Fans of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" will be happy to hear that star Andy Whitfield, who has been battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma, will return to Starz in January. "Spartacus" will return in a prequel series, starring John Hannah and Lucy Lawless, the Chicago Tribune's Watcher blog reports.
Contrary to rumors, the role of Spartacus will not be re-cast.
According to Starz, Whitfield is "responding well" to treatment and will appear as Spartacus in 2 out of 6 planned episodes. The prequel series will focus on the rise of the House of Batiatus, the gladiator academy, and will revolve around the relationship between Lawless' and Hannah's characters, Lucretia and Batiatus.
"The prequel story maintains the excitement and entertainment value of the first season of 'Spartacus,' giving audiences the engaging experience they've come to expect," Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht said in a statement released Tuesday, May 11.
"Fortunately, Andy is responding to his treatments, and will be able to be part of this prequel in a limited capacity."
When Whitfield is able to get back to work on a more regular basis, the "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" story will continue where it left off. In the meantime, Starz is casting a new character, who preceded Spartacus and Crixus as the top gladiator at the House of Batiatus.
Aside from Hannah, Lawless, and Whitfield, fans can expect to see more familiar faces among the prequel's cast members. Returning favorites include Peter Mensah (Doctore), Manu Bennett (Crixus), Antonio Te Maioha
(Barca), Nick E. Tarabay (Ashur), Lesley-Ann Brandt
(Naevia). Production will begin this summer in New Zealand.