Behold Andy Whitfield, the bringer of rain! I‘m guessing those of you who don’t watch “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” are a little confused at that vague yet at the same time, cool reference. I’m hoping by the time you finish learning all there is to know about Andy, star of the ultra-violent, ultra-sexy swords and sandals cable series, you’ll be singing his praises as well.
Andy grew up in Wales, was living in London and was doing pretty much anything but acting. In fact he was an inspector for an engineering consultancy, climbing up buildings and such. It occurred to him one day that you don’t necessarily have to have a career in what you studied in school (Sheffield University by the way). So he relocated to Sydney, took some acting classes, got the odd role here and there on TV (shows like “McLeod’s Daughters” and “The Strip”), a couple features (Gabriel and the as yet unreleased The Clinic with “Legend of the Seeker’s” Tabrett Bethell) and started making a name for himself in the Australian entertainment industry.
How does a Welsh lad living in Australia end up on a TV show shot in New Zealand? (Practice, practice, practice, right?) Here is where show creator Steven S. DeKnight enters the picture. He and the two producers Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi (the duo responsible for the New Zealand shot “Legend of the Seeker”, “Xena” and “Hercules” series) were looking for an unknown to play the title character in a new groundbreaking series about a legendary figure in ancient Rome. The actor would have to have a physical and emotional command that was believable and undeniable. And he would have to be able to hold his own on screen with the likes of John Hannah and Lucy Lawless. Andy walked into the audition and right into the role. So a guy who was just beginning a career as an actor landed the role of a lifetime – one that would catapult him into international stardom.
Now in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last year there’s a couple of things I should point out. “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is a daring series populated by muscular gentleman and boasts male full-frontal nudity. Yes, you read that right – male full-frontal nudity! And besides that, it’s a pretty awesome story. You’ll never look at John Hannah the same way again. Trust me. The second thing you might not know is that just as shooting for Season one came to an end Andy was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Production for Season two was put on hold while Andy underwent successful treatment. One of the benefits of an increased profile is you get support from people you never expected to come in contact with. On July 20th Andy posted a personal note of heartfelt thanks to all the fans (http://community.starz.com/t5/Spartacus/A-Personal-Post-from-Andy-Whitfield/m-p/54949#M48368) who offered support and prayers to him through his recovery. At the 2010 International Comic-Con panel for “Spartacus” Andy announced that the doctors gave him a clean bill of health and he is ready to resume training and get back to work.
Normally we’re mostly about how attractive our Actors2Watch4 are but there’s something to be said about a person who faces the challenge of a disease like cancer with grace and dignity. That makes you a hero of a different kind and worthy of a song of praise. Don’t you think?
Update, Monday September 12, 2011: It was reported over the weekend by The Hollywood Reporter that Andy succumb to the lymphoma he had been so bravely fighting. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and the cast and crew of Spartacus.
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