Spartacus: Vengeance Cast Interview – Liam McIntyre, Lucy Lawless, Viva Bianca, and Peter Mensah
Are you ready to return to the violent world of gladiators fighting against their Roman oppressors and women who are as wicked and cruel as their male counterparts? If so, then prepare to be wowed with the return of Starz’ Spartacus: Vengeance on January 27, 2012. Liam McIntyre takes over the lead role of Spartacus following the tragic illness and death of Andy Whitfield, and in a conference call with the cast – McIntyre, Lucy Lawless, Viva Bianca, and Peter Mensah – I asked Liam about handling Spartacus this season.
Whitfield had wanted the show to go on and supported McIntyre’s casting, something which Liam told me meant more than words can explain. “Things like that are more important than you can imagine,” said McIntyre. “As you know, especially being a fan of the show, it’s the last thing you want to hear is that the star of one of your favorite shows has been taken ill. And then it’s also a strange situation to then be told to try and keep that thing alive – that character alive. And to know that the person who made it so wonderful was on your side, as it were, especially considering all the harrowing personal experiences he had to survive at the time. That means more to an actor than you can possibly imagine. Humbling is probably the most appropriate word. Very humbling. And a little daunting.”
Co-star Peter Mensah added, “But all of us that were on set recognized the sheer amount of work that Liam had put in. He didn’t just show up and walk on. He was there for months ahead of time working. Really, he devoted an awful lot of effort to this. So I think all of us on set appreciated how much he had put into it to be that character and to step in and take over and keep the role going. So all of us that’d been there originally with Andy, certainly appreciate Liam.”
“That’s right,” said Viva Bianca. “And he had to become our new leader. I think we all agreed that from Day 1, he dealt with the situation with complete grace and humility.”
“I know that from my experience ever since the very first test in New Zealand where I had to work with you know, Manu Bennett and Brooke and Craig, and all those people that were just fantastic in their roles, that from the person that picked me up at the airport to Rob the producer it was like working with a family,” explained McIntyre. “And it was very hard to leave when I didn’t know if I had the role, because it really felt like I was in a special environment with a family and a bunch of people that really cared. I was lucky enough to have that with all my cast and crew as I tried to take on this crazy task.”
So, how did it feel to get the role and then deliver that famous line – “I am Spartacus” – for the very first time? McIntyre answered my question, still sounding a bit overwhelmed by it all. “It’s such a big line, isn’t it? And in this instance more so than any other time. I remember acutely Andy’s Spartacus saying that in the arena at the top of his lungs, you know? And going back to the Stanley Kubrick Spartacus where everybody says they’re Spartacus. I guess it’s kind of like saying, ‘I’m Bond, James Bond,’ or something like that.”
“You know, I wanted to do like 100 takes and the director just had to sit down and say, ‘We’ve got it. Move one. We’ve got to film the show. Come on.’ You just try to be honest and truthful with your character and say it as he needed to say it in the script and hope that you don’t look like an idiot.”
Liam McIntyre, Lucy Lawless, Viva Bianca, and Peter Mensah Spartacus: Vengeance Conference Call
Lucretia’s crazy when the season starts and she’s reunited with Ilithyia. Do you find out Ilithyia’s bad side as the season progresses?
Lucy Lawless: “Or does she find out mine? I don’t know. I don’t want to give you too much. Needless to say, Lucretia and Ilithyia continue to have a very fraught relationship. Which is, Lucretia has to work very hard to make Ilithyia care about her again – or at least need her – because Ilithyia just wants her dead.”
Viva Bianca, can you give us a little bit of a look at what we might see in the second season for Ilithyia?
Viva Bianca: “I think, you know, obviously what we all saw in season one was that Ilithyia developed into more and more of a complex woman. So in turning into season two of Spartacus: Vengeance, Ilithyia has that whole recent history of, really, a guilty past and a suitcase of treachery, lies, and deceit. So, firstly, she has a lot to fight for and she’s had a lot to fight against. And as people become aware in episode one, Ilithyia lands right back at the place she so much wants to escape. So it kind of just ends up playing out as a fight for her life, really.”
Lucy Lawless: “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 a relationship revelation is so much more interesting. Really, there’s a lot in store in two for this female relationship.”
