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Andy Whitfield, Who Gave Us a Dazzling, Unforgettable Performance as the Title Character in the First Season of 'Spartacus' on Starz, Succumbs to Cancer. He Was 39 TVWeek, EW.com's Inside TV blog; Deadline.com; NY Times

Andy Whitfield, 39, the actor best known for playing Spartacus in season one of Starz' "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," has lost his battle against the cancer non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

He was first diagnosed with the disease in in 2010. Originally from Wales, he had been making his home in Australia, and he died in Sydney.

Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht said in a statement, "We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield. 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. Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans.”

Our good friend James Hibberd, who writes for EW.com's Inside TV blog, has it right when he says about Whitfield that his "performance in the first season of 'Spartacus' remains a testament to his talent. He was able to project such furious aggression and intense vulnerability, often at the same time."

Hibberd adds: "Though he was a relative unknown when the show started, Whitfield’s performance was so strong and iconic that production on season two was halted for about a year in an attempt to give Whitfield time to recover from the disease. During that time, producers shot a prequel series titled 'Gods of the Arena' without the actor. Briefly it seemed Whitfield would make it — he was cleared to start work on season two and made a triumphant return appearance at Comic-Con. But Whitfield soon relapsed. Faced with the decision of either canceling the series or recasting, Starz and producers opted to hire newcomer Liam McIntyre for the lead role, with Whitfield’s blessing."

And here's Whitfield himself from an interview he did with Nellie Andreeva of Deadline.com during the time his cancer was in remission and he was training to come back to the series: " 'After the initial shock – I was a healthy young man and had no idea that this could happen -- it was frustrating that the first season was ending on such a high note and we could’ve been rolling into season 2.' But after that initial shock came 'time to heal, figure things out and spend time with my family,' he said. The experience taught him some important lessons, he said, like: 'Stay in the now and enjoy every moment.' "

According to The New York Times, in addtion to his wife, Vashti, "Mr. Whitfield is survived by two children and a sister. In her statement, his wife described him as 'our beautiful young warrior.' She said he died in her arms."

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