Friday 27 January will see the much anticipated return of Spartacus to the arena of television and scifipulse recently got in on a phone conference with new star Liam MacIntyre who was joined by Lucy Lawless, Viva Bianca and Peter Mensah who all return for Spartacus Vengeance.
Below are some highlights of this chat, which went for over an hour and provided us and other internet bloggers with some really interesting insights about the series as well as much good humour.
SciFiPulse: Our first question is for Lucy. When we see Lucretia at the start of the new series she is crazy and Ilithyia is having to take care of you. So I’m wondering if Lucretia is aware that Ilithyia really hates her and if she’ll eventually see Ilithyia’s bad side come out as the show progresses?
Lucy Lawless: Or does she find out mine? I don’t know, it’s, you know, I don’t want to give you too much. Needless to say, Lucretia and Ilithyia continues to have a very fraught relationship. Which is, Lucretia has to work very hard to make Ilithyia care about her again. And – or at least need her, because Ilithyia just wants her dead.
SciFiPulse: I imagine it would be a difficult situation, it being especially after, you know, she – Lucretia lost her baby. And now Ilithyia is pregnant.
Lucy Lawless: Yes, though Lucretia’s lost everything. She’s even lost her marbles, so that’s the least of her worries.
SciFiPulse: This one is for Viva Bianca. Just to follow-up a little bit on the previous question. And so we’ve seen Lucretia’s side of the equation. One of the best parts of the first season was of course Olivia and her scheming ways. Can you give us a little bit of a look at what we might see in the second season?
Viva Bianca: I think, you know, obviously what we all saw in season one was that Ilithyia developed into a more and more of a complex woman. So, you know, in turning into season two Spartacus Vengeance. Ilithyia has that whole recent history of really a guilty past. And a suitcase of treachery lies in deceit. So, firstly she has a lot to fight for and she’s had a lot to fight against. And, you know, as people become aware in season – in episode one, Ilithyia lands right back at the place she so much wants to escape. So it kind of just, you know, ends of playing out as a fight for her life really.
Lucy Lawless: That’s right. That’s right, it is a fight for her life, and her husband’s affections.
Viva Bianca: That’s right, and I think with regards to Ilithyia and Lucretia, what’s so interesting in season two is that, because of the circumstances in which they both landed, they are forced into a situation of becoming a lot closer than they even were in season one. Which means a potential for drama and the unraveling of relationship revelation is so much more interesting. Really there’s a lot in store in too for this female relationship.
Liam MacIntyre: Well that’s what I like about all the characters. I think it’s safe to say that every single character has death riding at the corner every time – at every turn, actually. From Spartacus all the way up to you guys.
Lucy Lawless: Yes.
Viva Bianca: Yes. It was not a kind or gentle society, that’s for sure.
Liam MacIntyre: No it wasn’t.
SciFiPulse: Lucy we just have to know, is Lucretia that batshit crazy, or is there a method to her madness?
Lucy Lawless: Up to you to decide. I tell you what, by the end all will be revealed. That absolutely definitely answer – covered.
SciFiPulse: Liam since Spartacus has been renewed for a third season, is there anything you want to change about how you played your character in Vengeance for the next season?
Liam MacIntyre: I just want him to keep growing. To be honest, I’ve been given this great honor in carrying on this legacy and I feel, especially getting towards those last episodes, it was really – he’s just really getting to a very interesting place.
SciFiPulse: Viva I don’t know if you can answer this, but I’m sure the world wants to know, who’s your baby daddy?
Viva Bianca: Well that is why you have to watch Spartacus Vengeance. That is the big question on everyone’s lips. Is it Lucretia with a turkey baster. Yes I know, that’s the mystery. But, you know, all will be revealed eventually.
SciFiPulse: Liam, you play a character that was already portrayed by another actor. So I was wondering, how did you manage to carry on the character that Andy Whitehead had built, but also leave your own mark as an actor?
Liam MacIntyre: I’m very lucky in that I – the writing team is absolutely sensational, and that Starz is really supportive. So Starz early on said, you know, make the character your own, treat it as your own character. You know, that they didn’t expect me to copy anything. I did watch all of Andy’s amazing work. And so I don’t know if any parts was osmosis or kind of like a kind of influenced me in any way. I can’t be sure, but I mean hopefully because he was sensational. But I mean realistically I just tried to be true to the character which, you know, essentially stays the same. Because the writing is the same and all of that lovely humanity and those difficult choices and all that. Then that struggle that Spartacus goes through, it’s still there this season. So I didn’t get the honor of being able to treat that with respect and truth. And hopefully you have a character that feels the same as the great character that Andy portrayed.
