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During the “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” presentation at Comic-Con International, Starz provided a trailer packed with brutal fight choreography cut to a thumping soundtrack.
The video culminated with star Andy Whitfield shouting “I am Spartacus!” as the raucous crowd at the San Diego Convention Center filled the room with cheers and applause that may have rivaled the Roman stadiums of old.
Panel moderator James Hibberd began the discussion by pointing out that the last year and a half has been a roller coaster for Whitfield, who was diagnosed with early-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being cast as the Thracian gladiator.
“Some of the messages I got from the fans — it’s kind of profound and moving to get such a connection from complete strangers,” Whitfield said. “So thank you, you gave me a great lift when I needed it. Thanks.”
He was recently declared cancer-free and cleared to return to work.
“Now, you know, I’m just cherishing the whole thing,” he said. “I just can’t wait to get back in the gym. I never thought I’d say that.”
A teaser trailer was shown for “Gods of the Arena” — the six-part prequel that will air in January — before series creator Steven S. DeKnight and actors John Hannah, Lucy Lawless and Viva Bianca were brought out.
DeKnight joked that he approached writing the prequel like he approached anything in life: “with fear and trepidation.”
However, there were more stories he wanted to tell with Batiatus and Lucretia, the characters portrayed by Hannah and Lawless. So now, “instead of telling you about it in season two, we’re actually going to show it to you in the prequel,” DeKnight said.
In terms of season two, DeKnight spoke about giving the audience more massive battles as well as the beginnings of the slave rebellion.
Because of the show’s raw sexuality, Hibberd wondered if there was anything that might have made Lawless or Bianca uncomfortable.
“Oh, plenty!” Lawless said. “Every time I read the sex scenes, I sort of throw the script across the room and say, ‘Oh, there’s no way I’m doing that!'”
“I can certainly say I was just as surprised and shocked by everything my character did,” Bianca said the transformation of noblewoman Ilithyia from ingenue to devious social climber.
Hannah praised the art and prop department’s detailed historical accuracy: “The food was researched. There was no food on the set that the Romans didn’t have.”
For DeKnight, the hardest character to kill was Hannah’s villainous Batiatus. “We loved having John on the show,” he said. “John was just exactly the kind of villain I always dreamed about writing, where you love him, but you absolutely hate him by the end.”
One fan thanked Bianca for saving him a $24-dollar subscription to the Playboy Channel. He also asked DeKnight what inspired him to write some of the dialogue that had truly affected him as a viewer.
“Thankfully I spent a few years with that guy — what was his name? Joss Whedon? I might have picked up a few things from him,” said DeKnight, who wrote episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.”
Lawless hinted at a cool secret regarding the costumes on the show: “If death is approaching a certain character, you will start to see little omens of death creeping into the costumes somewhere.”
Viewers with good eyes and high-definition television sets were told to look for spiders and scarabs among the jewelry and clothing to find out which unfortunate characters have been marked for death.
One female fan asked Whitfield if he was attracted to roles that balanced angst with action. Whitfield joked: “I am attracted to films where my character is the name of the film.”
Lawless might have surprised a few “Xena” fans in the crowd when she admitted she did not feel the urge to pick up a sword and take part in the action. “I hate to disappoint you, but I always hated that stuff,” she confessed.
“The two things I really want, and I’ll be quite honest with you, is: I want a console game and I want action-figures,” DeKnight said. In addition, he said there have been conversations about a possible “Spartacus” comic that could happen next year.
DeKnight was then asked if he was pleased by the number of gay fans the show has attracted. “I’m very happy we have been embraced by the gay community,” he replied, “and it has always been our intent to continue to have same-sex relationships on the show as long as we continue.”
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