Network to recast title role as Andy Whitfield seeks cancer treatment

STARZ will move forward with a second season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand despite the departure of star Andy Whitfield, EW has learned exclusively. The actor — who played the title character — left the production last year to resume cancer treatment.

Starz executives confirm that season 2 of Blood and Sand will shoot this spring and premiere in early 2012. (That’s in addition to the prequel series, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, which debuts Jan. 21.) ”We really struggled with this,” says Starz CEO Chris Albrecht. ”From a business point of view, the show is so successful. And with the prequel we saw that the show was continuing to be a creative success.”

Still, the decision to continue raises a big question: Who will play Spartacus? Albrecht says the casting hunt for the slave-revolt leader is under way, and he’s confident the rapidly narrowing field contains a new star. ”The person will not be a household name but will potentially have a preexisting fan base,” he hints.

Season 2 will contain other changes as well. The show’s comic-book visual style will evolve beyond its 300-inspired roots, and the story will no longer be set in the gladiatorial training center. Plus, Lucy Lawless‘ scheming Lucretia will return despite suffering a seemingly mortal stab wound in the brutal season 1 finale. ”It was just a little poke in the tummy,” Lawless says slyly. ”Being married to the producer [Rob Tapert] has nothing to do with it.”

Spartacus: Blood and Sand
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