The debut season of the gladiator soap Spartacus was a major performer for Starz this winter, so naturally the premium channel hastily ordered another round. Unfortunately, star Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with cancer, which forced a delay in the production of season two. In an effort to keep the valuable franchise abuzz during the hiatus, Starz has ordered a six-part prequel for air in January 2011. THR reports that “Lucy Lawless (Lucretia) and John Hannah (Batiatus) will take center stage in the story of the rise of the House of Batiatus and its champions before Spartacus.”
While the Starz catering comedy Party Down has (deservedly) amassed a strong critical following, the network’s series adaptation of Crash was an utter failure for a network trying to establish a brand of original series. By the time Spartacus ended its first season run, up to 1.3 million viewers tuned in per episode, with solid demo numbers to boot. On Fridays! As a benchmark, the series has surpassed the first season ratings of Showtime flagship Dexter. The prequel sounds like a smart move for a hit show whose star can’t jump back into production right away; plus, beloved characters who may not have survived the finale get more screen time. Hit the jump for the official press release.
Production on Starz’ ‘Spartacus’ Six-Part Prequel to Begin This Summer
Andy Whitfield to Appear In Two Episodes Along With Lucy Lawless, John Hannah, Peter Mensah Plus Other Returning and New Characters
Pre-production is underway on a six-part prequel to Starz’ hit original series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.”
Andy Whitfield, who played the title character in the series, will appear in the prequel briefly, but Lucy Lawless and John Hannah take center stage in this story of the rise of the House of Batiatus and its champions before Spartacus arrives as a captured Thracian slave. With the title still to be determined, the prequel will begin production this summer in New Zealand, and is slated to air on Starz in January 2011.
John Hannah returns as Batiatus, owner of the Ludus, along with his wife Lucretia, played by Lucy Lawless. Other returning actors include Peter Mensah (Doctore), Manu Bennett (Crixus), Antonio Te Maioha (Barca), Nick E. Tarabay (Ashur), Lesley-Ann Brandt (Naevia) – and others. New characters will also be added – most notably the gladiator who was champion of the House of Batiatus before Spartacus or even Crixus – who will help fill in the story about the people and politics in the House of Batiatus and ancient Capua as a whole.
Production on the second season of “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” was postponed this spring to allow Andy Whitfield to be treated for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in New Zealand. His doctors indicate that the actor is responding well.
“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,” said Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht. “We look forward to continuing the Spartacus story.”
Produced by Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Joshua Donen and Steven S. DeKnight, “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” was the highest rated show for the 18-49 demographic among all cable networks for 12 of the 13 Fridays on which it aired based on coverage rating.* The production team remains intact for the six-part prequel.