Crowds come out to see gladiators at SpartaCon
It was a scorcher in Maryland last weekend, but the weather didn’t keep gladiator fans from attending this year’s SpartaCon in Charles County.
SpartaCon II, a convention hosted by a group of fans called The Red Serpents, was the entertainment highlight of the weekend in Waldorf. More than 1,000 people from around the world came together Aug. 13-14 to enjoy intense training during Gladiator Academy, play with fire, try archery training, see a long staff weapon tutorial and participate in a meet-and-greet with their favorite celebrities from the STARZ network show “Spartacus,” all at Regency Furniture Stadium.
“We did extremely well for a second year convention and we had a great turnout,” said Kelly Montgomery, president of The Red Serpents. “We didn’t have as many at-the-door sales as last year because of the heat, but we had no heat-related incidents and my volunteers were on point with making sure that people stayed hydrated. The stadium was amazing at making sure there was water supplied throughout the program.”
Even in with the extreme temperatures, “Spartacus” fans went crazy during the gladiator show when actor Liam McIntyre (Spartacus) and actor Manu Bennett (Crixus) acted out their initial fight scene with Theokoles from the show.
“SpartaCon is such a great community,” McIntyre said. “We are now going into our second year of SpartaCon. The first one was such a fun experience, no one knew what to expect, but this second year they really upped the ante. There’s more cool stuff, there’s gladiator fights and special Spartacus training. It’s fun being a part of a show that is still relevant because you never know how a show is going to connect with the fans, so for us it was an amazing experience to see how the fans responded.”
Bennett is a fan favorite also known for his roles in the movie “The Hobbit” and the television show “Arrow.” He said The Red Serpents are a nice organization that works hard to bring together the fans of the show.
“This was really just a genuine fan gathering organized by genuine fans of the show,” Bennett said. “The most special thing is coming to see people that are passionate about the show and actually talk about the way it was made, the funny anecdotes, and people want to know about Andy Whitfield [the actor who originally portrayed the role of Spartacus but lost his battle with cancer in 2011].”
The “Spartacus” cast members traveled to the convention from as far away as Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Los Angeles. Actor Antonio Te Maioha was seen enjoying the warm weather and brought along his long staff fighting weapon to teach a brief class to the gladiators in training. He said he is still recovering from a concussion, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to enjoy the convention.
“We are brothers and sisters [the cast] and we don’t get the opportunity to see each other most of the time, so at SpartaCon we get to meet and catch up,” Maioha said. “We’re all pretty down to earth. We spend time with the fans and make a connection with each one.”
Many of the cast members have new projects and were glad to share their experiences with fans.
Bennett said he is happy to be reprising his role as Allanon in Season 2 of MTV’s “The Shannara Chronicles.” He describes his new character as complex but said he loves playing characters that have roller coaster rides throughout their journey, that resonate with an audience and even tell great tales of war.
McIntyre is starring in a video game called “Gears of War 4” and has also created a new tabletop card game, “Monster Lab,” that will be manufactured soon.
Professional stuntman and actor Stephen Dunlevy (The Egyptian), said he has been on the road often within the last few months working on quite a few films. He said he enjoys acting in villainous roles and he’ll star as another villain in the “John Wick” sequel movie coming out in February 2017.
“It’s awesome taking a break to come to SpartaCon, interacting with everyone and learning their experience with the show,” Dunlevy said.
His fiancée, actress Ellen Hollman (Saxa), said it’s still amazing to see how impactful the show has been even years later and how it is still influencing people’s lives. Hollman said she just finished filming for the upcoming “Lethal Weapon” television show last week and enjoys being at SpartaCon with her “future hubby.”
Actors Dustin Clare (Gannicus) and Dan Feuerriegel (Agron) said SpartaCon was just as awesome as last year despite the heat.
“It’s hot out but there’s so many people who came dressed up,” said Clare. “I’ve been working on the mini-series ‘Wolf Creek’ which comes out in the United States on Oct. 17 on the Pop Channel. But it’s great seeing fans, seeing our trainer Tyrone Bell and it’s amazing that there’s still a lot of fans who are still engaged in the show.”
Ian White, cosplayer and stunt performer from Orlando, Fla., said SpartaCon II was the first convention he’s ever attended. He won third place in the SpartaCon costume contest along with second place winner Laura Santana from Tampa Bay, Fla., and first place winner Wesley Alexander Yost from Damascus.
“I never miss a chance to dress up in costume,” White said. “It was a 15-hour drive here, but ‘Spartacus’ is my favorite show.”
Montgomery plans to have next year’s SpartaCon during a much cooler time of the year, possibly in April. She is also planning VikingsCon which will be held at Regency Furniture Stadium next October, so it seems this is only the beginning of conventions to come.
Rayne Dunbar from Jacksonville, Fla., cosplays Naevia from “Spartacus” and plays with fire at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
Actor Manu Bennett (Crixus) participated in the Gladiator Academy class with “Spartacus” fans at SpartaCon at Regency Furniture Stadium.
Professional stuntman and actor Stephen Dunlevy (The Egyptian) and his fiancee, actress Ellen Hollman (Saxa) sign autographs at SpartaConII in Waldorf.
SpartaCon II costume contest third place winner Ian White of Orlando, Fla., poses at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.