Starz’ Spartacus: Vengeance [Fridays, 10/9C] continues to draw the net’s largest audience ever, and part of the reason is the action. While many of the show’s gladiator characters only fought because they had to, Dustin Clare’s Gannicus seemed to enjoy the matches as much as the adulation. Things have changed for the former Champion of Capua, as we see in tonight’s episode.
Recently, Clare spoke with a group of journalists/bloggers about his return to the show.
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Dustin Clare: No problem.
Now on Gods of the Arena, you were in the feature role, and now you’re coming back to an established show where someone else is in the main role. Did you have any difficulty sharing the spotlight?
Clare: No, no. I think we’re all pretty generous. No, no it’s – no, it’s a big ensemble cast you know. I think the stories have like been pretty ensemble based. It’s all shared around the storyline.
And did the popularity of Gannicus in Gods of the Arena have any influence on him appearing in Vengeance or was he in the mix all along?
Clare: Yes, he was in the mix all along, I just kept it pretty low key.
And since the world was absent Twitter back then, does Gannicus eventually find out what happened at the house of Batiatus?
Clare: That’s actually…
…but you’re not allowed to…
Clare: Right, no look – yes, I think like in terms of my story I think along the way he definitely hears about what’s happened there, yes.
And can you talk about any challenges that Gannicus faces as a free man?
Clare: Just getting some cash together to get a meal. Just yes, just looking for a roof over his head really.
He’s really a journeyman, he’s sort of really been a journeyman this kind of in the space between the prequel and this period and done a lot of outfield traveling and discovering and had the sort of ride that is fading. You know, he’s still very much that man who’s the master of his own destiny.
And you know, he’s an individual and he’s kind of the anti-hero I see in kind of the series. And he – yes he’s – I can’t really tell you unfortunately how he’s reduced back into the – he’s brought back into the series. So it’s kind of a major plot point.
But he’s still very much the Gannicus we left in some ways, but also he’s definitely had some time to mature and time to see the world and discover it. And then he enjoys being a free man.
What can you tell us about the return of Gannicus and how he is going to be received by the other characters, especially Crixus.
Clare: It’s – unfortunately it’s a major plot point in terms of how he’s threaded back into the story, so I don’t want to ruin that for any of the fans. I know you guys love spoilers over there.
But things – I mean he is eventually going to meet up with all those old characters, and you know, that’s going to be really interesting for the audience. But also there’s a character that he’s never met that is kind of integral to the story, and that’s Spartacus.
And you know, I think they really have a clash of ideals and essentially there’s similarities in the men but essentially I really think the ideals that they kind of – both kind of pursue a different thing. So I think there’s a real clash there.
And in terms of Crixus, yes there’s been some time between the – that kind of – Gannicus was always a mentor in a way, to Crixus as well, but it’s been some time, you know? And there’s been hopefully some mending on Crixus’ part over that time.
Now, what are your thoughts on your character’s development since the last time we saw him?
Clare: I really, you know, I wanted to – for the audience, I wanted him to grow and I wanted him to have changed. You know, I think it’s pretty boring to see the same kind of, you know, character reintroduced, although there are – you know, he has a lot of those similar habits, the same habits.
He’s also matured in a way, you know, he’s had some time to spend as a free man which he’s really enjoyed, and spent a lot of time journeying and traveling and he’s had the ride of his fate sort of thing, and the pack on his back and he’s really very much the journeyman of this season.
And yes, he’s reintroduced and yes, we will get to see him interact with all those old characters and new characters. He’s a free man too, so he can move between both worlds, the Roman world and the rebel world.
[I] wondered if kind of, first off, if maybe you could tell us a little bit about how you first became involved in the series, and perhaps about the audition process for the role if you don’t mind?
Clare: Yes, sure. I mean that was a while ago now for Gods of the Arena. And it was just like anything else, I was approached about the role.
Rob Tapert had seen my work in a series in Australia and wanted to have me involved in the series and had me test for something, for a role in it, which was Gannicus. And you know, it ended up going my way.
And it was pretty straight forward, I really only put a test down in my living room, and then I went to Sydney to kind of retest, and the role was mine. It was a pretty simple process, I didn’t have to go to the states or anything like that.
And I also wanted to…
Clare: But I was always going to be involved in Spartacus: Vengeance, it’s just sort of something we’ve kept under wraps as much as we can I guess.
Excellent. And I also wanted to ask you again, I noticed you went back a little bit, but what were some of perhaps the initial acting challenges you found stepping into the role at first, would you say?