SciFiPulse: Spartacus has a bit of dilemma in that he has to choose between leading the rebels or going after his personal vengeance against Glaber. What’s your take on that?
Liam MacIntyre: It is possibly the biggest battle that Spartacus has beyond the battles that he fights. I think obviously it’s called Vengeance, and part of – like that – a large part of that vengeance is that vengeance he feels against (Glaber) and the Roman Empire as a – I’m sorry, the Roman Republic – yes, the Roman Republic as a person who’s been wronged. And his family’s been taken away from him. So that drives him throughout season one and into season two.
And I think the biggest challenge that Spartacus faces is embracing that bigger cause that I guess ultimately left its mark on history. Which is that of taking these disparate people – these rebels, and building them into a force that is for a while certainly the match of Rome. It’s something that he really has to get to the bottom to – the bottom of this season. It’s one of his great challenges. And something that I was – I made really important in exploring this year.
SciFiPulse: Ilithyia had a great deal to do with much of the bloody intrigue that happened in the first season. So, will she be punished somehow for her actions this year?
Lucy Lawless: She’s a good little girl.
Viva Bianca: She’s such a naughty girl. Look, you know, this show calmly comes and bites everyone in the ass. So, you know, Ilithyia will get her own. But there’s going to be a real journey for Ilithyia in season two, where she’s on a roller coaster of – just when she thought she’s going to break through and breach her dreams, the rug will be pulled from beneath her. And she’ll feel like she’s falling through the depths of the earth. So it’s a real dramatic roller coaster for Ilithyia.
SciFiPulse: Have you guys ever been affected by some of the violence you portray in the series?
Lucy Lawless: Always surprised, but they look – we’re not affected because they never look that way in actually does on the screen. It’s all done in post, you know. Quite brilliant.
Viva Bianca: I think it was David Mamet who said, “An actor must always defend his character.” And so I think as an actor, you become very good at emphasizing a character, however evil or misguided the character is. Certain for Ilithyia or any of the villains on the show. You have to find a reason – or many reasons as to why a character is doing a scene. So like for instance in episode four, Ilithyia does very a brutal thing – I think that’s what you’re referring to.
There was a moment when I think I was saying to (Rob) just afterwards, “Oh my god, I can’t believe what Ilithyia actually just did.” Like the reality of what one human is doing to another. And that was actually my…
Lucy Lawless: What did you do? I can’t remember.
Viva Bianca: I don’t know if I’m allowed to say it.
Lucy Lawless: Something that you did last – I thought you meant the first season, okay.
Viva Bianca: No, you’re talking about the season two, were you sir?
SciFiPulse: Yes, season two.
Viva Bianca: Yes, so at the Roman party in the villa.
Lucy Lawless: Oh, oh yes.
Viva Bianca: That whole piñata scene.
Lucy Lawless: But it was all about brinksmanship, wasn’t it? That you were getting one up on the young lady. So yes you’re right, you become that character.
Viva Bianca: You become the character, and the truth is for these Roman aristocratic people, they didn’t consider slaves, or people of that class, as people. And to really feel like, for instance, for Lucy and I to get ourselves into that mentality is quite an extreme step. But it is a step that an actor has to make in order to, you know, enter that ancient Roman society, and to play these kinds of women.
SciFiPulse: Liam the brothel scene was quite an eye opener and I’m wondering with it being your first year. Did you ever find yourself walking through those sets and thinking wow, did that…
Liam MacIntyre: It’s one of my greatest one. I mean I loved the show before, you know, before I got the call to be part of it. So I kind of knew what I was getting into. But that’s one of my greatest memories from the whole year, was watching our director from a distance in what was essentially the sign language version of the scene. So I got to watch him throw his hands around and do all the motions and actions as he described what he wanted to see as this camera panned through there. And that was one of the greatest memories I’ll ever take with me, because that was hilarious.
