Starz’ s biggest hit, Spartacus [Fridays, 10/9C], returns this week with a new Spartacus and a whole new setting. Following the first season revolt of the slaves of the House of Batiatus, the gladiators of Batiatus’ ludus are now out in the world, wreaking havoc.
In support of the new season, the series leads – Liam McIntyre [Spartacus], Lucy Lawless [Lucretia], Peter Mensah [Oenamaus/Doctore] and Viva Bianca [Ilithyia] spoke with a number of journalists/bloggers on a much longer than usual [90 minutes] conference call – and although he’s the new kid on the block, it is apparent from the banter that McIntyre fits right in.
Hi, thank you so much for taking the call with us today.
Lucy Lawless: Hello, you’re welcome.
Liam McIntyre: Sorry guys, we were worried about who should speak first.
You have captured the essence of the character, well done. I’ve seen the first two episodes – brilliant.
McIntyre: Oh, that’s kind. Thank you.
So my question is going to be for Lucy and I want to know — you’re crazy when the season starts and you’ve come upon Ilithyia and you guys – you’re like, you know, she’s taking care of you. You don’t really know that she’s not your friend, and she hates you. Do you find out her bad side as the series progresses?
Lawless: Or does she find out mine? I don’t know, it’s, you know, I don’t want to give you too much. Needless to say, Lucretia and Ilithyia continues to have a very fraught relationship. Which is, Lucretia has to work very hard to make Ilithyia care about her again. And – or at least need her, because Ilithyia just wants her dead.
I imagine it would be a difficult situation, it being especially after, you know, she – Lucretia lost her baby. And now Ilithyia is pregnant.
Lawless: Yes, though Lucretia’s lost everything. She’s even lost her marbles, so that’s the least of her worries.
Thanks. Is Peter on the call now or no?
Man: Not yet.
Lawless: Peter is a very busy man.
This question is for Viva Bianca. Just to follow-up a little bit on the previous question. And so we’ve seen Lucretia’s side of the equation. One of the best parts of the first season was of course Olivia and her scheming ways. Can you give us a little bit of a look at what we might see in the second season?
Viva Bianca: I think, you know, obviously what we all saw in season one was that Ilithyia developed into a more and more of a complex woman. So, you know, in turning into season two Spartacus Vengeance. Ilithyia has that whole recent history of really a guilty past. And a suitcase of treachery lies in deceit. So, firstly she has a lot to fight for and she’s had a lot to fight against. And, you know, as people become aware in season – in episode one, Ilithyia lands right back at the place she so much wants to escape. So it kind of just, you know, ends of playing out as a fight for her life really.
Great, thank you.
Lawless: That’s right. That’s right, it is a fight for her life, and her husband’s affections.
Bianca: That’s right, and I think with regards to Ilithyia and Lucretia, what’s so interesting in season two is that, because of the circumstances in which they both landed, they are forced into a situation of becoming a lot closer than they even were in season one. Which means a potential for drama and the unraveling of relationship revelation is so much more interesting. Really there’s a lot in store in too for this female relationship.
McIntyre: Well that’s what I like about all the characters. I think it’s safe to say that every single character has death rider at the corner every time – at every turn, actually. From Spartacus all the way up to you guys.
Bianca: Yes. It was not a kind or gentle society, that’s for sure.
McIntyre: No, it wasn’t.
My first couple questions are for Lucy. And I just have to know, is Lucretia that batshit crazy, or is there a method to her madness?
Lawless: Up to you to decide. I tell you what, by the end all will be revealed. That absolutely definitely answer – covered.
And when you’re filming, does your inner Xena ever come out? And do you want to pick up a sword and fight along with the boys?
Lawless: Not even once. It’s a stinky, smelly world down there. I have no intention of going. I’m going to sit up with Ilithyia and eat Turkish Delight.
Bianca: Ilithyia’s a good girly girl.
My next question’s for Liam. Since Spartacus has been renewed for a third season, is there anything you want to change about how you played your character in Vengeance for the next season?
McIntyre: I just want him to keep growing. To be honest, I’ve been given this great honor in carrying on this legacy and I feel, especially getting towards those last episodes, it was really – he’s just really getting to a very interesting place.
Lawless: Maybe pants.
Laila Mahmud [Starz]: Ah?
Lawless: Maybe pants.
