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From the rampant use of “Jupiter’s cock!” as an expletive to its CGI-on-meth production values, there is no other series on TV like Starz’ “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.” Yet while ratings for the drama continue to climb as its first season finale approaches, production on Season 2 has been postponed by star Andy Whitfield entering treatment for cancer. Below executive producer Steven S. DeKnight talks to THR about what’s next for the series and viewer reaction to the show’s explicit content.
THR: What’s the latest on Andy?
DeKnight: Andy is doing great. He’s going through his treatments. I’ve gotten a couple messages from him. All indicators are very positive.
THR: Do you have any sense of when he’ll be able to get back to work?
DeKnight: Not sure yet. We’re kicking that around. We’re dedicated to supporting him. We’re delaying the season until he’s back in the pink and ready to go.
THR: Talk about the visual design of the show, it seems like it’s evolved since the first couple episodes.
DeKnight: We went straight to 13 episodes with no pilot. So we didn’t have any time to shake the bugs out of the system. You can see from episodes 1-5 how everything has really jelled and developed — the writing, the performances, the directing, everything. We always wanted to approach it as a graphic novel and take the technology that director Zack Snyder pushed forward with “300” and keep that style alive. The first episode was our experiment, and we went a little too far.
THR: Have you shot anything outdoors yet?
DeKnight: Everything will always be indoors on green-screen. Once we set up that style, to go outside it would be jarring and look like a different world.
THR: Has there been any criticism for the explicit content, and what do people object to most?
DeKnight: The only organized group was some media watchdog group trying to ban us from coming to England. Typical far-right religious stuff — the decay of society, blah blah blah. I was shocked at some of the reactions. Particularly calling it pornographic or soft core. Apparently the sexual revolution is dead or long forgotten. It deeply concerns me about the sex life of Americans if they think this is soft core. It’s like they haven’t been on the Internet in the past 10 years. It’s absolutely R-rated, but it’s just R-rated. I was stunned and shocked about the overzealous reaction to people having sex on TV. Somebody called it the most graphic sex ever on TV. Didn’t anybody see “Tell Me You Love Me” on HBO?
THR: No, nobody saw “Tell Me You Love Me.”
DeKnight: It was one of the most honest relationship shows ever on TV. They showed a handjob to completion. On the flip side, they also have a problem with the violence, also calling it pornographic. I would call it operatic. We made a deliberate decision for it to be not too realistic. Actually, the first time I saw a lot of real blood it actually looks fake, it looks very red.
THR: Who do you think is watching the show? Sometimes I think its geared toward young men, sometimes adult women …
DeKnight: In a cliche, apparently everybody. We have a fan page on Facebook, it’s men it’s women, it’s all sexual preferences, it’s all races, a wide variety of age groups. When we approach this series we weren’t going after a specific target, and we weren’t going after everybody. Our goal is to tell a rousing story.
THR: The random shots of topless hippie chicks in the arena crowds. What’s going on there?
DeKnight: That’s an interesting thing. It’s like the rock-concert flashing deal. We wanted to approach gladiators like they are the rock stars of their time. It’s not in any script that audience are flashing. It’s something that came out of production, and a lot of people like it.
THR: What can viewers expect for the finale?
DeKnight: It’s no secret that the finale is called “Kill Them All,” and that sums it up. Everything from first episode has been boiling to this point. People will be very satisfied and shocked. One thing we don’t shy away from is that characters who you think are major characters can die at any time.
THR: What’s the plan for Season 2, are we getting out of the Ludus?
DeKnight: There will be new sets, old sets. It will be a mixture of old and new faces. A lot of people have wondered if we going to follow history, or is the entire show going to lead up to rebellion. We are going to be telling the story of the slave revolt and will hit all the major points in the slave rebellion.
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Thomas Brodie Sangster