But I mean there is a moment where I have to attack a gentleman’s (money) making facility, and that was one of the most harrowing moments in my life. Because it’s kind of, you know, a sword, a small little protective kind of steel rig, and his gear, and a whole lot of hope, and so that was one of the very first days of shooting. And I’m like, “Oh god, what have I got myself into?”
SciFiPulse: Viva, I was wondering, you seem to really enjoy being the bad girl. Does it also feel kind of empowering to be that pure evil?
Viva Bianca: I’m a really nice person. You know what, I would so love to play a really virtuous, heroic person after Ilithyia. But Ilithyia’s a very satisfying role to play. And, you know, because she isn’t just pure bad. And the lovely thing in season two is the writers gave me a lovely range and complexity to explore. So I think the audience will get to see many different sides to Ilithyia. And of course there will still be that scheming, naughty girl, and then (almost) a lady now. But yes, I think maybe I see some vulnerability.
SciFiPulse: Liam you mentioned earlier about trying to make the role of Spartacus your own. Is there any specific approach or technique you have been employing to do this?
Liam MacIntyre: I guess just you work extremely hard and diligently. And it’s one of those things that early on, you go, well you just can’t – you have to use everything in your power to do the best job you can. And I mean I got trained really well by my first acting coach I hope, and that and you just put your tail between your legs and just work really hard until it’s all finished and cross your fingers. I don’t know, there’s no simple trick, or we’d all be doing it I suppose.
SciFiPulse: With there being so many fight scenes and such on the show. How have you been keeping in shape for it?
Liam MacIntyre: Well it’s a rare and lucky person who gets to be a 10-year-old for a whole year. It’s fantastic. But I mean getting into shape, well I – I mean early on when I started the process of testing for this role, I’d done another film where I was 45 pounds lighter or thereabouts. So I was going for that whole machinist look. And unfortunately I was succeeding. And so getting from that – well first of all, I thought there was no way I’d ever even be considered, but they did consider me.
And I got taught exactly how horrible training can be. In much the way that people say, “Do you get used to sex scenes?” And the answer’s generally “No.” “Do you get used to lifting ridiculous amounts of weights?” No really. I think the point is that you do it and it really hurts. But it’s one of the few things in life where you get to see tangible results. So I guess it’s worthwhile.
SciFiPulse: So you’re saying you gained 45 pounds of muscle for this role?
Liam MacIntyre: Something like that. I haven’t done the math, but a lot. Because, you know, I certainly look a lot more healthier than I did back then.
SciFiPulse: Lucy you was in Gods of the Arena, which was a great little prequel to the first Spartacus. And Viva you’ll be coming back to Vengeance after a short hiatus from the Spartacus world. And Liam, you come in for the first time. I mean I just – I don’t have many questions at all, but to all of you, what have your processes been like for getting back into these characters?
Viva Bianca: Well I mean like for me, because Lucy is also in the prequel, a year had passed pretty much between shooting – wrapping on season one and starting on season two. And yet at the same time, I mean the reality of our show, it was only about eight weeks that had passed between the end of season one, beginning of Vengeance. So it was kind of quite challenging actually. Yes, it was really quite challenging to go back into the world and feel that level of acute – continuity that was required, and to find the character again. But it was actually so fun to go back into the character. I was really happy to do it.
Liam MacIntyre: Yes. For me I guess it’s a unique situation. But I mean I watched the first season and Gods of the Arena, you know, countless lines. And so for me I guess it was unique in the way that, I mean I really felt like I was right there with all of (Eddie’s) performances. So I mean, I really felt like I got like Spartacus – I got Spartacus as he portrayed him. So to me more than anything, it was important to make sure that Spartacus as a character continued as that character and not just some totally different person who, you know, was inspired by different things.
And, you know, the world as a different place for him. So I guess I had a unique situation of trying to create a new Spartacus that felt like, you know, the same kind of guy that Andy’s Spartacus was. So, you know, I mean it was a fantastic and very unique process to go through. It must be a really sad thing to have to kind of even look at. But, you know, it was – I certainly will never – touch wood, never have to go through anything like that again in my life, I suppose.
Lucy Lawless: And I just put on the hair and bang, Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.
SciFiPulse: Lucy was it not a challenge going to Spartacus: Vengeance after having done the prequel Gods Of The Arena?