Mahmud: A bit more pants. Yes, we can put some pants in there. If we can talk to some people, that would be great. Maybe occasionally even an unbuttoned shirt, that will be fine. But, yes I know, it’s been great sort of getting to grow with the character. And he’s, you know, in going into season three, there’s even more craziness in store. So I really look forward to exploring it. And just growing more, you know, it’s a great privilege.
And today, Starz has actually now done a Spartacus Facebook page that they’ll be airing the first episode of the new season for free this Friday. I was just wondering William, if you were going to be trolling the pages of Facebook to see what the reaction is to your character?
McIntyre: Well I’m a bit of a dork, so I know how I can be with things I’m passionate about. So having that in mind, I’ll probably insulate myself from that a little bit and just let the fans judge as they will and make their own decisions. And I’ll curl into a bed and hope for the best.
And I have a question for Viva. I don’t know if you can answer this, but I’m sure the world wants to know, who’s your baby daddy?
Bianca: Well that is why you have to watch Spartacus Vengeance. That is the big question on everyone’s lips. It’s – Lucretia was a turkey baster. Yes I know, that’s the mystery. But, you know, all will be revealed eventually.
First, I’m sorry about my accent because I’m from Brazil. So my English is not that good. I have some questions for Liam. Liam, you played a character that was already played by another actor. So I was wondering, how did you manage to carry on the character that Andy Whitfield had built, but also leave your own mark as an actor?
McIntyre: Well, I mean I’m very lucky in that I – the writing team is absolutely sensational, and that Starz is really supportive. So Starz early on said, you know, make the character your own, treat it as your own character. You know, that they didn’t expect me to copy anything. I did watch all of Andy’s amazing work. And so I don’t know if any parts was osmosis or kind of like a kind of influenced me in any way. I can’t be sure, but I mean hopefully because he was sensational. But I mean realistically I just tried to be true to the character which, you know, essentially stays the same. Because the writing is the same and all of that lovely humanity and those difficult choices and all that. Then that struggle that Spartacus goes through, it’s still there this season. So I didn’t get the honor of being able to treat that with respect and truth. And hopefully you have a character that feels the same as the great character that Andy portrayed.
Okay. And by – pardon me I’m (too) by what I think one big dilemma is if Spartacus managed to battle (Lucius) as the leader of the revenge. And he seeks for personal vengeance. So what side do you think it will have more important to Spartacus, his personal issues or the cause he has sustained?
McIntyre: I love your accent, it’s great. No it’s pretty. It is possibly the biggest battle that Spartacus has beyond the battles that he fights. I think obviously it’s called Vengeance, and part of – like that – a large part of that vengeance is that vengeance he feels against (Glover) and the Roman Empire as a – I’m sorry, the Roman Republic – yes, the Roman Republic as a person who’s been wronged. And his family’s been taken away from him. So that drives him throughout season one and into season two.
And I think the biggest challenge that Spartacus faces is embracing that bigger cause that I guess ultimately left its mark on history. Which is that of taking these disparate people – these rebels, and building them into a force that is for a while certainly the match of Rome. It’s something that he really has to get to the bottom to – the bottom of this season. It’s one of his great challenges. And something that I was – I made really important in exploring this year.
I have a question for Viva, that Ilithyia was involved in and cost – a great part of all this bloody intrigue that happened in the first season. So, will she be punished somehow – like at least she will feel guilty by what happened or…
Lawless: She’s a good little girl.
Bianca: She’s such a naughty girl. Look, you know, this show calmly comes and bites everyone in the ass. So, you know, Ilithyia will get her own. But there’s going to be a real journey for Ilithyia in season two, where she’s on a roller coaster of – just when she thought she’s going to break through and breach her dreams, the rug will be pulled from beneath her. And she’ll feel like she’s falling through the depths of the earth. So it’s a real dramatic roller coaster for Ilithyia.
I literally passed out in the Ashur tattoo scene in episode three. And I sort of felt that way in episode four when you guys were torturing that captain. I was wondering if, while you guys were filming this if you’re ever affected by those violent scenes? Or if it – if you’re ever surprised by them?
Lawless: Always surprised, but they look – we’re not affected because they never look that way in actuality. It’s all done in post, you know. Quite brilliant.
