Australian actor Dustin Clare starred as Gannicus, the former champion of Capua, in the series prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. Now, his character is returning to the current season, Spartacus: Vengeance, in Episode 5, entitled “Libertus,” airing on Starz on February 24th.
During a recent interview to promote his character’s return, Dustin Clare talked about making the transition from series lead in the prequel to part of the ensemble in Season 2, what Gannicus has been through in the last five years, the challenges he faces as a free man, how Gannicus will be received by the other characters, how he initially got involved with Spartacus, and what it takes to train and prep for the show. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Dustin Clare: No. I think we’re all pretty generous. It’s a big ensemble cast. I think the stories have been pretty ensemble-based. It’s all shared around the storyline.
Did the popularity of Gannicus in Gods of the Arena have any influence on him appearing in Vengeance, or was that always the plan?
Clare: Yes, he was in the mix all along. I just kept it pretty low-key.
How is Gannicus different in Season 2 from who he was in the prequel?
Clare: It’s around five years later, between the prequel and Spartacus: Vengeance, so there are a lot of changes that he’s gone through. He’s spent a lot of time away from the brotherhood and these people that he had a connection with, and he’s also been on this other side of life, being a free man. He’s really enjoyed that opportunity and the freedom that comes with it, but he’s also traveled a lot. I think you see that in the costume that he brings back with him, and the accouterments that he’s collected. The costume designer and I worked really closely together, to really show that evolution of the man and to show that he has been to other places. There’s a maturity in him and an experience that he’s gained, along the way, in his travels.
Are there any challenges that Gannicus faces as a free man?
Clare: Just getting some cash together to get a meal and looking for a roof over his head. He’s really been a journeyman, in the space between the prequel and this period, and done a lot of outfield traveling and discovering. He’s still very much that man who’s the master of his own destiny. He’s an individual, and he’s the anti-hero of the series. Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you how he’s brought back into the series. It’s a major plot point. He’s still very much the Gannicus we left, in some ways, but he’s also definitely had some time to mature and see the world and discover it. He enjoys being a free man.
Clare: Gannicus and Spartacus will eventually meet, without a shadow of a doubt, but there is a real clash of ideals between the men. I don’t think Gannicus really thinks what Spartacus is doing is really all that sensible. He’s putting the lives of a lot of people in danger and risking freedom, and Gannicus sees it as pretty careless.
Does Gannicus eventually find out what happened at the House of Batiatus?
Clare: In terms of my story, he definitely hears about what’s happened there, yes.
What can you say about how Gannicus is going to be received by the other characters, especially Crixus (Manu Bennett)?
Clare: I don’t want to ruin that, for any of the fans. He is eventually going to meet up with all those old characters, and that’s going to be really interesting for the audience. But, there’s also a character that he’s never met that is integral to the story, and that’s Spartacus. They really have a clash of ideals. There are similarities in the men, but essentially they both pursue a different thing. There’s a real clash there. And, in terms of Crixus, Gannicus was always a mentor to Crixus, but it’s been some time, and hopefully there has been some mending on Crixus’ part, over that time.
What are your thoughts on your character’s development, since the last time viewers saw him?
Clare: For the audience, I really wanted him to grow and change. I think it’s pretty boring to see the same character reintroduced. Although he has a lot of those same habits, he has also matured. He’s had some time to spend as a free man. We will get to see him interact with all those old characters, as well as the new characters. Because he’s a free man, he can move between both worlds – the Roman world and the rebel world.
Clare: That was awhile ago now, for Gods of the Arena, but it was just like anything else. I was approached about the role. (Executive producer) Rob Tapert had seen my work in a series in Australia and wanted to have me involved in the series, so he had me test for the role of Gannicus and it ended up going my way. It was pretty straight-forward. I really put a test down in my living room, and then I went to Sydney to re-test, and then the role was mine. It was pretty a simple process. I didn’t have to go to the States. And, I was always going to be involved in Spartacus: Vengeance. We’ve just kept it under wraps, as much as we could.
What were some of the initial acting challenges you found, in stepping into the role?
Clare: This is very much a genre piece, so it was about finding the style of genre. And then, I had to find the real truth in moments. It’s a period piece, and there are things to think about like accents. I’m obviously not going to come on and do an Australian accent.
What sort of training and prep do you have to do for this show?