Lucy Lawless: That was less of a challenge than it was a help actually. Because you got the very rare chance to revisit your character and see what formed them, which was such a pleasure. Oh my god, I was so lucky. And it really helped round out the character – her softness. Her potential for hope and, you know, because she could default to that. If Ilithyia would just be kind to her, Lucretia would be kind back, but Ilithyia doesn’t know how. So therefore Lucretia has to stamp on her to kick her – finish her off.
SciFiPulse: Liam, Spartacus gets into this wonderful relationship with Mirra who is played by Katrina Law. I wonder if you could tell us if, after everything that Spartacus has gone through with his wife, if there is a possibility of love for him? What can you tell us about this relationship?
Liam MacIntyre: Well I guess who doesn’t need love deep down? You know, I think that’s very true of everybody. So it’s, you know, that was a great thing to get to play with all year because, you know, in season one, Sura said you will never love another person. And that’s kind of like a truism for Spartacus’s existence. So he now has the problem is – which is a real problem for everybody that falls into those horrible circumstances that, you know, can you ever love again. And he certainly wants to.
You know, I think Spartacus certainly wants so, and he’s going to try. But it’s very, very difficult of thing for him to try and – not only move on, but move into any relationship. So it’s a constant struggle throughout the season.
SciFiPulse: In the first season Crixus and Spartacus were at odds, but since they rebelled there is no an uneasy alliance and still devisions between the two men. What can you tell us about the position of their relationship in this season?
Liam MacIntyre: It’s one of the great parts of the season, I really think. There’s a – in fact, all of the kind of, I guess you call them the big dogs on campus, you know all the alpha males of the (Ludis) have a very difficult journey trying to even get along because of the nature of who they are. And so with Crixus and Spartacus there’s a desire to work together but just a difference of view which really just dovetails and splits apart throughout the season and that goes and that’s true with other characters that appear in the rebels camp that are very powerful characters.
And part of the battle that Spartacus has is to A, want to lead them and then find a way to do that and actually unify people. So to this day I still don’t understand how one man can unify so many different cultures and creeds into one cause. I mean, I don’t know if it’s ever been done before or since.
SciFiPulse: Peter, I think it’s fantastic all the background information that we’re learning on Oenomaus this season. He’s deeply embarrassed over being a part of the taking down of The House of Batiatus. How does Oenomaus go from being, you know, this shamed person into the rebel that he’s meant to become in history?
Peter Mensah: I think actually that my understanding of Oenomaus; journey was that it wasn’t so much embarrassment at aiding the rebels as that he was caught at making the right decision at a certain point in time which led him into a sort of a no-win situation.
He knew what was going on at the house of Batiatus which ultimately was wrong so in the moment he assisted and did what he thought was the right thing. And that leaves him in a no-mans land and the journey then or the question then becomes if you have nowhere to go what do you do with your life.
And I think that’s the biggest question he faces as the season starts is not having an affiliation to anyone in particular, not necessarily believing in the cause if there actually was one. He has to figure out what to do with his life and it’s sort of – so this season is a journey that he undergoes to understand and find a place in the world.
SciFiPulse: Do you feel that it’s easier or more difficult to still play slightly fishlines versions of historical characters that have some vague and sometimes contradictory real life pasts. I mean, some of what we learned about them contradicts what’s come before.
Liam MacIntyre: I don’t know because one of the things that I loved about researching Spartacus is that there are maybe four, five, six wildly varying accounts of what happened and who did it and how and very few people agree and often many of the reports are written hundreds of years after.
In a way it’s the perfect story to tell because it’s a great story with only little signposts for historical markers. So it’s great playing a character who is historically very valid and viable but has the creativity and drama of a well-written piece.
Peter Mensah: Well, I think the interesting thing is no there are very absolute histories in this world and so we on top of that are providing entertainment. We’re playing with the story or a version of the story and I think what makes this really entertaining is that you take such a heroic depiction of a character as we do in Spartacus and you’ve get someone like Liam who takes it on and plays – he does such a remarkable job of showing the conflict that may have been in this man. And Liam makes it very very real.
And I think what really works is that because there is license to play with history, we – and, you know, obviously with the grace of the audience, we get to actually go out and provide a version of what might have happened. And in no way are we claiming this is exactly what happened. You know, we’re just telling a story.