Clare: I think with this piece it’s – you know, it is a – very much a genre piece, so it’s kind of finding the style of genre. Yes, and then kind of finding – trying to find the real, you know, truth in moments that’s reality within the genre because it is a different style in a way, I feel at times.
And it’s a period piece and you know, there’s things to think about like accents, you know, I’m obviously not going to come on and do an Australian accent.
Yes so I wouldn’t say challenges, just new – you know, new things to think about, new styles and yes, enjoyable challenges I guess.
I also wanted to ask you about the physicality of the role, maybe if you talk a little bit about that. And did you have to do any training or prep for any of the scenes?
Clare: Yes, we – I mean we train a lot, and we ate, you know, really strict diets for the sort of six or seven months during when we’re filming and there’s a lot of training.
We do a boot camp for a month straight before we start, and then that gets us in pretty good shape. But I don’t think, you know, no one sort of is really out of shape, in that sense.
But we just spend about four weeks training from 8 O’clock in the morning till sort of 1 O’clock in the afternoon, have some lunch and go home. And sort of you know, maybe I usually do some light pool work after that, some swimming in that sort of the day.
But it’s – yes, it’s a really good routine to get us – our bodies flexible and mobile and ready to undertake the workload that’s about to – we’re about to embark on. Because you know, without a doubt, everyone has some injuries at some point, it’s usually about 3/4 of the way through and injuries start to come in around there.
And it’s just when the body’s starting to get tired and the physical exertion is sort of pushing the body to another – a limit where you’re starting to put that stress on your body. So it’s about, you know, looking after yourself for those kind of seven months.
But in saying that you know, we’re lucky, we have a great team of stunt coordinators and stunt men who really look after us and train with us really well. And they’re very great programs for us.
And we train together a lot. And I train with my stunt double a lot, Jacob Tomuri, and I really enjoy that. you know, we have a great relationship, my double and I. Yes, it’s really time building stuff.
And then just one last question that’s a very general one, I wanted to find out Dustin, did you always want to work in this industry while you were growing up or did you have other professions in mind?
Clare: No I – it will be – I think I was about 18 before I decided I wanted to pursue acting. So I guess in that sense, with some people it’s a bit later but until I went to WAAPA, to drama school, I was 19 when I first went there so, in Western Australia. But no, I wanted to be a fish farmer to be honest with you.
Clare: I wanted to be an agriculturist, I wanted to have my own fish farm setups. And those – and I also was sort of contemplating or is kind of you know, something I enjoy like just sort of as a hobby, which I always thought would have been nice to pursue as a creator was surfboard building.
I wanted to ask you about Gannicus and his, you know, is he feeling guilt I guess? And is his guilt towards what happened with Oenomaus and his wife going to, you know, lead him into something maybe that his journeyman lifestyle does not – it doesn’t sort of fit with that lifestyle.
Clare: Yes I think that that is only going to – it’s only going to sit with Gannicus always. It’ll always be a part of him until it’s resolved, yes. It’s something that definitely sits heavy on him. Yes.
All right. You’re pretty good about not giving anything up.
Clare: Yes I know, you guys are pretty good about getting it though.
I’ve got one more question for you, and it’s actually a – it’s a non-Spartacus related one again.
Was wondering, I really enjoyed your work on McLeod’s Daughters. And I was wondering if you could perhaps talk just perhaps a little bit about working on that show and maybe what you enjoyed most about playing the Riley Ward character.
Clare: Yes, that was a long time ago. McLeod’s Daughters was my first regular job out of drama school and my first fulltime role. And that was great because I learned a lot in terms of working in front of the camera, I learned a lot about performance inside frame sizes.
I learned a lot of technical aspects that you kind of, you take for granted now but you have to learn somewhere along the way. So it was kind of a learning – a bit of a training ground for me working in front of the camera, and also dealing with media.
And also you know, I think I made some mistakes at that point in different areas, but dealing with media and you know, sort of professional engagements that you had to be involved in, which is great because you know, I’m working in a show now, many years down the track.
And I have worked in many other different shows in Australia and those lessons I learned there and mistakes I made are technically, and also within the media, I’ve been able to kind of learn from them and I’m lucky I might have made those mistakes early on in Australia and I won’t – definitely won’t make them again in the states. But you know, you’ve got to learn on that stuff.
I have a question. Dustin, we want to know what was it – what is it like working with Lucy again, compared to season – to the prequel?
Clare: Yes right, I’m – I really – I’m really fond of Lucy and I think she’s doing great work in this show. I think it’s you know, been – personally I think it’s some of the best work she’s done in her career. She’s really flown with this role, and it’s wonderful to see her kind of attack it, you know, so wonderfully.
