That’s the amount of time that the new six-episode Spartacus “prequel” goes back, in order to tell the story of what happened before Spartacus arrived at Batiatus’ ludus.
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena premieres this Friday at 10 PM on Starz.
At a presentation last week at the Television Critics Association conference in Pasadena, the producers and stars of the show talked about the production, which was originally planned to give star Andy Whitfield time for cancer treatments (he did not respond well, and the part was subsequently recast for season two).
“We basically cut out all the boring parts,” executive producer Steven DeKnight said, describing how they were able to tell a Spartacus-worthy story in a mere six episodes. “We hit the ground running.”
DeKnight admited that the first season of the show was rocky at first, but that those mistakes helped them this time around.
“When we started off [in season one], you know, we went straight to thirteen episodes with no pilot,” he said. “So it was a lot of research and development on the job … And if you look at the first episode of season one and the last episode of season one, you see how far we have come. It was a little bit of everything and the kitchen sink at first. It was just a learning process. And after a couple of episodes, we really found what worked and what didn’t.
“Right when Spartacus really gelled in season one, we were able to start right there from the first episode of the prequel,” DeKnight said.
The prequel tells the story of a new gladiator, Gannicus, played by Dustin Clare, and the way in which he helps Batiatus first make a name for himself.
Many characters from the first season appear, including Batiatus’ wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), Barca, Ashur, Naevia, and Peter Mensah’s Oenomaus, but in surprisingly different versions of themselves (Oenomaus is not yet Doctore, for example).
The prequel tells the story of how they came to be the people they are in the first season, for good or ill.
Asked if she liked playing a character younger than herself, Lucy Lawless said, “I love it!”
Whether it was difficult, Lawless said, “It was a rare pleasure actually. That never happens, where you get to go back and fill in blanks and actually find out more about your own character. It was a huge thrill for me. And you get to see our characters when they are in the honeymoon phase of their lives.”
“That was the honeymoon?” John Hannah, who plays Batiatus, deadpanned.
“That was it,” Lawless said. “That was all you get. Hey, come on. It was all right for you.”
Lawless also said that the actors’ performances were “youthened” in editing. “They fix us in post,” she said. “That’s not a lie. But my character certainly was a bit more sort of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed before her rotten college mate came back and taught her all these bad tricks, played by Jaime Murray who plays Gaia. But my character did not abuse the servants in the beginning, and she was devoted to her husband.”
DeKnight promised that the special effects are even better than season one.
“There’s some deaths that are so incredible, you just have to rewind to watch again because you can’t believe what you just saw,” he said. “[Co-creator] Rob [Tapert] and his team have definitely managed to up the ante. And I was stunned by how great some of this stuff looks.”
Did the events of the prequel change any of the events of season two, which was basically written when Whitfield was diagnosed with cancer?
“It was a very unfortunate circumstance,” DeKnight said. “But story-wise, the story [of the second season still is] basically what the story was.”
The actors and producers also responded to questions about whether the charactes of Batiatus and Lucretia will return in season two.
“It was just a flesh wound,” quipped Lawless of Batiatus’ obviously fatal injuries, prompting John Hannah to joke, “I believe that Batiatus does actually have a twin brother who we get to meet later on.”
Lawless, meanwhile, confirmed that she will return in season two
The six-episode prequel series Spartacus: Gods of the Arena begins this Friday at 10 PM on Starz.
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- Starz to Air Six-Episode “Prequel” SPARTACUS Series
- The Story Behind the Story of the SPARTACUS prequel, GODS OF THE ARENA
- Ask the Oracle: Did Lucy Lawless Die at the End of SPARTACUS, Season One? Are Lembas Magic?
- Casting Complete for SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA
- What Can We Expect in Season Two of SPARTACUS (After the Prequel)?