So hopefully we tell an entertaining one. And I love – this is why I love my craft because it’s sort of a chance to take a look at a situation and give a version of how we feel it may have happened.
SciFiPulse: The first season was largely centered on the House of Batiatus and the (Ludis) and so with the second season it seems the story is definitely widening in scope. How did that affect how you approached the characters or how they approached the situation.? Maybe give us a little insight into that.
Peter Mensah: Come on, Ladies. I’m just deferring.
Viva Bianca: To me, it was different coming back to the House of Batiatus and actually being the lady of the house, the (domina) and kind of being like a subversion in power in roles with Lucretia.
So it was just kind of being in the same environment as season one but with a different relationship to that environment. So it was good because it meant that it was different and as an actor it’s always nice to be challenged by new things.
Peter Mensah: I think what was great about it is with each episode we kind of have a little bit more information, a little bit more experience playing your character and I definitely feel like playing Oenomaus it was – it’s a sort of leaning, continuing learning curve always finding out the elements that help at one point, make him who he is and then exploring so the journey as it unfolds, he has to figure out, okay, there’s one structure in life that I was attached to, it’s all gone so now what do I do?
So it was sort of the expanding story. It was actually something I really embraced and I felt it was really useful in playing the character because it allowed for, you know, different platforms to react to. I think (unintelligible) and everybody meets Oenomaus in the first season as Doctore. He’s pretty impassive. He doesn’t’ really let on much.
And as the story unfolds you see a human person and the reasons why he was the way he was when you first meet him and I think in this season we really get to explore when all those structures are gone from him he’s incredibly vulnerable and for an actor it was just great to go to a higher range from being that dominant person to a person who really had to show every single emotion. So I loved doing it. It was a fantastic fantastic season to work.
Lucy Lawless: Yes, my character goes from having everything and being on the make on the up and up with her husband to losing everything, her husband, her baby, her lover, her house, her status and in marble. So it’s going to be – she’s going to have to claw her way back to any kind of safety. And she’s in a pit of vipers so she better watch out. No offense, Ilithyia.
Viva Bianca: I’m offended, Lucy. Not really.
SciFiPulse: Peter. Earlier you were talking about the fact that Oenomaus had to make that choice at the end of the first season. Of course, part of that was the fact that he had been betrayed by Spartacus. So how does that play into the beginning of the second season if you can give us a taste.
Peter Mensah: Well, actually, that’s the interesting thing. Effectively, you know, he recognizes that he has no affiliation. He’s been betrayed by everyone he knows and so the problem for Oenomaus as the season begins is, you know, he doesn’t identify himself with the rebels and absolutely is no longer attached to the (Ludis).
And remember he was just about to gain his freedom when all hell broke loose. So he remains a slave, he doesn’t have a status, he has no friends, it’s a pretty sad beginning to the show. So, you know, as I say, I hope everybody can go along on the journey with him but it’s a pretty tough place to start.
Liam MacIntyre: That’s one of the things I loved working with you on as our characters – when we meet was how we could build that relationship between us after we build that bridge. I think Peter is a real great thinking man’s actor and it was a real pleasure to be able to kind of develop that kind of relationship with someone like that.
Peter Mensah: Thanks, Liam. I don’t remember thinking too much but, hey.
Liam MacIntyre: Well, it looks like it so that’s how good an actor is. You can look like a part while acting.
Peter Mensah: Oh, that’s the acting part.
Liam MacIntyre: No, but it was really great for all those reasons and that kind of betrayal especially from Season One giving – when Andy gives you the poison (challis) as it were and really just building up because you’re a real powerful driving force in the rebellion as it moves forward and then really trying to get a relationship, way to base that relationship in was great.
Peter Mensah: Well, I think that’s one of the interesting things about this season is that all the journeys that everyone goes through. Spartacus has so many sort of battles to fight but at the same time the humanity in him is what I think you tend to identify with and what Oenomaus sees in him ultimately as being someone to align with.
And I think that’s the interesting part. Everyone in this story has to find out who their affiliations are to and what they believe and sort of what to stand up for. And, you know, Liam plays a very strong very sensitive Spartacus that also sees all the conflict but somehow or other finds himself the leader of men and has to find a way.
