In the Starz original series Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, actor Aussie Dustin Clare plays Gannicus, a true physical specimen who is fearless in the gladiator arena and possessed by a thirst for the fleeting pleasures of life. Newly promoted to the top position at Batiatus’s (John Hannah) Ludus, Gannicus is best friend to Oenomaus (Peter Mensah) and his wife Melitta (Marisa Ramirez), forming an unlikely triangle of loyal friendship.
During a recent interview to promote the prequel to the popular Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Dustin Clare talked about being the new guy, the extensive physical preparation and training that was involved, not wanting to be known as a sex symbol, and working with Lucy Lawless. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
DUSTIN CLARE: (Executive Producer) Rob [Tapert] had actually seen my work in previous series, in Australia, and was really interested in having me on his show. I hadn’t seen the show, so I made a point of watching all 13 episodes of the first series, before I decided to test for it. And then, I just put a test down in my living room. I thought there was something interesting I could do for the role. Then, the network test came up, so I went and tested, and then I got the role, and then I moved to New Zealand – the land of the long, white cloud – to film. It’s a lovely country, I must say.
How does it feel to be the new guy?
CLARE: Being the new guy’s always great because you get to go in fresh with your own choices and you get to bring new life and breath and a new energy into something that’s already established. I play Gannicus, who is a pretty self-destructive gladiator. Gannicus has an extreme amount of skill, but he’s very self-destructive and he’s always trying to escape his reality. He was an interesting character who we get to really un-pick through the six episodes. We have a great through-line and a great opportunity to see this man rise within everything that keeps him down.
What had you done before this?
CLARE: I was in the Australian TV series Underbelly, and Satisfaction was a series that did well internationally. And, I have a film coming out this year, called The Eye of the Storm, with Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis, and Fred Schepisi directed it. I play a supporting role. It’s a character called Col, who’s the catalyst for the lead character who moves away from a relationship with me and goes to Geoffrey Rush and then comes back. I got to work with some really amazing Australian talent and a wonderful director.
When you were prepping for the role, what was the easiest aspect of your character to find and what was the biggest challenge?
CLARE: I think the most challenging aspect of it was keeping up the degree of physical fitness you need while filming a major leading role in a primetime U.S. series. You have very little time to sleep and eat, let alone train. That was an aspect that was challenging. The easiest part of it was just the transition with the cast. We have a very international cast on this series. There are a lot of people from all over – New Zealand, Scotland, the U.K. and Australia. Just working with actors from different countries, I really enjoyed that aspect. I thought it was an easy transition to work with a very international cast.
What was the training regimen that you had to go through for this?
CLARE: The training was a slightly scaled down boot camp, compared to what they had in the first season. It was two weeks. I had three weeks and, for myself, it was four hours in the morning of circuit training and stunt training, and then a lunch break for an hour, and then two hours of sword training, and then an hour sleep, and then one hour in the pool. So, it was about seven hours of pretty intense training for me.
CLARE: It was very much the most physically demanding role that I’ve ever done, yes. It was intense. There was constant training, even once we started filming. Beforehand, I did seven hours a day for three weeks, doing stunts, cross-training, fighting with double swords, and then a session in the pool. That was quite intense. It was very physically demanding. You come away with a lot of cuts and bruises. We were all aware that we hurt each other, physically, all the time, but we were in it together. We never really meant it. We were all fighting for a great result, ultimately. And, the fight choreographers were world-class stunt choreographers. Manu, myself , Peter [Mensah] and everyone, all got to learn from the guys who are the best in the business. Those are skills that we’ll have for the rest of our lives, so that’s a big plus.
When you guys sparred at gladiator boot camp, who came out on top?
CLARE: I’ve probably still got a couple of war wounds from Manu [Bennett].
Had you ever used a sword before?
CLARE: I’ve done some fencing, but this was completely different. This was a new skill.
How do you recover from a day with that much intense physical work?
CLARE: For me, it was getting in the pool and swimming laps and clearing my head. Manu’s got a family that he has to go home to. I’m sure that’s a piece of his detaching himself from what he’s been working with. But, for me, it was about getting in and reconnecting with the water and just clearing my head.
CLARE: Yeah, but it’s a key plot point.
As the new guy and the sex symbol, does this relate to your personal life, in any way?
CLARE: I don’t know. I’m sorry, but I don’t take any of that stuff seriously, to be honest with you. I look at it from a working perspective and from a perspective of getting in and trying to do the best work I can. I’m passionate about being an actor, but I’m definitely not passionate about being a sex symbol.
What was it like to work with Lucy Lawless?
CLARE: Xena was big when I was a kid. Lucy is a really down-to-earth, lovely actress. She’s generous and she’s got a good heart. The crew always loves her. She’s great to work with.
Do you have anything lined up that you’ll be doing soon?
CLARE: Not just now. There’s always a project around, but you have to pick and choose.
Are you going to stay in L.A. for awhile?
CLARE: I’m taking some meetings for representation over here. I’d like to do projects here. I’m interested in doing interesting work.
For more on Spartacus, here’s our interview with creator/head writer/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight and here’s Lucy Lawless.