Bianca: I think it was David Mamet who said, ‘An actor must always defend his character.’ And so I think as an actor, you become very good at emphasizing a character, however evil or misguided the character is. Certain for Ilithyia or any of the villains on the show. You have to find a reason – or many reasons as to why a character is doing a scene. So like for instance in episode four, Ilithyia does very a brutal thing – I think that’s what you’re referring to.
Bianca: There was a moment when I think I was saying to Rob just afterwards, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe what Ilithyia actually just did.’ Like the reality of what one human is doing to another. And that was actually my…
Lawless: What did you do? I can’t remember.
Bianca: I don’t know if I’m allowed to say it.
Lawless: Something that you did last – I thought you meant the first season, okay.
Bianca: No, you’re talking about the season two, were you sir?
Yes, season two.
Bianca: Yes, so at the Roman party in the villa.
Lawless: Oh, oh yes.
Bianca: That whole piñata scene.
Lawless: But it was all about brinksmanship, wasn’t it? That you were getting one up on the young lady. So yes you’re right, you become that character.
Bianca: You become the character, and the truth is for these Roman aristocratic people, they didn’t consider slaves, or people of that class, as people. And to really feel like, for instance, for Lucy and I to get ourselves into that mentality is quite an extreme step. But it is a step that an actor has to make in order to, you know, enter that ancient Roman society, and to play these kinds of women.
Right, okay. And then along the same lines, the brothel scene was quite an eye opener too. I was wondering if…
McIntyre: Me too.
…if – yes I mean Liam this is your first year on this. Do you walk through those sets and see that stuff going on and think, ‘Wow, did that…’
McIntyre: It’s one of my greatest one. I mean I loved the show before, you know, before I got the call to be part of it. So I kind of knew what I was getting into. But that’s one of my greatest memories from the whole year, was watching our director from a distance in what was essentially the sign language version of the scene. So I got to watch him throw his hands around and do all the motions and actions as he described what he wanted to see as this camera panned through there. And that was one of the greatest memories I’ll ever take with me, because that was hilarious.
But I mean there is a moment where I have to attack a gentleman’s (money) making facility, and that was one of the most harrowing moments in my life. Because it’s kind of, you know, a sword, a small little protective kind of steel rig, and his gear, and a whole lot of hope, and so that was one of the very first days of shooting. And I’m like, ‘Oh god, what have I got myself into?’
And so the last question along these lines, do you guys know, did the Romans actually really use strap-ons?
McIntyre: Haven’t you done your research?
Lawless: No comment.
McIntyre: Maybe ivory.
This is a question for Viva. I was wondering, you seem to really enjoy being the bad girl. Does it also feel kind of empowering to be that pure evil?
Bianca: I’m a really nice person. You know what, I would so love to play a really virtuous, heroic person after Ilithyia. But Ilithyia’s a very satisfying role to play. And, you know, because she isn’t just pure bad. And the lovely thing in season two is the writers gave me a lovely range and complexity to explore. So I think the audience will get to see many different sides to Ilithyia. And of course there will still be that scheming, naughty girl, and then (almost) a lady now. But yes, I think maybe I see some vulnerability.
Okay. And I also have a question for Lucy. I was wondering, we all know the show has a lot of nudity in it, is it kind of a source of inhibition when you know that maybe your husband is on set?
Lawless: No he’s not on the set.
He’s not there?
Lawless: He’s not on the set. And it’s all inhibiting. So no, we’ve never got – are you from Germany? Where are you from?
Yes I am.
Lawless: Yes, see you guys might be able to be cooler with that sort of culturally. Things might be a little cooler up there. But we’re really like funny little middle class people. And it’s very hard for us to be comfortable with nudity and sex scenes. I’ve tried, I want to be cooler about it. But I’m just not.
Lawless: But if you believe in it, it’s important to the scene.
Okay, and I was wondering, you mentioned before that you were trying to make the role of Spartacus your own. Is that – do you have a technique or how did you try to do that?
McIntyre: I guess just you work extremely hard and diligently. And it’s one of those things that early on, you go, well you just can’t – you have to use everything in your power to do the best job you can. And I mean I got trained really well by my first acting coach I hope, and that and you just put your tail between your legs and just work really hard until it’s all finished and cross your fingers. I don’t know, there’s no simple trick, or we’d all be doing it I suppose.