And I think this is the journey – every character in this has to find out who they really are. And then Steve, his writers have actually put in a number of really challenging scenarios in front of everyone and I think that’s what helps the audience sort of go along with it.
So as usual there is no one clear path so what you might see in one episode gives you no indication what’s going to happen next which is, you know, the brilliant part about doing the show.
SciFiPulse: My first question is for Liam. It’s to do with (Tiberius). I’ve seen the first two episodes and I think you’re doing a great job by the way, You know, I was a little bit worried and a little bit anxious about a new actor coming in to play Spartacus and I’m not as worried now. You’re doing a great job.
Anyway, the scene in the second episode where you actually start training (Tiberius) after he’s made an attempt on Spartacus’ life. I’m just wondering will we see Spartacus and somebody else training more slaves as gladiators in the series. As in could you give a few hints as to how that’s all going to pan out.
Liam MacIntyre: Well, that brings up one of the points that I love about this season that I think Steven DeKnight and his team have captured well is that Spartacus was a free man and then became a slave and has now freed himself and his band.
But they really raise an issue that I like to think that Spartacus may not have really thought about because I guess the regular person wouldn’t think about it and that’s better the devil you know sometimes.
Are they better off out of that horrible system or was it, you know, and so I like the idea that they introduce characters that do challenge the idea because now they’re on the run for their life, at least before they had a life albeit a not so glamorous one in some regards.
But as far as training characters, it becomes – well, the rebels are fighting the greatest force Europe has ever known. You know, the military leaders of the known world at the time and that can’t be done with just a handful of gladiators.
So they really have a responsibility to their own survival to create their own force that can stand on their own two feet. So getting more people on board and making sure they’re fighting fit becomes very important to the rebels.
SciFiPulse: I’ve got a little bit of follow-up for that as well. In the first episode it’s kind of apparent that there’s a little bit of a triangle going on between yourself, Crixus and Mira. In the episode Spartacus and Crixus agree to head south and get out of harms way and set up in the mountains and Mira tells Crixus that you wandered off, that she woke up and you weren’t there. Is that likely to play out a bit more as the season goes on? As in that kind of triumvirate.
Liam MacIntyre: It gets more and more complicated so rather than Spartacus getting that nice simple all right so we’ve sorted things out. Why is it they keep going that? His life made harder by different deals and different characters appearing and changing the terms of engagement in some regards. So he when the cause of true love never did run smooth. The course of war isn’t easy either, sadly, for him.
SciFiPulse: I’ve got a quick question for Lucy actually. I noticed at the end of the first episode we see the reemergence of Ashur and, you know, I just found Lucretia’s reaction to that reemergence of Ashur was kind of, you know, interesting. It was almost like she, you know, he’s somewhat special. Is that what you…
Lucy Lawless: I don’t really see it as that but certainly he’s a touchstone to her past and to her husband. So she can’t remember much but he stirs something in her and look for more developments there Because Nick and I talk about this all the time, we find our characters very much the same, really motivated by to survive in way they can. All bets are off with the two of them so look at if they pair up.
SciFiPulse: I just wanted to quickly ask about, you know, there was also scene in the first two episodes where you – you’re out with Lucretia and we capture a glimpse of Seppia and she’s sort of like being pampered and all that. And even Lucretia kind of reacts. And I’m just wondering will we see more tension between your character around Seppia as the season unravels?
Viva Bianca: Well, you know, I think I’m planting Seppia in the Roman world which is really clever because actually she is a direct competition for Ilithyia. She’s absolutely of Ilithyia’s class and she’s also…
Lucy Lawless: Some would say higher.
Liam MacIntyre: Stop it you two. Stop it you two.
Viva Bianca: I think more importantly she’s younger. She also embodies a similar quality I think to what Ilithyia had to the beginning of season one, that absolutely kind of spoiled kind of naïve giggly thing going on. And I think in a way Ilithyia sees herself in Seppia but she’s also seeing a real threat.
I mean, girls are girls after all, right? But there is a really very interesting storyline that will play out with Seppia and Ilithyia in the Roman world that, you know, is very cleverly written.
Spartacus: Vengeance will return to Starz on Friday 27, which is this Friday. Fans in the UK will not have to wait to long either because the series launches on Sky One on Monday 30 at 10PM. So don’t miss this great show.
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By Ian M. Cullen