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In just the first season of Starz' Spartacus series, Andy Whitfield made such an impression as the show's main character that when news came of his battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the show's producers decided to create a prequel series instead of moving straight into the second season. Whitfield took a year off to receive medical treatment, and in the summer of 2010 was preparing to resume acting duties when the cancer returned. He had no choice but to once again undergo intense treatment and to finally step down playing the character.
Today we learned the sad news today that the 39-year-old Welsh actor, husband and father of two had passed away from his illness. He was surrounded by his family in his hometown of Sydney, Australia.
As fans of Whitfield react on message forums and on social networks, his work colleages are praising his acting ability and the short time they spent working with him on Spartacus.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield," said Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht. "We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in Spartacus and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life. Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans."
Spartacus creator Steven DeKnight took to Twitter earlier today to offer this comment: "No words to express the depth of such a loss. You will be deeply missed, my brother."
And co-star Lucy Lawless spoke with Entertainment Weekly: "Obviously, Andy Whitfield left an indelible mark on all of us in the Spartacus family. He was a gentle man who never said a bad word about anyone, a gifted photographer, engineer (no really!) and a brilliant actor. Andy’s incandescent film presence made men want to be him and women want to marry him. Andy’s two babies will always know that their Daddy cherished them and their mother, Vashti, above all things. How lucky we were to have him grace all our lives. Godspeed, Andy!"
The old showbiz adage, "The show must go on," rings true for the Spartacus production. When Whitfield's cancer returned he made the decision to vacate the role and give his blessing to his replacement, actor Liam McIntyre. The second series of Spartacus: Blood and Sand has been filmed but not yet aired on Starz.