Okay Liam. So this show – a lot of it has to do with some really crazy, awesome action scenes that are on par with a lot of movies, even immortals. Tell me a little bit about how you’re getting in shape for that. And I know you’ve already shot the season, tell us – talk to us about what you went through to handle a sword and all those crazy acrobatic moves they have you doing.
McIntyre: Well it’s a rare and lucky person who gets to be a 10-year-old for a whole year. It’s fantastic. But I mean getting into shape, well I – I mean early on when I started the process of testing for this role, I’d done another film where I was 45 pounds lighter or thereabouts. So I was going for that whole machinist look. And unfortunately I was succeeding. And so getting from that – well first of all, I thought there was no way I’d ever even be considered, but they did consider me.
And I got taught exactly how horrible training can be. In much the way that people say, ‘Do you get used to sex scenes?’ And the answer’s generally ‘No.’ ‘Do you get used to lifting ridiculous amounts of weights?’ No really. I think the point is that you do it and it really hurts. But it’s one of the few things in life where you get to see tangible results. So I guess it’s worthwhile.
So you’re saying you gained 45 pounds of muscle for this role?
McIntyre: Something like that. I haven’t done the math, but a lot. Because, you know, I certainly look a lot more healthier than I did back then. I’ve still got a photo of that disgusting small…
You must have really tested well, congratulations. Okay, so this question is directed at the ladies, and I’m just going to come right out with it. I’m going to say, ‘Look, this show is bordering on soft-core porn.’ That’s one of the reasons it’s so hot, those sex scenes and everything they’ve got going on are just fun to watch. Can you tell me a little bit about how you’re going to – how you approach getting ready to do some of that stuff? And some of the challenges you’ve had with season two? Lucy versus some of the, you know, I saw some pretty revealing stuff the first season.
Lawless: You know what, it gets – I’ve done things again this season that I’ve never, ever done before and never seen on television before. And it was very heavy duty. There were days when I would just go home and have a – just have a quiet little melt-down and be, you know, just go to sleep. Because it was so demanding emotionally. So…
I was just going to say, I thought you were going to go home and hug your husband and something else.
Lawless: Oh let me tell you, this does great things for the viewer’s sex life. Not so much for the participants. It’s like aversion therapy.
Bianca: I think some people think it might turn us on. But I usually have (unintelligible) when you’re shooting.
McIntyre: It’s difficult to have that conversation. ‘What did you do today honey?’ ‘Well, long story….’
Lawless: Sometimes I do need a hug because it’s harrowing. It’s really harrowing.
Bianca: Well I think as well what Lucy might be talking about is, you know, some of the sex scenes or storylines in Spartacus that involves sex are actually not in any way of a turn-on. They can be quite brutal. I mean the show is talking about exploitation of slaves and of women and a lot of the violence is actually talking about some very serious stuff. So it’s kind of far from a turn-on. And can be quite horrific, and as an actor to carry that, you know, it can be quite heavy on us.
Lucy, are we going to see you at Comic-Con San Diego for your roles like Battlestar Galactica and Xena, etc.?
Lawless: Oh gosh I don’t know. I think I’ve been there pretty much 15 years in a row, so I’m sure – do they really need me? I’m like that brass pig in the corner that you touch for luck, you know.
McIntyre: I need to get me one of those.
Lawless: I do love it though. I love the fans, I’m really grateful to them for everything they’ve given me. So I don’t know, we’ll see.
So Peter and Lucy, you guys were both in Gods of the Arena, which was a great little prequel to the first Spartacus. And Viva you’ll be coming back to Vengeance after a short hiatus from this Spartacus world. And Liam, you come in for the first time. I mean I just – I don’t have many questions at all, but to all of you, what have your processes been like for getting back into these characters?
Lawless: What was the word? You used one of your what? Processes?
Bianca: Well I mean like for me, because Lucy is also in the prequel, a year had passed pretty much between shooting – wrapping on season one and starting on season two. And yet at the same time, I mean the reality of our show, it was only about eight weeks that had passed between the end of season one, beginning of Vengeance. So it was kind of quite challenging actually. Yes, it was really quite challenging to go back into the world and feel that level of acute – continuity that was required, and to find the character again. But it was actually so fun to go back into the character. I was really happy to do it.
