Starz has chosen Australian actor Liam McIntyre to step into Andy Whitfield’s sandals for the eagerly anticipated second season of its hit series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.” McIntyre, whose modest resume includes an appearance on HBO’s WWII miniseries “The Pacific,” will now play the titular hero.

McIntyre tells NY Times:

It’s been the toughest thing. Every actor dreams of getting a big break, a big opportunity. Andy’s such a wonderful actor. I don’t want to follow that guy, and everybody hurts that he’s had to give up the role, myself included.

Andy’s Spartacus is always going to be Andy’s Spartacus, and I would never try and emulate that. Or try to be him. I think that should stand alone as his legacy.

All I know is my foreseeable future is living in the gym. They’ll tell me when I can start doing the lines and doing the performance. There’ll be some acting there eventually, I’m sure.

“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” debuted last January to over a million viewers, making it the Starz network’s most watched program. Whitfield’s on-going battle with Stage 1 non-Hodgkin lymphoma forced him to step down as the show’s Spartacus character back in September.

“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” is a six-part prequel series originally created to buy Whitfield some time back when he was first diagnosed. The show follows Batiatus (John Hannah) and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) as they strive for power and influence over the city of Capua. It premieres on Friday.

Starz plans to air “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” season two in September.

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