Fight­ing words

Spar­ta­cus star’s health bat­tle

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

ANDY Whit­field has just en­dured the most shock­ing time of his life. In March, he was di­ag­nosed with non-Hodgkin’s lym­phoma. It couldn’t have come at a worse time.

The 35-year-old ac­tor, who moved from the UK to Aus­tralia 10 years ago, had just com­pleted the biggest role of his ca­reer.

Whit­field, who starred in lo­cal shows in­clud­ing McLeod’s Daugh­ters, Packed to the Rafters, The Strip and Out of the Blue, had been picked for the ti­tle role of ma­jor US TV show,

Spar­ta­cus: Blood and Sand.

Whit­field had just fin­ished shoot­ing the first se­ries of the

Glad­i­a­tor-style his­tor­i­cal drama when tragedy struck.

Pro­duc­tion on the sec­ond se­ries of Spar­ta­cus was post­poned while Whit­field re­ceived treat­ment.

‘‘I’m re­ceiv­ing ex­cel­lent care, and am feel­ing strong, pos­i­tive and de­ter­mined with an army of sup­port be­hind me,’’ Whit­field said at the time.

Four months later, he’s can­cer-free and back in train­ing. Se­ries two of Spar­ta­cus will start film­ing in Oc­to­ber.

The can­cer scare has had a ma­jor im­pact on Whit­field’s life: now he doesn’t take a sin­gle day for granted.

‘‘I was pretty tired at the end of film­ing the first se­ries, but I think that was only to be ex­pected,’’ Whit­field says.

‘‘I’d put my sore back and other ail­ments down to nine months of pretty in­tense phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

‘‘To find out that it was can­cer was very strange tim­ing af­ter hav­ing spent so many years try­ing to crack it (act­ing in the US) and to get this hit show and then for that to hap­pen.

‘‘So many great things have come out of it. I went through a process of strip­ping back. Ev­ery­thing was taken away, al­most. I em­braced it and had a pro­found time which I’ll never for­get. It changed me for­ever.

‘‘When you have some­thing as se­ri­ous as that (can­cer) all the other stuff which you thought was im­por­tant or worth wor­ry­ing about just isn’t.

‘‘There’s a level of fear­less­ness that I’m en­joy­ing and I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in see­ing how that trans­lates into work.

‘‘Act­ing es­sen­tially is tak­ing risks ev­ery day — putting your­self out there — and some things can go wrong. That was easy to worry about be­fore but now it’s like — what’s the worst that can hap­pen?’’

Spar­ta­cus: Blood and Sand

has been shot in the style of re­cent hit his­tor­i­cal ac­tion film,

300. The se­ries, which was shot in New Zealand, is in­cred­i­bly vi­o­lent and bloody.

There’s also a high level of sex and nu­dity, but Whit­field says it’s the scripts, rather than the spec­ta­cle, that made him want to sign on.

Whit­field plays Spar­ta­cus, a Thra­cian sol­dier who, as pun­ish­ment for de­fy­ing Ro­man com­man­der Le­ga­tus Glaber (Craig Parker), is sen­tenced to fight in the glad­i­a­to­rial arena.

Spar­ta­cus is then sent into slav­ery but lives on the prom­ise of one day be­ing re­united with his wife Sura (Erin Cum­mings).

‘‘This is my dream role — the fight­ing, the sandals, the blood, the leg­end,’’ Whit­field says.

‘‘When the scripts came, I was blown away. It’s a unique com­bi­na­tion of real hard edge, heart, pas­sion and power.’’ Spar­ta­cus, GO!, Wed­nes­day, Au­gust 18, 7.30pm

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