to gather up all of America and take them to the Pleasure Chest for just a few hours,” he says. “Spend five minutes on the Internet and you’ll see what pornography is. I could not fathom why people thought this was pornography. And trust me, I have nothing against pornography.”

He’s quick to agree that much of the negative reaction came from the show’s liberal use of full male nudity, something most shows shy away from, even on cable. “I saw more negative comments about, ‘Oh my God, they’re showing that guy’s junk. Why did they have to show that?’” DeKnight says. “For us it felt like part of the story, particularly down in the baths. It just felt natural to have some people naked. A scene I loved is Crixus and Spartacus actually having a bit of a naked tussle. Although when we shot it we discovered it’s a little tricky because you didn’t want to show too much. And there might’ve been a point in there where it looks like they’re about to kiss.”

To see our video interview with Lucy Lawless from earlier this year, click here.

-- NED EHRBAR

Previously > Keeping Track of Glee Updates

Tags: Popnography
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