Andy Whitfield, the Welsh-born actor who played the lead role in the TV series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, has died at age 39.
Whitfield died on Sunday in Sydney, Australia, 18 months after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, manager Sam Maydew told the Associated Press.
“On a beautiful sunny Sydney spring morning, surrounded by his family, in the arms of his loving wife, our beautiful young warrior Andy Whitfield lost his 18-month battle with lymphoma cancer,” Whitfield’s wife Vashti said in a statement.
“He passed peacefully surrounded by love. Thank you to all his fans whose love and support have help carry him to this point. He will be remembered as the inspiring, courageous and gentle man, father and husband he was.”
Whitfield was born in Wales and took up acting after moving to Australia, but was still a relative unknown when cast in US cable network Starz TV series Spartacus, in the lead role made famous by Kirk Douglas in the 1960 Stanley Kubrick film.
The new version of the story of the Roman slave revolt, with its graphic sex and violence, proved a hit for Starz and was recommissioned for a second series.
Whitfield appeared in all 13 episodes of the first season that aired in 2010 and was preparing to shoot the second when he was diagnosed with cancer.
While waiting for Whitfield’s treatment and expected recovery, Starz produced a six-part prequel, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena that aired earlier this year with only a brief voiceover from the actor.
But in January after Whitfield’s condition grew worse, Starz announced that another Australian actor, Liam McIntyre, would take over the role.”We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield,” Starz president and chief executive Chris Albrecht said. “We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in Spartacus and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life.”Whitfield’s previous credits included appearances on the Australian TV shows All Saints, Packed to the Rafters and McLeod’s Daughters.In the UK, Spartacus was first broadcast on Living before switching to Sky1.