Clare: We train a lot and we have really strict diets for the six or seven months during when we’re filming. We do a boot camp for a month straight, before we start, and then that gets us in pretty good shape. No one is really out of shape, in that sense, but we spend about four weeks training, from 8 o’clock in the morning until 1 o’clock in the afternoon, have some lunch, and then go home. I usually do some light pool work after that. It’s a really good routine to get our bodies flexible and mobile and ready to undertake the workload that we’re about to embark on. Without a doubt, everyone has had some injuries, at some point. It’s usually about 3/4 of the way through when the injuries start to come in, when the body is starting to get tired and the physical exertion is pushing the body to a limit where you’re starting to put that stress on your body. So, it becomes about looking after yourself for those seven months. We’re lucky that we have a great team of stunt coordinators and stuntmen, who really look after us and train with us really well. We train together a lot, and I train with my stunt double a lot. I really enjoy that. My stunt double and I have a great relationship.
Clare: No, I think I was about 18 before I decided I wanted to pursue acting. I went to drama school in Western Australia when I was 19. I had wanted to be a fish farmer, to be honest with you. I wanted to be an agriculturist. I wanted to have my own fish farm. I was also contemplating surfboard building.
What was it like to work on McLeod’s Daughters? What did you enjoy most about playing Riley Ward?
Clare: That was a long time ago. McLeod’s Daughters was my first regular job out of drama school, and my first full-time role. That was great because I learned a lot, in terms of working in front of the camera. I learned a lot of technical aspects that you take for granted once you know them, but you have to learn them somewhere, along the way. It was a bit of a training ground for me, working in front of the camera and also dealing with media. I think I made some mistakes, in different areas, but it’s great to be working in a show again now, many years down the track. I have worked in many other different shows in Australia and I’ve been able to learn from my mistakes. I’m lucky that I made those mistakes early on in Australia, and I definitely won’t make them again in the States, but you’ve got to learn that stuff.
Is Gannicus feeling guilt about what happened with Oenomaus (Peter Mensah) and his wife?
Clare: Yes, I think that’s going to sit with Gannicus, always. It’ll always be a part of him until it’s resolved. It’s something that definitely sits heavy on him.
Since Oenomaus and Gannicus spend a lot of time together, what has it been like to work with Peter Mensah?
Clare: Peter is physically a really giant man. Anyone looks smaller, standing next to that guy. But, the two men are starkly contrasting. They had that great friendship. Peter has a bit of that Doctore feel about him, as a person – that sensei thing – which I would imagine is part of the reason that he was cast in the role. He carries that presence with him.
What is it like to work with Lucy Lawless again, compared to in the prequel?
Clare: I’m really fond of Lucy, and I think she’s doing great work in this show. Personally, I think it’s some of the best work she’s done, in her career. She’s really flown with this role, and it’s wonderful to see her attack it so wonderfully. I really enjoy working with her this season. She’s a consummate professional. She’s really down-to-earth and a lot of fun, and she’s really great for the show.
Have you ever been grossed out, shooting one of the scenes with all the effects and everything?
Clare: Yes, in the final episodes of Gods of the Arena, when Gannicus is the last man standing and he’s fighting the final gladiator, and he breaks his spear and puts it in his mouth and wrenches his jaw off. Although that was just a head stuck on the stick, it still felt pretty lifelike. That’s kudos to the special effects team.
What personality similarities do you and Gannicus have?
Clare: I think there’s always pieces of yourself that bleed into your character. That’s inevitable. In some ways, we have similarities, but in other ways, we’re completely different. It’s hard to say because I’m an actor living in a world where we’re all pretty privileged, and this guy is fighting for his life. They’re very different circumstances. Within those circumstances, there are probably ways that we react to certain situations that are similar.
Clare: We have researchers involved with the show and they pointed me in a pretty great direction, in terms of what to read, and what to look at or look for, and they also provided me with some material. There’s not a lot about Gannicus, in any of the writings. It was really hard to pull any character motivations or traits out of the small amount of information that exists about him. So, it was really about historically researching the time and the gladiator’s lifestyle and how they existed in the world.
What was your Comic-Con experience like?
Clare: That was my first one. I hadn’t been there before. It’s pretty eye-opening, when you haven’t been there, just with the sheer amount of fans that are there for different shows and films. It’s like a big fan symposium, in a way, as well a way for film studios and television studios to really promote their product to their loyal audience base. It was an experience.
Spartacus: Vengeance airs on Friday nights on Starz.