Sunday, September 11, 2011

Starz on Andy Whitfield's death: He was 'a champion'

Starz released a statement Sunday reacting to the tragic news that former Spartacus star Andy Whitfield had succumbed to cancer.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield,” said Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht. “We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in Spartacus and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life. Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans.”

The 39-year-old actor died of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Sydney, Australia. The Wales native was diagnosed 18 months ago while preparing for the second season of Spartacus. Though he was an relative unknown when the show started, Whitfield’s performance was so strong and iconic that production on season two was halted for about a year in an attempt to give Whitfield time to recover from the disease. During that time, producers shot a prequel series titled Gods of the Arena without the actor. Briefly it seemed Whitfield would make it — he was cleared to start work on season two and made a triumphant return appearance at Comic-Con. But Whitfield soon relapsed. Faced with the decision of either cancelling the series or recasting, Starz and producers opted to hire newcomer Liam McIntyre for the lead role, with Whitfield’s blessing.

Backstage at Comic-Con in 2010, Whitfield was preparing to greet Spartacus fans after spending a months out of the limelight to recover. He was so nervous because he didn’t want fans to somehow be disappointed. Yet when he walked out, Whitfield didn’t have to say a word — the crowd just roared. Here’s that interview:

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