You Are Not Spartacus

by Kelly Boyce

My friend Julia Smith has been extolling the virtues of the relatively new television series, Spartacus. I had held off watching it. Though I had loved the series, Rome with Kevin McKidd, I was reluctant to dive into Spartacus. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea.

Then I heard the awful news that its star, Andy Whitfield, had suffered a reoccurrence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and was being forced to leave the series to embark on aggressive treatment for the disease. I had not yet seen the show, but I had seen pictures of Andy. Young, strapping and strong, it was hard to imagine him being felled by a disease that has hit close to home in my own family far too many times. The news saddened me.

It also made me wonder, how does one continue the show, Spartacus without…Spartacus? There were news bits of a vigorous search to recast. Names were bandied about. Wentworth Miller (seriously, people?) and Liam McIntyre, as well as several others. I wondered how well that would go over. Anyone I know who has watched the show has loved it. I mean really, really loved it. How do you then take away the character they have identified with throughout the entire first season and just switch it up, toss in another and say that is Spartacus? I wasn’t sure it would work.

Then the other day I actually picked up the first season of Sparatcus, Blood & Sand at the library. I was immediately hooked by the story. And by the leading man. By the fourth episode I couldn’t fathom anyone replacing Andy Whitfield as Spartacus. No one else could be him. He was Spartacus. Not Wentworth Miller, not Liam McIntyre, not anyone else Hollywood tries to throw in there.

Andy Whitfield is Spartacus.

I've watched eleven episodes so far and that belief is even more firmly entrenched. As much as I want this series to continue, I don’t think I could watch it and believe someone else in the role. Andy Whitfield played it so well. He made you feel every emotion his character felt and you were with him every step of the way through the treachery and the loss and the rebuilding and the pain. I’m not sure you can have an actor do that, then just switch it up as if he were replaceable. In this instance, I’m not sure he is.

Word is Andy was able to film two episodes of Season II and they are dedicating the next six episodes to a prequel, telling the story of the characters before Spartacus arrived on the scene. I'd definitely check that out. But to be honest, if they recast the role, my viewing will stop at the end of the prequel.

For me, Andy Whitfield is Spartacus. No one else. Whether the series continues or not, however, one thing I do hope for is that Andy Whitfield makes a full recovery and lives a long and healthy life. And that he has the opportunity to bring to life more characters that mesmerize us as much as his portrayal of Spartacus has.


  1. I agree, Kelly. When Julia told me he was back in treatment I was shocked.

    There were times - especially before his hair was cut - that I truly thought that if another movie were made about Jesus, Andy could play him. He just has that something.

    I will probably watch out of curiosity, but Sparty without Sparty is just...sigh. You can sometimes get away with recasting a secondary character. But a title character? I doubt it.

  2. Isn't the writing on this show crazy-awesome?

    I'm looking forward to the backstory segments, but I also can't imagine anyone else playing Spartacus - nor do I want to. Andy Whitfield is it.

  3. Will definitely check out the show. I loved Rome. I'm very sorry to hear that Andy Whitfield is fighting the disease again. I wish him the very best.

  4. In light of this feeling, I'm doubly interested in shows like Doctor Who and the many flavors of Star Trek. Who has written a strategy for a new lead actor into the universe, and fans rumble and watch and get a sense of depth of character rather than disruption. In any new version of Star Trek, we want to know who will be the equivalents of Kirk/Spock/Bones, that core triumverate even if they aren't literally trying to be the same characters.

    But shoot, my best wishes to the man and his family. What a position to be in.

  5. Wow! I haven't been following the show so I had no idea. But I think the way they are handling Season II is smart. And it's HBO- i mean Sex and the City and The Sopranos both took time off during their run - so I don't think HBO would axe the show -I think they're just going to work through his treatment and then bring him back in - that seems like a smart option. And I hope that your family is okay too. :)

  6. I've never seen Spartacus because I believe it's on Showtime, and I don't get that channel. I have heard it's a great show and I wish I could have seen it. I loved Rome on HBO and wish they'd continued that series.

    What a shame about Andy Whitfield. I hope he recovers.


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