The Starz network struck television gold when the hit-series Spartacus: Blood and Sand debuted in January 2010. The cast included Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess), John Hanna (The Mummy Series), Peter Mensah (300) and claiming the title role was, relative newcomer, Andy Whitfield. I had my doubts initially. I had no idea who the new guy was and it seemed as though it was going to be an over-the-top “300” knockoff. Then I watched it…and OMJesus!!!
I mean look at this man (the picture). With that ruffled leather sleeve, excellent opposite nipple coverage, and what appears to be a gladiator’s championship belt. Would you not follow him into suicide mission? Even though the bulk of the show deals with men fighting for their lives and freedom in arenas, back alleys, and the grotesque “mines” viewers are made aware that the ragtag cast can actually act too. Andy gave us every side of the man that Spartacus was made from: The dishonored soldier, loving husband, hesitant slave, ruthless gladiator, and charismatic rebel. I love a good ol’ fashioned bloody melee massacre as much as the next guy but the storyline kept me just as entertained – throw in a couple gems like “Now, pull head from ass and use it for once.” , and an outrageous amount of references to Jupiter’s baby-maker and I’m sold.
Then everything changed. The first season had wrapped and production on the next season was supposed to begin until Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Production on a prequel season (Spartacus: Gods of The Arena) began to show how the famed “House of Batiatus” gained prestige – or as I like to say “Giving Andy enough time to go through and recover from treatment”. But in the end the cancer wasn’t as easily tamed as I, and countless other fans, had hoped. The search began for another lead actor to portray the role the Andy had so intricately created before us. Then, late last year fans were informed that Liam McIntyre had been cast to replace Andy Whitfield.
I have never been a fan of switching the actor/actress of a main character during the run of a television show. I won’t even begin to describe the confusion turned outrage I felt when Vivian was recast on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”.
At least have the decency to tell me it’s raining when I’m being pis… I just won’t. Liam has a huge mountain to climb in winning over the fan base, not to mention becoming the leader of such an epic slave rebellion (Sorry Amistad?) in stride. Liam himself has said that “it’s a role you wish was never there, especially as a fan.”
Ultimately, I’m not going to miss an episode of Spartacus. Ever. But even in season 5 of Spartacus – that may be a stretch given history and all – I’ll still be thinking “What Would Andy Do?”