Liam McIntyre: “Well, that’s what I like about all the characters. I think it’s safe to say that every single character has a death rider 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.”
Is Lucretia actually that 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 [is] covered.”
Does your inner Xena ever come out? And do you want to pick up a sword and fight along with the boys?
Lucy Lawless: “Not even once. It’s a stinky, smelly world down there. I have no intention of going. I’m going to sit up with Ilithyia and eat Turkish Delight.”
Viva Bianca: “Ilithyia’s a good girlie girl.”
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 McIntyre: “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, he’s just really getting to a very interesting place.”
Lucy Lawless: “Maybe pants.”
Liam McIntyre: “A bit more pants. Yes, we can put some pants in there. If we can talk to some people, that would be great. Maybe occasionally even an unbuttoned shirt, that will be fine. But, yes, it’s been great sort of getting to grow with the character. And in going into season three, there’s even more craziness in store. So I really look forward to exploring it and just growing more, you know? It’s a great privilege.”
Liam, will you be checking out Facebook to see what the reaction is to your character?
Liam McIntyre: “Well I’m a bit of a dork, so I know how I can be with things I’m passionate about. So having that in mind, I’ll probably insulate myself from that a little bit and just let the fans judge as they will and make their own decisions. And I’ll curl into a bed and hope for the best.”Viva, 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. It’s Lucretia with a turkey baster. Yes I know, that’s the mystery. But, you know, all will be revealed eventually.”
Liam, you played a character that was already played by another actor. How did you manage to carry on the character that Andy Whitfield had built, but also leave your own mark as an actor?
Liam McIntyre: “Well, I mean I’m very lucky in that the writing team is absolutely sensational, and that Starz is really supportive. So Starz early on said, ‘Make the character your own. Treat it as your own character.’ 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 part was osmosis or kind of like influenced me in any way. I can’t be sure, but I mean hopefully because he was sensational. 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 did 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.”
How did you go about trying to make Spartacus your own?
Liam McIntyre: “I guess just you work extremely hard and diligently. And it’s one of those things that early on, you go, you have to use everything in your power to do the best job you can. 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.”
What do you think will be more important to Spartacus: his personal issues or the cause he has sustained?
Liam McIntyre: “It is possibly the biggest battle that Spartacus has, beyond the battles that he fights. I think obviously it’s called Vengeance, and a large part of that vengeance is that vengeance he feels against Glaber and the Roman Empire – 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.
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 of this season. It’s one of his great challenges, and something I made really important in exploring this year.”
Ilithyia was involved in and caused a great part of all this bloody intrigue that happened in the first season. So, will she be punished somehow? Will she feel guilty about what happened?
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, 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.”
While you’re filming this, are you ever affected by the violent scenes? Or are you ever surprised by them?
Lucy Lawless: “Always surprised. We’re not affected because they never look that way in actuality. 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. Certainly 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… There was a moment when I think I was saying 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.” [Spoiler deleted]
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 enter that ancient Roman society, and to play these kinds of women.”
Liam, do you walk through these sets – like the brothel – and see that stuff going on and think, “Wow, did that happen?”
Liam McIntyre: “I loved the show 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… So that was one of the very first days of shooting. And I’m like, ‘Oh god, what have I got myself into?’”
Viva, 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 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.”
How did you get in shape and what did you go through to handle a sword and all those crazy acrobatic moves they have you doing?
Liam McIntyre: “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 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?’ Not 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.”
You gained 45 pounds of muscle for this role?
Liam McIntyre: “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. I’ve still got a photo of that disgusting, small…”Lucy and Viva, how do you approach getting ready to do the sex scenes?
Lucy Lawless: “You know what? I’ve done things again this season that I’ve never, ever done before and never seen on television before – and it was very heavy duty. There were days when I would just go home and just have a quiet little melt-down and just go to sleep. Because it was so demanding emotionally. So…”
So you don’t go home and hug your husband or something else?
Lucy Lawless: “Oh let me tell you, this does great things for the viewer’s sex life. Not so much for the participants. It’s like aversion therapy.”
Liam McIntyre: “It’s difficult to have that conversation. ‘What did you do today honey?’ ‘Well, long story…’
Lucy Lawless: “Sometimes I do need a hug because it’s harrowing. It’s really harrowing.”
