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Spartacus star Andy Whitfield dies of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Spartacus: Blood And Sand

Story by Jack Foley

ANDY Whitfield, the former star of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, has died of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Sydney at the age of 39.

The news was confirmed by the actor’s manager, Sam Maydew, on Sunday (September 11, 2011).

A virtual unknown when he was cast as the title hero in Starz’s violent drama series Spartacus alongside John Hannah, Whifield who was born in Wales and lived in Australia.

He appeared in several Australian television series, such as Opening Up, All Saints and McLeod’s Daughters before gaining his first prominent role in the Australian supernatural film Gabriel.

Then, in 2010, came the role of Spartacus, which became a TV hit and renowned for its graphic violence and sexuality.

Sadly, as global superstardom beckoned, Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in March 2010 and began treatment immediately.

Starz delayed production of season two of Spartacus: Blood and Sand in anticipation of his recovery and instead produced a six-part prequel, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, which featured only a brief uncredited voice-over from the actor.

Although declared cancer-free only two months later, he suffered a recurrence of the disease later in the year and was ultimately forced to leave the role completely, forcing Starz to re-cast Australian actor Liam McIntyre as Spartacus.

Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht said he and his network colleagues are “deeply saddened” over the news.

He said in a statement: “We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in Spartacus and came to know that the man who played a champion onscreen 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.”

Whitfield’s wife, Vashti, also released a statement in which she described her husband as a “beautiful young warrior”. She said he passed away on a “sunny Sydney morning” in her arms.

Spartacus creator Steven DeKnight Tweeted: “No words to express the depth of such a loss. You will be deeply missed, my brother.”

And Whitfield’s Spartacus co-star Lucy Lawless told EW: “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. How lucky we were to have him grace all our lives.”

View photos of Andy in Spartacus