Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011
The series' prequel installment, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, pulled in record ratings for Starz last January, and the network recently locked DeKnight into an exclusive, two-year overall deal. But the success has been bittersweet. Actor Andy Whitfield, whose diagnosis in early 2010 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma forced him to give up the role of Spartacus after the first season, died Sept. 11. DeKnight says there was "quite a bit of soul-searching" about recasting the part for season three, scheduled to start in January. (Another Australian actor, Liam McIntyre, won the role.) With months of reflection under his belt, DeKnight admits that early episodes of the series might have strayed into the gratuitous territory of graphic sex and operatic violence, but, hey, it was his first premium cable series. "The handcuffs were off, we went a little crazy," he says. "But I never approach anything with the idea that I want to 'shock' the audience." Maybe not, but DeKnight, 45, does cut a distinctive figure in Hollywood, with a shaved head and Maori tribal tattoos covering his arms and back. He had aspirations to appear onscreen, but three years into an undergraduate degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz, DeKnight realized he was just a "good enough" actor but "could be a much better writer." After a decade spent in writers rooms -- first on MTV's Undressed and then with Joss Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Dollhouse -- DeKnight was handed the opportunity at Starz to revive the swords-and-sandals epic.