Lucy and I have actually got – we worked together in this season and that was fun, I really enjoy working with her. She’s a consummate professional. And yes, she’s really down to earth and a lot of fun and she’s great for the show, I think really great for the show.
That’s great. And how is Gannicus different in Season 2 than he was in the prequel? Obviously his role is different, can you share a little bit of that?
Clare: We just – we dump – it’s around five years I think between prequel and Spartacus: Vengeance. So yes, there’s a lot of changes that he’s gone through. And he’s spent a lot of time away from the brotherhood and these people that he kind of had a connection with.
And he’s also been on this – the other side of life, which is being a free man, and he’s really enjoyed that opportunity and obviously the freedom that comes with it. But he’s also traveled a lot and I think you see that in the costume that he brings back with him and sort of the accoutrements that he’s sort of collected.
And I think Barbara Darragh, the Costume Designer and I, we worked really closely together to really show that evolution of the man and show that he has been to other places and there’s a maturity in him and an experience that he’s gained along the way in that kind of travel.
How have – have you ever been grossed out shooting one of the scenes with all the effects and everything?
Clare: I think the, in the final episodes of Gods of the Arena, in the Arena where Gannicus is the last man standing and he’s fighting the final gladiator who was played by (Joel) and he spikes him in the – he breaks his spear and puts it in his mouth and sort of wrenches his jaw off. Although that was just a head stuck on the kind of stick, and it was still – it still felt pretty lifelike.
And but you know, in saying that, that’s kind of kudos to the special effects team in that sense.
I’m back. I was wondering, as a free man does Gannicus sort of support Spartacus’ fight to gain freedom for everyone else or does he find that the way he’s going about it is not going to work?
Clare: Well I think between, like you said, before betraying Gannicus and Spartacus, they will eventually meet, that’s without a shadow of a doubt but there’s a real clash of ideals between the men.
And you know, I don’t think Gannicus really thinks what Spartacus is doing is really all that sensible. He’s sort of putting the lives of a lot of people in danger and risking freedom and – of them and he sees it as pretty careless.
And do you think that, has Gannicus sort of kept up his fighting skills since it’s been five years since he’s been in the arena?
Clare: Is he still a mad fighter? Yes.
What was your Comic-Con experience like?
Clare: That was my first one, I hadn’t been there before. So it was – yes, it’s pretty eye opening when you haven’t been there, just the sheer amount of fans that are there for different shows and different films.
And I guess yes, it’s like a big fan symposium in a way, and a way for film studios and television studios to really promote their product to their audience base, or their really loyal audience space. So it was an experience, yes.
What personality similarities do you really have compared to your character Gannicus in real life, if any? Or are you like completely different people or…?
Clare: I think you know, there’s always pieces of yourself that bleed into your character, I think that’s inevitable. Yes, I think yes we’re – it’s – yes in some ways we have similarities, but in other ways we, you know, we’re completely different.
It’s hard to say, like because in the context of this, it’s very different you know; I’m an actor living in a world where, you know, in a place in the world that we’re, you know, we’re all pretty privileged to be in, and this guy’s sort of fighting to – for his life. So they’re kind of very different circumstances.
Within those circumstances there’s probably ways that we react to certain situations that are similar.
How much historical preparation, if any, did you have to do for your role and the character of Gannicus?
Clare: We have researchers involved with the show and they pointed me in a pretty great direction in terms of what to read, what to look at or look for, and also provided me with some material as well.
There’s not a lot of – about Gannicus really in any of the writings of the histories. So – and it was hard, if any of the information, just it was really hard to pull out any kind of – anything that (unintelligible) character motivations or character traits out of the small amount of information that existed about him.
So it was really about historically researching the time and the, you know, the gladiator’s lifestyle and yes, how they kind of existed in the world really.
I just wanted – Oenomaus and Gannicus spend a lot of time together, and I was wondering if you could talk about working with Peter Mensah. He seems – he’s so physically intimidating, but he’s like the sweetest guy. And I just…
Clare: Yes, Peter’s – Peter is – yes he’s, he is physically a really giant man. He is yes, it was kind of – it kind of worked well because, you know, I guess anyone looks smaller standing next to that guy, but just in terms of the two men, you know, sort of quite different, you know, starkly contrasting. And they had that great friendship.
Yes Peter has a bit of that Doctore kind of feel about him I think, just as a person you know, that kind of sensei sort of thing. Yes, which is obviously, you know, part of the reason I imagine that he’s – he was cast in the role because he sort of carries that presence with him. Yes.
Photos courtesy of Starz Entertainment