Viva Bianca: “Well I think as well what Lucy might be talking about is, you know, some of the sex scenes or storylines in Spartacus that involves sex are actually not in any way of a turn-on. They can be quite brutal. I mean, the show is talking about exploitation of slaves and of women and a lot of the violence is actually talking about some very serious stuff. So it’s kind of far from a turn-on. And can be quite horrific, and as an actor to carry that, you know, it can be quite heavy on us.”
What have your processes been like for getting back into these characters?
Viva Bianca: “For me, because Lucy is also in the prequel, a year had passed pretty much between 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 McIntyre: “Yes. For me, I guess it’s a unique situation. I watched the first season and Gods of the Arena countless times. 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 Andy’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 was inspired by different things.
I guess I had a unique situation of trying to create a new Spartacus that felt like 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.”
Lucy, you had just done this Spartacus prequel and you’ve been living in essentially the past of this character that you played for a while.
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, 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 and finish her off.”
Liam, Spartacus gets into this wonderful relationship with Katrina Law’s character. After everything Spartacus has gone through with his wife, is there a possibility of love for him? What can you say about their relationship?
Liam McIntyre: “Well I guess who doesn’t need love deep down? You know, I think that’s very true of everybody. So 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’ existence. So he now has the problem 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 to, and he’s going to try. But it’s very, very difficult of a thing for him to try and – not only move on, but move into any relationship. So it’s a constant struggle throughout the season.”
What can you tell us about the relationship between Spartacus and Crixus this season?
Liam McIntyre: “It’s one of the great parts of the season, I really think. 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 ludus 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’s true with other characters that appear in the rebels’ camp that are very powerful characters.
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.”
How does Oenomaus go from being 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-man’s 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 so this season is a journey that he undergoes to understand and find a place in the world.”
Do you feel that it’s easier or more difficult to play slightly fictitious versions of historical characters that have some vague and sometimes contradictory real life pasts? Some of what we learned about them contradicts what’s come before.
Liam McIntyre: “You think? 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 there are [no] 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.
I think what really works is that because there is license to play with history – and 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. 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.”
Does anybody think that after the season’s wrap-up there will be a big screen version, kind of like what they’re getting ready to do with 24?
Lucy Lawless: “Cool idea.”
Liam McIntyre: “Wouldn’t that be fun?”
Peter Mensah: “I think you should tell someone that.”
Liam McIntyre: “Yeah. Get on that. Start that trend.”
Viva Bianca: “We just need a budget.”
Lucy Lawless: “What we need is money…”
Liam McIntyre: “I’ll give you a budget, $100 million dollars.”
Peter Mensah: “Just ask James Cameron for the money.”
Liam McIntyre: “We just need an investor, I think, is the real key.”
Lucy Lawless: “We’re kind of making a movie every week.”
Liam McIntyre: “It is like that, isn’t it? It is like that. I feel like I’ve made ten little movies.”
What about lending your likenesses and voices to a Spartacus video game?
Liam McIntyre: “Trust me, if there’s a video game out I’m so excited about the possibility of that happening. I would love that.”
Lucy Lawless: “There was an app early on in the days of apps.”
Viva Bianca: “Okay. There’s been lots of like graphic novel-kind of comic book things I’ve seen.”
Lucy Lawless: “I think there’s no way to stay out of that sort of stuff these days, you know? It’s all just par for the course possibly.”
Liam McIntyre: “It’s a fun world to play in, I think, like for that same reason that Peter was talking about that you can tell a version of a story. It’s a fun story to explore and all in all the different avenues. So, I mean, here’s hoping, right?”
Lucy Lawless: “And wonderful wish fulfillment for people.”
Liam McIntyre: “Yeah.”
Lucy Lawless: “People want to be Spartacus. They want to be Crixus.”
This show is about an ancient period of time and it’s stripped of all the modern trappings that we have now. Is it a clash to do what you do and then walk off the set and walk to cars, cell phones, computers, laptops, assistants? Does your brain just go, “What the hell is going on?”
Peter Mensah: “Your brain needs it because I don’t know if we could survive in that world?”
Lucy Lawless: “Actually, no, it’s really important to be able to walk away from the modern world, away from your family, away from your relationship and go into this make-believe world of ancient Rome. It’s helpful to have that universe separate from your own.”
Viva Bianca: “I think that’s a lot of what makes actors actors. We love going into fantasy make-believe worlds and playing. So the fact that we get to go into a world that is so far from our own reality is part of the joy.”
Lucy Lawless: “It’s like having a second life. It’s like having a virtual life experience, and I just love it. I’ve had a really crazy ride as Lucretia this season. The most intense stuff I’ve ever, ever shot. And I’m really grateful.”
Liam McIntyre: “As far as slipping back into the modern world though, I think it’s not too challenging for some people, I think. There’s a photo somewhere of most of the rebels on their iPads/iPhones in a row. I think that was quite – that’s something I found really, really…”
Lucy Lawless: “Is that right because that’s banned from our set?”
Liam McIntyre: “I know. And I think as a result it was banned from ours. But, yeah, there was one…”
Viva Bianca: “I thought there was an email going around about those iPhones.”
Liam McIntyre: “Yeah, I think that’s because [of the] rebels. Sorry about that.”
Lucy Lawless: “They’ve got more time. There’s a lot of people doing things…”
Viva Bianca: “We had a lot of dialogue because we were Romans.”
Liam McIntyre: “All right, don’t show off.”
Lucy Lawless: “Don’t rub it in.”
Liam McIntyre: “I know. They should have been in a gym somewhere, working out.”
Lucy Lawless: “No, it’s good. It’s like having the kids in the back of the car. You give them a video game, you keep them quiet. That’s what we do with the rebels. We let them play with their iPads.”
Liam McIntyre: “‘Sit there and be a good boy. We’ll call you when we need you.’”
This season the story is widening in scope. How did that affect how you approached the character or how they approached the situation?
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. 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. I definitely feel like playing Oenomaus, it’s a sort of 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?’
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 different platforms to react to. 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. 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 up and up with her husband, to losing everything, her husband, her baby, her lover, her house, her status and in marble. So 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.”
Oenomaus had to make a choice at the end of the first season. How does that play into the beginning of the second season?
Peter Mensah: “Well, actually, that’s the interesting thing. 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, he doesn’t identify himself with the rebels and absolutely is no longer attached to the Ludus. 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 McIntyre: “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 McIntyre: “Well, it looks like it so that’s how good an actor he is. You can look like a part while acting.”
Peter Mensah: “Oh, that’s the acting part.”
Liam McIntyre: “No, but it was really great for all those reasons and that kind of betrayal especially from Season One 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 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. I think this is the journey. Every character in this has to find out who they really are.”
Will we see Spartacus training some of these slaves who have been rescued? How is that going to pan out?
Liam McIntyre: “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? 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, 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. Getting more people on board and making sure they’re fighting fit becomes very important to the rebels.”
There’s a little bit of a triangle going on between yourself, Crixus and Mira. Is that likely to play out a bit more as the season goes on?
Liam McIntyre: “It gets more and more complicated, so rather than Spartacus getting that nice simple, ‘All right, so we’ve sorted things out,’ his life is made harder by different deals and different characters appearing and changing the terms of engagement, in some regards. The cause of true love never did run smooth; the course of war isn’t easy either, sadly, for him.”
Liam, do you have any stories from playing in the mud in the mine?
Liam McIntyre: “You know, funny enough, I remember watching Lord of the Rings and the special commentary on that and being told about how freezing cold that lake that Frodo and Sam try to escape in, and how they spent like 14 hour days in there and they were freezing to death. And I was like, ‘Oh, yes. Sure. I bet it’s really hard being an actor in a huge show.’
That mud was one of the toughest experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and I apologize to every actor that I’ve ever judged because I didn’t think they were tough enough. Yes, that was sticky. Gross. Freezing. With all respect to the makeup team, I don’t have a lot good to say about the mud besides the fact that it looks amazing on screen. That was an experience that I…you know what? I asked specifically that the characters that weren’t involved in that particular episode on our side have an episode all of their own where they run off into the mines and do that just so they can know what it’s about.”
How does the wardrobe, or lack thereof, help you get into character?
Lucy Lawless: “It’s not a short process, so you’ve got a an hour and a half minimum every day for that character to sort of happen. And I think we just are so accustomed to it that we don’t even realize that’s such a part of our process, you know?
