"Spread word to every slave that even the mighty republic bleeds when struck!" — Spartacus
After nearly two years, history's most famous rebel is returning to STARZ on Friday, January 27 (at 10pm Est) in Spartacus: Vengeance; the next chapter in the epic journey that chronicles Spartacus' transformation from an enslaved warrior into a legendary hero who is remembered even to this day.
Before we jump in to all things Spartacus: Vengeance, check out our exclusive preview below!
"People respect Spartacus because he is decisive, honorable and not afraid to enact change," said Liam McIntyre, who has stepped into the iconic title role for "Spartacus: Vengeance." "He is about to embark on a journey where he has to embrace leadership and responsibility for the lives of those following him. He is prepared to sacrifice anything for what he believes in, and to protect what’s right."
During the events of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," Spartacus was captured and sold as a slave to Quintus Lentulus Batiatus (John Hannah); who had Spartacus trained to fight in the gladiatorial games alongside all of the other warriors in his ludus. Despite Spartacus' rise to become the champion of the House of Batiatus, his master reneged on his promise to reunite Spartacus with his wife, Sura (Erin Cummings) by ensuring that she was mortally wounded.
Eventually Spartacus convinced his fellow gladiators to rise up against Batiatus in a bloody struggle which allowed Spartacus to slay his master before promising to all who joined him that they would make Rome tremble. However, that promise was easier said than done.
"I really love to throw our characters into complicated problems right off the bat," related "Spartacus" creator and executive producer, Steven S. DeKnight. "This is not Robin Hood and his Merry Men."
"I always make the characters as vulnerable as possible, even the mightiest of them," continued DeKnight. "All the tough guys have their Achilles’ heel, and I like to throw everything at them and strip them down to their bare essence and see how they survive. This year will be no exception. Heroes do very questionable things, and villains can be good. I like that gray area."
Among the many characters returning this season are Spartacus' former rival, Crixus (Manu Bennett) and Oenomaus (Peter Mensah), the former Doctore of the House of Batiatus who sided with the slaves despite years of loyal service to Batiatus himself. But just because both men joined Spartacus' rebellion doesn't mean that they don't have agendas of their own to pursue.
"Crixus is hell-bent on finding Naevia – and struggling with his own culpability in what happened to her," revealed Bennett. "His relationship with Spartacus is hinged on a growing respect. This season we’re going to show how and why that camaraderie became what it was."
"For Oenomaus, the life he has known is gone. He’s an outlaw, but not because he wanted to be," related Mensah. "He lost touch with the rest of the gladiators because he had no real kinship with them at the end. He doesn’t know what to do with himself, where to be, or who to go to."
In 2011, viewers met the warrior known as Gannicus (Dustin Clare) during the prequel miniseries, "Spartacus: Gods of The Arena." In "Spartacus: Vengeance," Gannicus will also make his triumphant comeback as a changed man now that he has had a taste of freedom.
"We will see a man evolved," declared Clare. "[Gannicus is] a free man now, and his ideals clash with those of Spartacus."
Opposing Spartacus' quest for revenge is none other than Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker), the very man responsible for Spartacus' enslavement as a gladiator. Glaber is charged to lead the Roman troops against Spartacus and his men in order to put down their rebellion before it can spread to other parts of the republic. Unfortunately for Glaber, Spartacus' uprising has already bruised his standing with the Roman elite.
"Glaber just hates Spartacus," notes Parker. "It absolutely gores him that this slave has embarrassed and interrupted his life and career progression."
Also waiting in the wings are two very dangerous women, Glaber's wife Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) and Lucretia (Lucy Lawless); Batiatus' wife who somehow survived a seemingly fatal wound at the hands of her one time lover, Crixus.
"It’s safe to say [Lucretia has] lost her marbles," revealed Lawless. "She’s been through such a terrible shock and has survived. She knows no fear. It’s going to be fun to see how she gets back to being the Lucretia we all love to hate."
"The naïve, cherry-cheeked Roman noblewoman we met at the beginning of season one is no longer," added Bianca. "The Ilithyia we meet in season two is carrying a very heavy weighted suitcase of treachery, pain, deceit and lies."
"[Vengeance] really speaks to what practically everyone in this show wants on some level," offered DeKnight as he expanded upon the second season's new subtitle. "Everyone has an ax to grind this season – and the different ways they go about accomplishing it is really the fun part of the show."
"Vengeance is something so human, and something I understand very well," added "Spartacus" executive producer Rob Tapert. "We all die a death of 1,000 paper cuts, so to speak, but it’s something that’s ultimately soul-destroying. You have to let all those emotions and black weight go, or you’ll just be weighed down and mired in the mud and end up like these people, dead on a battlefield."
For Liam McIntyre, "Spartacus: Vengeance" represented a challenge not only to live up to the title character's mystique but also to the fantastic performance of the late Andy Whitfield; whose drive and passion helped make "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" into one of the most popular original series on STARZ.
Whitfield was forced to relinquish his role as Spartacus due to a recurrence of his non-Hodgkin lymphoma; a battle which ultimately cost Whitfield his life in September 2011. Prior to his tragic demise, Whitfield encouraged the producers of "Spartacus" to continue the series without him and to find a new leading man. And even when Whitfield was fighting for his life, he still found time to reach out to his successor.
"I know from experience that this is the job of a lifetime," said McIntyre. "It’s one you dream of getting and Andy was met with this tragic circumstance, and he still has the strength of character to contact me and say good luck and offer some tips on the grueling schedule. I think that speaks volumes of a man."
"It’s not how you want to start an incredible opportunity, and it’s obvious he left such a wonderful legacy," continued McIntyre. "His work in season 1 was exceptional, and a tough act to follow. But I’ve got an obligation to the fans, to the show – and Andy – to deliver on that."
The scale and scope of "Spartacus: Vengeance" will far exceed that of the first season, as the production crew delivers even more impressive action sequences, special effects and many beautiful naked women.
"We have gotten a lot of press about the sex and violence in the show. It’s pretty naughty stuff, but I don’t think that’s what people enjoy the most," related Lawless. "The nudity and brutality are incidental to the real violence – which is about people’s power plays and the evil that man perpetrates on one another."
It’s a rocking good ride!" continued Lawless. "It’s an emotional roller coaster. You know everyone is on the precipice of death all the time. There are no safety nets in this world. You get to watch people living this hideously exciting life that we wouldn’t want ourselves, but it sure is fun to watch!"
However, beyond the entire spectacle, the team behind "Spartacus: Vengeance" have an impressive commitment to the characters and the story above all else.
"We just want to tell a really good story," offered DeKnight. "We have action at our core, but we didn’t want it to be just that. We wanted it to have the complicated relationships, and the intrigue we’ve become very well known for."
"I like my finales to end in a really strong fashion – with an exclamation point, not a comma!" added DeKnight. "We’ve become known for our go-for-broke finishes, and this season will be the biggest yet. It’s absolutely gigantic!"
"Spartacus: Vengeance" will premiere on Friday, January 27, only on STARZ!