Liam McIntyre is the sort of guy who’s totally unexpected. First off, he’s a self-proclaimed geek. That’s right, the brawny actor who portrays history’s most infamous gladiator in Starz’ television series Spartacus: Vengeance plays video games.
It’s been a year since the show’s creator Stephen S. DeKnight made the decision to recast the popular role with the relative unknown McIntyre, while Andy Whitfield, the first season’s breakout star sought treatment for cancer, and in an unforeseeable turn of events, tragically succumbed to the disease in September.
Tonight, the rebooted franchise returns, and the show’s level of guts, gore, and graphic nudity doesn’t disappoint.
BULLETT: You’re under a pseudonym right now for rabid Spartacus fans?
MCINTYRE: I am. To the point where even I forgot the name I’d registered. Then I couldn’t get stuff that people had given me and left downstairs. I guess we changed it because people from the media were calling at like 1 a.m.
Are you serious?
Yeah, a man with a weird French accent was calling and saying he was my driver and asking when he should pick me up.
Wow, that’s sort of James Bond?
Well, it was the first time that’s happened to me, to be perfectly honest. I was about to tell him a time, and then I was like, wait a minute, it’s 1 a.m., and you’ve got a really odd accent, and you don’t have any of my details, and you seemingly don’t know where you’re from, this can’t be right.
Do you think it was a rabid Spartacus fan?
They’re really passionate. It may have been, I could only hope.
Speaking of fans, you were a fan of the first season, Spartacus: Blood and Vengeance and a fan of Andy Whitfield’s? How did the role come about?
I guess with a lot of difficulty from every side. I loved the show, and out of the blue my agent set me up with an audition. I was really excited and then I realized the audition was for the lead role. And I thought, ‘I watch the show and we already have a Spartacus, thanks.’ Then they had to tell me about what happened to Andy and for any actor that’s horrible to hear. It was also strange because at the time I was in the wrong physical shape. I had been doing another film where I had to lose 40 lbs and basically be a skeleton. So I thought, I’d never get the part but I might as well try. But from that first audition they kept calling me back and telling me that I’m not physically right but they want to keep seeing me and then they took me over and trained me for months and got me a military trainer and put me through unending hell and then one day in January they gave me the green light.
You should put out a Spartacus work out tape!
No one would do it.
How did you prepare for a role that already has a following, did you ever have second thoughts about it, were you nervous?
Well, at the start I didn’t have second thoughts because I thought I wouldn’t get the role, and then after 4 when I finally got the role, I felt attached to it in a weird way. More importantly, taking the role became this odd responsibility for me where, as a fan, I was suddenly in this position where it was my job to continue the amazing legacy of a hero and this wonderful man, Andy. It’s a weird responsibility, but it’s also a great honor. So I just said ‘all right, I got it.’ It was really nice, the executive producer Rob Tapert sat me down and said you got this role for a reason, and you can do it justice. It was really nice that everyone at Starz wanted me to embrace it on my own; no one wanted me to copy Andy.
So, the cast has been very supportive as well?
Yeah everyone has. Andy actually emailed me when all of this happened. He was incredible, even though he was going through such personal struggles, he still tried to make me feel welcome to this family he was part of, and still is. Regardless of the amazing job, I don’t want to leave this kind of environment.
Do you think that there is a certain humanity to each of the characters?
I think that is crucial. What I thought about the show when I was watching season 1 was that Andy captured Spartacus’ humanity really well. That was the one thing I was hoping that I could capture. The thing that makes Spartacus in this show so great is he’s a human being and that he’s not some action hero or something two-dimensional.
It seems that all of the characters have both good and evil elements.
The thing I like about the characters is that no one is just one thing. The evil characters are evil because you, the viewer, know they are, but to them, as characters, it’s different. In season one, Batiatus (John Hannah) has a dream and it’s a noble dream, he just doesn’t know how to go about it the right way. And in season two, Glaber (Craig Parker) is the same way; he just does really unfortunate things to get it.
Well, he has a really awful in wife Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) which might have something to do with it, right?
I love that though. It was really hard this season, reading each episode and watching what the Romans were doing, because they have such a wonderful beehive of activity— you’ve got a back and forth of people’s allegiances changing. Ilythia and Lucretia have this great dynamic as frenemies.
Can you tell me about the new characters Seppia and Seppius introduced this season?
I love those guys. Not only are they excellent actors but each of their characters have this amazingly important role to play as the series carries on, because they are a team but they aren’t always on the same side. They’re the cats amongst the pigeons. They cause a lot of havoc in Rome.
You were at Comic-con, how was it dealing with such a passionate fanbase?
The thing is… I’m sort of a dork. I’m totally down with fans that are that passionate and I’m really glad that the show has them. I’m so glad that people want the show to be that good because it means so much to them. When I was younger I dreamed of being able to bring some happiness to people. In a weird way, that’s my responsibility, to do justice to the legacy of the show. I always loved Greek history and video games based around those legends. I love the story of Spartacus in everyway. When I first started acting, it was around the time that Gladiator came out and I thought, ‘What I’d do to be in a story like that!’ Spartacus is not only one of the greatest rebel uprisings in history, but one of the only rebel uprisings in history. It was over a thousand years before something like that happened again. The fact that he could lead 100,000 people against the greatest army of the time, with so many disparate races, is pretty amazing. It’s impossible to lead just one country now. In so many ways he’s an incredible figure, and it’s an honor to play him.
Do you have any hints you could drop about season 2 that won’t get you in trouble?
They’re out in the wilds of Italy now instead of fighting in the arena that we’re used to. There are new characters being introduced all the time to replace the characters that are being killed off all the time. As far as casting goes, it’s one of the most stressful jobs for everyone on the show, because if you’re not doing a good job you’ll probably die. The last two episodes are so amazingly big, I don’t know how we’re going to top them in the next season.
Thank you so much for taking time and hopefully with your name change, no one else will be calling you at 1 in the morning with a weird accent.
It keeps things exciting. How lucky am I to have an opportunity to be kidnapped by people?