Liam McIntyre: “Yes. And when that first layer of spray tan goes on, I really start to absorb the character. Yes. No, I don’t know. It is one of those things. I remember – again, going back as again an actor, start – that’s in some ways green in terms of experience, that first test where they take us to – you know, they took me and put me in the actual costume. You know, it’s amazing how much it adds to the work you’ve already done on your character.
The craftsmen on that set from the set builders to the whole wardrobe department and the wardrobe they create by hand – you know, leather workers and that sort of thing, add so much more to what is already a very interesting character. Certainly in my case, it’s amazing how much more you feel like you’re in the time, in the place, when you have all the costume on.”
Lucy Lawless: “Yes. We have a huge workshop of leather craftsmen, jewelry, people dying, specialists. People who make things with rubber and resins and all – whatnot. And obviously, the costume sewing, people in design. They’re an incredible team.”
Viva Bianca: “And obviously Barbara Darragh continually just turned out episode after episode all of these very elegant dresses…”
Lucy Lawless: “World class, yes.”
Viva Bianca: “…for the Roman ladies. And for Lucy and myself, you know every morning we would be in our trailers and be dressed in these corset dresses and they’re all very intricate and detailed. And it really helps as a lady to enter high society in a frock, and you know it informs every choice you make in your physicality, your breath, your gait, and even the way you use your voice. So it’s kind of impossible to enter that character without the gown, really.”
Lucy Lawless: “And then when they embellish it all with this great confection of hair on your head… The wig work is amazing. So, we have a lot of genius designers working on us. I would love to see a great confection of hair placed on Peter’s head.”
Peter Mensah: “And for us slaves, not having clothes really gets you into character.”
Liam McIntyre: “I know. But you know it’s funny. It’s one of those things – as my wardrobe changed, occasionally I would be given something where I had more clothes on and it felt odd, and then I felt terrible – I felt weird, the feeling that that’s held on.”
Liam, what sort of prep and research did you do for this role once you booked it?
Liam McIntyre: “Well, just I guess – I used to play computer games about the Roman Legions and that sort of thing every since I was a little kid, so I always interested in the world. So I came in there knowing a fair amount – I mean a fair bit about the Republic and the Empire that followed just out of a personal interest sake. But then I was lucky enough to be lent an entire library from one of the producers, Chloe Smith, which I got to ingest and go through. And then really explore what was known of Spartacus and that time in history and his position in history and what he did or was taught – was said to have done.
It was fascinating trying to piece that together, and then seeing what Steven DeKnight and his team did in terms of the story they wanted to tell, and trying to really connect those dots. And then from those sort of outlines, fill it in with an actual emotion that I could understand. I love history and I especially love that sort of epoch of history, so it was great to go through that in more detail for more purpose than just general curiosity.”
Depicting a world of such oppression and mistreatment of people, does this rub off and empower you in terms of fighting for justice in the real world?
Liam McIntyre: “Well, I always find it amazing how stories like this last the test of time in the same way that Shakespearian stories are told again and again in different forms. I mean, the story of oppression is as relevant today as it was then. And I guess it’s nice to be able to tell a story that people can still gain some sort of real value out of now. But in terms of being self-liberating, it’s certainly empowering to know that already I’ve heard people say how empowering the story can be to them as people. So I mean I think that’s a lot of the reason why actors do what they do. It’s nice to know that you can tell a story that resonates and helps people.”
Lucy, did John Hannah contribute something that’s now missing with not having him there this season?
Lucy Lawless: “Well certainly for my character, there is, well, a couple of things actually. You know, I miss the love relationship in my character’s life. I miss that. John and I had a great sort of couple connection. I found it very easy to put him in the husband role in my life, at least on set.
And I think for the show, you do lose – it’s kind of Tony Soprano, he does terrible things. He’s a treacherous man, but you love him all the same. So fortunately, we have plenty of that in the women, and now we’ve got a few new Roman men who are pretty rotten themselves. So, whether they can get that kind of love from the audience is going to be up to the audience to decide. But yes, we miss him. Not too much though.”
Liam McIntyre: I mean it’s the shadow of Batiatus that hangs over so much of the Roman story as I see it. He’s essentially still part of the show through the specter of his character.”