January 13, 2012 6:32pm PT by Jethro Nededog
TCA: 'Spartacus': Exec Describes Months-Long Audition Process to Replace Andy Whitfield
It doesn’t sound like anyone took replacing the late Andy Whitfield in his Spartacus role lightly. During Starz’s presentation of the next season, Spartacus: Vengeance, Managing Director Carmi Zlotnik described how he managed the process of casting Liam McIntyre.
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“Thank God that he was willing to do the work required to take on this role,” Zlotnik tells the room of TV reporters at TCA in Pasadena on Friday.
“He worked out, I got weekly updates showing how his physique changed from week to week," he continues. "And after a period of a couple months of having him do that, we finally decided this is the guy. He not only has the acting chops, but the ability to bring the kind of intensity and unique attributes the role requires.”
To hear McIntyre talk about it is to hear someone who’s still very excited about having a chance to play the role let alone actually land it.
“It was a very exciting time and I lost like 45 pounds for another [job],” McIntyre tells the room. “And they kept bringing me back for training and they had a military trainer. It was fair enough and every moment through that process was exciting.”
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Fans have been waiting for two years to see this second installment reach their television screens. In the meantime, the network produced a prequel, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. And Whitfield lost his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last September. McIntyre, who had officially been announced in the role in January of last year describes the day he was told that Whitfield had passed.
“It’s probably the saddest thing I had to be a part of,” the Australian actor says. “From the start, I knew I could tackle the role, because he made the decision [to leave] and get better. You can’t imagine how sad that day was.”
He says that part of what made it easier for the cast and producers to move on was knowing that they owed it to Whitfield to make the series as good as it was with him as its star.
Spartacus: Vengeance picks up from the first season and finds the hero leading fellow freed slaves and gladiators as they challenge Roman rule.
“He’s not comfortable at all as the rebel leader,” Executive Producer Steven DeKnight says. “Once he’s out and about things are not going well. This is really the season that we move him from a singular entity to a leader of men.”
Spartacus: Vengeance premieres Jan. 27 on Starz.
Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro