Australian Andy Whitfield is 'Spartacus'

Lucy Lawless co-stars in Starz drama series

Aussie Andy Whitfield has landed the title role on Starz's series "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," while "Xena" star Lucy Lawless is returning to ancient times with a co-starring role on the series about the famous Roman gladiator, from producer Sam Raimi.

On "Spartacus," which begins production Wednesday in New Zealand for a January premiere, Lawless will play Lucretia, who along with her husband Batiatus, owns Spartacus.

With the exception of Lawless, the cast of the series features mostly lesser-known actors -- Erin Cummings as Spartacus' wife; Peter Mensah as Batiatus' most loyal slave; Manu Bennett as a top gladiator; Antonio Te Maioha as Batiatus' bodyguard; Craig Parker as a Roman Legate; and Nick E. Tarabay as a former gladiator-turned-bookie.

"Spartacus," produced by Starz Media, will use virtual sets to re-create ancient Rome. It is exec produced by Raimi and Rob Tapert, who also exec produced "Xena," as well as Joshua Donen.

The trio developed the series, on which Steven S. DeKnight will serve as head writer.
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