Spartacus: Blood and Sand Actor Andy Whitfield Dies at 39
Andy Whitfield, star of the television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand has passed away from non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 39.
Sad news at an already-sad time: Actor Andy Whitfield, star of Starz’s Roman epic Spartacus: Blood and Sand, passed away on Sunday after a one-and-a-half-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He was only 39.
Whitfield, who was born in Amlwch, Wales, moved to Australia in 1999. Before becoming an actor, he worked as an engineer; upon his move to Sydney, however, he enrolled in the Screenwise Film and TV School for Actors. Though he appeared in several Australian television shows, including All Saints and McLeod’s Daughters, and made his big-screen debut in the 2007 supernatural action film Gabriel, Whitfield did not become a household name until donning the armor of the title character of Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
The first season of the show premiered on Starz in January of 2010 and was an instant hit, earning an immediate renewal for a second season. In March of that year, however, Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Not wanting to lose their star, Spartacus delayed production and Starz instead produced a six-episode prequel series, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.
After two months, Whitfield was declared cancer-free; in a tragic turn of events, though, the cancer came back, after which Whitfield announced that he would not be returning to Spartacus in order to undergo an aggressive cancer treatment. Starz recast Australian actor Liam McIntyre as Spartacus and continued production on the second season, entitled Spartacus: Vengeance, which is due out in early 2012.
Recasting the role was a difficult decision for everyone involved. Series creator Steven S. DeKnight said that they weren’t sure they would be able to go forward without Whitfield and the “gravity and heart” he brought to the role. But Whitfield himself, in an admirable display of artistic integrity, told DeKnight, “I really think the show should go forward without me. I give you the blessing. I want this story told.”
Following his death, Whitfield’s wife, Vashti, issued the following statement: “On a beautiful sunny Sydney spring morning, surrounded by his family, in the arms of his loving wife, our beautiful young warrior Andy Whitfield lost his 18 month battle with lymphoma cancer. He passed peacefully surrounded by love. Thank you to all his fans whose love and support have help carry him to this point. He will be remembered as the inspiring, courageous and gentle man, father and husband he was.”
Our thoughts and hearts go with Whitfield’s friends and family as they grieve the tragic loss of this promising young actor.
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.