The future of Starz’s Spartacus series is now in doubt. The show’s lead, Andy Whitfield, has withdrawn from filming the second season.
The first season, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, tells the story of the classic gladiator and stars newcomer Andy Whitfield as the title character. The show also stars Antonio Te Maioha, Craig Parker, Erin Cummings, Lucy Lawless, John Hannah, Manu Bennett, Nick E. Tarabay, and Peter Mensah.
Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in March and, after treatment, was declared cancer-free in May. He was training hard to get back into filming and, at Comic-Con, Whitfield said he felt “better than ever.” He’s now been advised by his doctors to resume aggressive treatments immediately.
In a statement, Whitfield said, “It’s with a deep sense of disappointment that I must step aside from such an exceptional project as Spartacus and all the wonderful people involved. It seems that it is time for myself and my family to embark on another extraordinary journey. Thank you sincerely for the support so far.”
Spartacus was renewed for a second season even before the first started airing. Shooting of the second season was postponed so Whitfield could undergo treatment. To fill the absence, Starz ordered a prequel called Spartacus: Gods of the Arena which focuses on co-stars Lawless and Hannah. It tells the tale of the rise of the House of Batiatus before Spartacus’ arrival in Capua.
Whitfield was supposed to return to shoot Spartacus next month. No decisions have yet been made about the future of the series thus far. “Right now, we just want to extend our concern and support to Andy and his family,” said Carmi Zlotnik, managing director, Starz Media. “We will address our programming plans at some later date.”
The second season of Spartacus was expected to air next September. On a positive note, the prequel is currently filming in New Zealand and will debut in January 2011 as planned.
What do you think? What should Starz do? Suspend production of season two until Whitfield can hopefully return? Recast the role, do another prequel, or cancel the series altogether?
Image courtesy Starz.