‘Spartacus’: Star Liam McIntyre makes ‘tough guy’ confession

Jan. 23, 2013 | 7:07 p.m.
liammcintyre Spartacus: Star Liam McIntyre makes tough guy confession

Liam McIntyre arrives at the premiere of "Spartacus: War of the Damned" -- in which he plays the title character -- on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

It was a festive occasion for a melancholy moment.

The cast and crew of Starz’s series “Spartacus” gathered in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night for a lavish red carpet kickoff to the show’s closing chapter.

Titled “Spartacus: War of the Damned,” the epic final season focuses on the brutal, bloody war between the rebels led by Liam McIntyre’s Spartacus and the Roman army, a story line that will involve two prominent new villains: Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells) and a young Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance).

“We realized that — historically — it’s a tricky thing to tell,” said creator and executive producer Steven S. DeKnight. “Historically, it’s all over the place. There is no linear story once they start the war. The rebels break apart, come back together, break apart. They go south, south, east, west. We really wanted to tell a cohesive story and we didn’t want to drag out past the point where people enjoy it.”

Each of the 10 final episodes of the network’s tentpole series proved to be a battle in its own right, with every script more “gigantic” than in previous seasons, according to DeKnight. It was all part of an effort to deliver a satisfying ending for the show’s fans.

“The pressure is 10 times greater when you know you’re ending a series,” he said. “You have to really stick that landing. I didn’t want to waste any episode.”

The series, which airs in 150 countries, has had to face its own set of battles since its premiere three years ago. Its star Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after the first season, putting a second season on pause. Instead, a six-episode prequel, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” aired sans Whitfield.

For the show’s second season, the role of the Roman gladiator eventually was turned over to McIntyre, following Whitfield’s death in 2011.

The fledgling actor had mostly appeared in short films and guest starred in some Australian TV shows — his only major American credit was a small role in the HBO miniseries “The Pacific” — and he spent more than two months training to get into suitable gladiator shape.

Liam McIntyre as Spartacus in "Spartacus: War of the Damned." (Starz)

Liam McIntyre as Spartacus in “Spartacus: War of the Damned.” (Starz)

“Being Spartacus is challenging enough, but living up to what Andy did … it’s tough,” McIntyre told The Times in a 2012 interview.

Despite the tragic circumstances, the series remained popular; its most recent season, “Spartacus: Vengeance,” averaged more than 6 million viewers each week, according to the network.

At the event Tuesday, Lasance said no amount of binge-watching or weight-lifting could have prepared him for all the “epic-ness” that would unfold, with the show drawing to a close.

“It’s just truly unbelievable what they pulled off this season,” he said, hinting that in the upcoming fourth episode of the season audiences should expect a big reveal involving his character. “That’s when a big shift happens with Caesar. It’s one of the defining episodes which triggers what plays out this season.”

Dan Feuerriegel, who plays Agron. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Dan Feuerriegel, who plays Agron. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Daniel Feuerriegel, who plays Agron, one of Spartacus’ chief lieutenants, signaled that changes are in store for his character as well, namely that his relationship with his lover Nasir (Pana Hema Taylor) is potentially headed for a rough patch.

“You can look forward to a more complex relationship,” Feuerriegel said. “There’s definitely going to be a lot more deep stuff going on.”

McIntyre, though, was more circumspect at the event, acknowledging the emotion inherent in such a massive endeavor finally winding down.

“My last day on set … I wasn’t that tough,”  said the Australian. “All of a sudden you have all these people that you spent two years of your life with, this family who has protected you and changed everything about you. You kind of gotta say thank you and say goodbye, how do you put that into words? I was so sad that last day, but I got the sense that we did something special.”

DeKnight took a moment to offer a bigger picture perspective on the show’s conclusion too.

“The thing I hope they remember is that one person can make a difference, that’s the story we were telling,” he said. “No matter where there’s oppression in the world, all it takes is one person standing up to start the ball rolling toward freedom.”

— Yvonne Villarreal

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


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