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Spartacus: Blood and Sand To Premiere Friday January 22nd

Starz executives today announced that “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” the network’s highly  anticipated original series, will debut Friday, January 22, 2010 at 10:00 pm et/pt. The hour-long drama, shot on location in New Zealand, stars Andy Whitfield as the gladiator warrior hero Spartacus.

UK born Whitfield, well-known to Australian audiences but a newcomer to the US, joins a talented cast of seasoned veterans including Lucy Lawless, best known for her role in “Xena: Warrior Princess” and John Hannah, who’s familiar from The Mummy trilogy. Lawless portrays Lucretia, who along with her husband, Batiatus (Hannah), own the Ludus (a gladiator camp) – as well as Spartacus. The couple has fallen on hard times financially and has bought Spartacus hoping his fighting prowess will help them regain their status in the brutal world of gladiatorial contests. In addition to “Xena,” the long-running global hit series, Lawless has also appeared in SCI FI Channel’s critically acclaimed “Battlestar Galactica.”

The world of gladiators comes to life as the Roman Republic’s most brutal fighters clash in the ultimate arena. “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is an entirely new vision of the ancient legend and will utilize virtual environments giving it a unique graphic novel look and style, along with a fresh narrative approach. Debuting exclusively on Starz, “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is produced by Starz Media with Executive Producers Rob Tapert (The Grudge, “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”), Sam Raimi (Spider-Man and Evil Dead), Joshua Donen (The Quick and the Dead) and Steven S. DeKnight.

Spartacus is a soldier in the Roman Auxiliary who has been taken prisoner.  As punishment for defying a Roman Legate, Spartacus has been sentenced to die in the gladiator arena. But after surviving numerous fights, his sentence is commuted and he has been sold as a slave to be trained as a gladiator.  Whitfield has gained acclaim in numerous Australian drama series (“McLeod’s Daughters,” “Packed to the Rafters,” “The Strip” and “Out of the Blue”) and also starred in the feature film Gabriel, one of the highest grossing films at the Australian Box Office in 2007. He just wrapped shooting on the Australian feature, The Clinic.

In addition to Hannah (The Mummy, Sliding Doors, Four Weddings and a Funeral ), featured cast members include: Erin Cummings (“Dollhouse”) as Spartacus’ Thracian wife Sura; Peter Mensah (300, Avatar) as Doctore, Batiatus’ most loyal and trusted slave;  Manu Bennett (30 Days of Night, The Condemned) as Crixus, the top gladiator at Batiatus’ Ludus; Antonio Te Maioha (“Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Legend of the Seeker”) as Barca, a big, hulking brute of a man who is Batiatus’ bodyguard and hit man; Craig Parker (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, “Legend of the Seeker”) as Glaber, a Roman Legate, who blames Spartacus for his failed military campaign; and Nick E. Tarabay (“Crash,” “The Sopranos”) as Ashur, a former gladiator who is now the Ludus’ resident bookie.

Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight (“Smallville,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) is also the series’ head writer. DeKnight just finished consulting on Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” and will be writing the upcoming eighth installment of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book series.

Starz’s new “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” series was inspired by the actual slave of the Roman Republic who in 73 BC led a slave revolt that grew to more than 120,000 fighters. Defying the Roman Republic’s legions of soldiers, they campaigned for two years through much of what is now Italy before succumbing to a much larger army. The new series will tell a new set of stories rich in character, action, sex and combat.

Anchor Bay Entertainment will hold exclusive worldwide home entertainment distribution rights to “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” while Starz Media’s Worldwide Distribution group will handle international television and domestic syndication sales and Starz Digital Media will be responsible for all digital distribution globally.

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