CCI | Starz's Spartacus Panel

The cast of Starz's hit swords-and-sandals drama Spartacus was on hand last week at Comic-Con International in San Diego to give fans a taste of what to expect in the upcoming second season Spartacus: Vengeance. The room filled with applause when the lights dimmed and the presentation got under way with a bloody teaser trailer for the new season (below). Stars Lucy Lawless, Manu Bennett, Dustin Clare, Katrina Law and Liam McIntyre, along series creator Steven DeKnight, then took to the stage as the audience cheered.

DeKnight started things off by introducing the audience to the series’ new star. "This is Liam McIntyre, our new Spartacus,” he said. “I think you saw from the trailer, he's pretty goddamn good."

McIntyre said that joining Spartacus had, thus far, been "an absolutely mind bending journey." He said that taking over for Andy Whitfield, who departed the series after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, was a "privilege and honor you wish was never there.”

“I was a fan, it was the weirdest thing, I would have been down there," he said, gesturing to the audience. “I think everyone can agree that Andy in Season 1 was amazing. The best I can do is bust my ass and work really damn hard to honor that legacy and try to make Season 2 as amazing and exciting as Season 1. That's all I can do."

McIntyre admitted that, when he auditioned for the role, he wasn’t quite as physically fit as someone playing a gladiator should be. He quickly had to bulk up, and spent weeks training. "You know those videos where the guys are smiling and lifting weights? That was not the experience I had," he said. "I spent six months lifting really heavy things, and when you get good at lifting the heavy things you have to lift heavier things."

Asked where there was any sort of hazing on set, McIntyre said, "You know the whole pants-pulling-down thing? Well, there are not a lot of pants to pull down." He looked to his fellow cast members and laughed, "You guys have been pretty nice to me, actually. So far, so good."

DeKnight told fans that Spartacus will take a new direction with the new season, but still retain all the things fans love about the series. "You may have noticed at the end of Season 1 we killed practically everybody and broke out,” he said. “My plan for this season is to kill more people." He said that things would be greatly changing as the former slaves enter out into the world and the focus shifts to an epic and "grand scale."

He promised the audience will see Spartacus "learn to be a leader. He goes from a guy with a serious ax to grind to getting the bigger picture. But, the season is called Vengeance, and Spartacus isn't the only guy out for vengeance." He pointed out the Lucretia, played by Lawless, was thought to be killed at the end of the first season. However, she’ll be back and looking for vengeance in a big way. "You may have noticed from the trailer, she looks a little off," DeKnight said, referencing to the disheveled and sinister Lucretia in the teaser.

"She has lost her husband, she has lost, presumably, her child and all her dreams and all her status," Lawless said.

Bennett also pointed out that things have changed greatly for his character, the gladiator Crixus. "Conflict rules on our show," he said. "The struggle continues, the battle continues. It becomes about leadership."

Gannicus, portrayed by Clare in the prequel miniseries Gods of the Arena, will return in the second series. "He's been out in the world, experiencing different cultures and we'll really see that in the costume he brings back,” the actor said.

The cast then discussed the drama’s often-graphic sexual content, and assured fans that it would be returning in the new season. "There is still a Roman side to the story, and there is a lot of decadence," DeKnight said. "There's a lot of backstabbing and sex there. The rebels are out in the world and meeting new people, and they don't kill all of them. Some of them, they make the sweet, sweet love."

"It's part of what makes it exciting and cool, right?" McIntyre said. "It's a sexy show, we'll just have to deal with that."

DeKnight also commented on the show's dialogue, saying, "It took a while to find that balance between Shakespeare and Robert E. Howard."

A fan asked whether there would be flashbacks to Season 1 that would have to be re-filmed to preserve the continuity now that McIntyre had replaced Whitfield. "There was only, and I can't say what it is, but only one brief flashback. There is almost no flashbacks," DeKnight said.

Asked whether Whitfield had recommended McIntyre as his replacement, McIntyre said that wasn't exactly the case. He said Whitfield had given the show his blessing and thought that it should continue without him. "It makes my job easier knowing that the guy who started the whole thing is okay with it," McIntyre said. "That means a lot to me."

Another fan asked how much actual history is brought into the series. "I use that part of history as my structure, and then I get to have everybody screw each other over." DeKnight said. "There is only bits and scraps in history." He said there were enough gaps in the historical record for him to fill in his own stories and dialogue. "I fill it with sex and violence," he added.

The cast was then asked what sort of research they had to do to reenact the decadence of ancient Rome. "Just dig deep," Bennett said. “It's part of what people love about the show.”

"Are you guys used to seeing each other naked now?" a fan asked. The cast laughed and danced around the subject until McIntyre finally conceded, "Very familiar, yes."

The full trailer for Spartacus: Vengeance premieres tonight at midnight on Starz. The series returns in January 2012.

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