It’s no secret that some of us here at The Flickcast are huge Spartacus: Blood and Sand fans, having written about the Starz show during it’s premiere season, covering Andy Whitfield’s battle with a treatable form of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, as well as Starz’ decision to film a 6- episode prequel to buy some time for Andy to recover.
So when Starz announced there would be a SDCC 2010 panel featuring Andy Whitfield and the cast and producers, we knew we’d be there to cover all of the Comic-Con exclusive news and trailers.
The panel opened with a trailer, mostly highlight from Season 1, however it was great fun to re-watch some of the best moments from the show’s first dozen or so episodes. As the lights went up, Andy Whitfield, Spartacus himself, walked onto stage to thunderous applause from the enthusiastic audience.
Andy looked great, rested and perhaps a few pounds below normal, but considering what he’s been through, medically-speaking over the past 9 months, he’s definitely recovered nicely. The rest of the panel attendees were introduced and included: Lucy Lawless (Lucretia), John Hannah (Batiatus), Viva Bianca (Ilithyia) and Steven S. DeKnight (Writer/Executive Producer)
Whitfield talked a bit about being grateful for the prequel, which bought him some time for him to undergo treatment and how thankful he was that the show stuck it out with him. He talked briefly about his illness, and joked that he can’t wait to get back to the gym to try and bulk up a bit for Season 2. Andy clarified that the doctors have cleared him to work, he’s feeling really great and has had plenty of time to really rest and reboot. “Bring it on!” He shouted as the lights started to dim for yet another video.
This time around, the video was short but sweet, showing some of the footage from the upcoming prequel, titled ‘Gods of the Arena’ and set to air in January 2011. The prequel, as expected, deals primarily with the House of Batiatus and its rise as a gladitorial force to be reckoned with, at least within Capua. Hannah and Lawless really take center stage in the prequel, but it really feels like it will nicely fill in some of the missing history for the show as well as provide some additional back-stories for a few of its characters.
As the panel launched into Q&A mode, the cast and writer DeKnight talked about how it was a delicate balance between not losing momentum and giving the fans something of quality to watch between Seasons 1 and 2. Hannah and Lawless joked about how it was a bit strange to be called back for 6 new episodes after the fateful events of the final show, both having expected to perhaps appear in a flashback moment or two at most.
In terms of writing the prequel, DeKnight commented on how he had originally planned on some flashbacks and whatnot to occur in Season 2, but that the 6 new episodes really expand on what was already in the works. Lawless commented about how the prequel will really hit the ground running, with virtually no pause in the frenetic action the series is well-known for.
According to DeKnight and the cast, Season 2 will feature massively huge battles outisde the gladitorial arena as Spartacus leads an expanded slave rebellion even while the main characters are on the run.
Asked about whether Starz imposes any editorial constraints on the show, DeKnight mentioned that for episode 4 in the pit, Rob Tapert (Executive Producer) and himself had pitched an idea where Spartacus bites out the neck of an opponent. For the first time, the network said no, and the two writers instead swapped the violent move for a scene where Spartacus instead pokes his opponent’s eyes out. Mystifying, but apparently despite the show’s uber-levels of violence, even Starz has their limits.
Lawless talked briefly about how nerve-wracking the sex scenes are, but ultimately she feels they are executed really well. “Somehow they make everyone look great,” she commented. The cast also discussed how the show is entirely shot indoors with green screens, and because of the cost-savings of doing elaborate outdoor sets, the interior sets were really well-decorated, with good food everywhere and very comfortable for lounging in between takes.
Andy provided some insight for the show’s prominent fighting scenes, specifically about on-set injuries, in which he mentions he sometimes took some nasty hits. Because he did all of his own fight scenes and harness work, some small bruises and minor injuries were often the result, however no broken bones or anything major.
The Q&A turned to comparing the first season to the second, and while season 1 was primarily wrapped up with Spartacus getting back to his wife, in Season 2, Andy’s character will become more and more socially conscious. During the course of Season 2, Spartacus ends up leading a slave rebellion that almost brings down the entire republic. So the scope of events will become larger as Spartacus begins to see the bigger picture.
Be sure to tune in to Starz in January 2011 as the 6-episode prequel ‘Gods of the Arena’ begins. We’re certainly glad to see Andy Whitfield healthy and back on his feet. We’re really looking forward to seeing him in action for Season 2 next year.