McIntyre: Yes. For me I guess it’s a unique situation. But I mean I watched the first season and Gods of the Arena, you know, countless lines. And so for me I guess it was unique in the way that, I mean I really felt like I was right there with all of Andy’s performances. So I mean, I really felt like I got like Spartacus – I got Spartacus as he portrayed him. So to me more than anything, it was important to make sure that Spartacus as a character continued as that character and not just some totally different person who, you know, was inspired by different things.
And, you know, the world as a different place for him. So I guess I had a unique situation of trying to create a new Spartacus that felt like, you know, the same kind of guy that Andy’s Spartacus was. So, you know, I mean it was a fantastic and very unique process to go through. It must be a really sad thing to have to kind of even look at. But, you know, it was – I certainly will never – touch wood, never have to go through anything like that again in my life, I suppose.
Lawless: And I just put on the hair and bang (unintelligible). Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.
Well I mean Lucy, you did have a sort of a different challenge going in because you had just done this Spartacus prequel, you’ve been living in essentially the past of this character that you played for awhile.
Lawless: That was less of a challenge than it was a help actually. Because you got the very rare chance to revisit your character and see what formed them, which was such a pleasure. Oh my god, I was so lucky. And it really helped round out the character – her softness. Her potential for hope and, you know, because she could default to that. If Ilithyia would just be kind to her, Lucretia would be kind back, but Ilithyia doesn’t know how. So therefore Lucretia has to stamp on her to kick her – finish her off.
So my question for you Liam, Spartacus gets into this wonderful relationship played by of course Katrina Law. I wonder if you can tell me if, after everything that you’ve gone through with his wife, if this is going to be a possibility of love for him? Or what can you tell me about their relationship?
McIntyre: Well I guess who doesn’t need love deep down? You know, I think that’s very true of everybody. So it’s, you know, that was a great thing to get to play with all year because, you know, in season one, Sura said you will never love another person. And that’s kind of like a truism for Spartacus’s existence. So he now has the problem is – which is a real problem for everybody that falls into those horrible circumstances that, you know, can you ever love again. And he certainly wants to.
You know, I think Spartacus certainly wants so, and he’s going to try. But it’s very, very difficult of thing for him to try and – not only move on, but move into any relationship. So it’s a constant struggle throughout the season.
Another big relationship for Spartacus is the one between him and Crixus. I’ve seen that like in the beginning. There’s, you know, there’s obviously a division. But you guys, you know, find a midway point when it, you know, concerns either when something is important to either one. What could you tell me about the position of their relationship in this season?
McIntyre: It’s one of the great parts of the season, I really think. There’s a – in fact, all of the kind of, I guess you call them the big dogs on campus, you know all the alpha males of the ludus have a very difficult journey trying to even get along because of the nature of who they are. And so with Crixus and Spartacus there’s a desire to work together but just a difference of view which really just dovetails and splits apart throughout the season and that goes and that’s true with other characters that appear in the rebels camp that are very powerful characters.
And part of the battle that Spartacus has is to A, want to lead them and then find a way to do that and actually unify people. So to this day I still don’t understand how one man can unify so many different cultures and creeds into one cause. I mean, I don’t know if it’s ever been done before or since.
And I know Peter is not here yet but maybe there’s…
Peter Mensah: I am but I just a little bit…
Mensah: I just don’t say much. That’s all.
It’s so great to speak with you.
Mensah: It’s great to hear you guys.
My question to you is I think it’s fantastic all the background information that we’re learning on Oenomaus this season. He’s deeply embarrassed over being a part of the taking down of The House of Batiatus. I wonder – because I spoke to, you know, Steven DeKnight and he said that – I forgot where I was going with that. Sorry but I got a little nervous because you surprised me. How was Oenomaus go from being, you know, this shamed person into the rebel that he’s meant to become in history?
Mensah: I think actually that my understanding of Oenomaus; journey was that it wasn’t so much embarrassment at aiding the rebels as that he was caught at making the right decision at a certain point in time which led him into a sort of a no-win situation.
He knew what was going on at the house of Batiatus which ultimately was wrong so in the moment he assisted and did what he thought was the right thing. And that leaves him in a no-mans land and the journey then or the question then becomes if you have nowhere to go what do you do with your life.
And I think that’s the biggest question he faces as the season starts is not having an affiliation to anyone in particular, not necessarily believing in the cause if there actually was one. He has to figure out what to do with his life and it’s sort of – so this season is a journey that he undergoes to understand and find a place in the world.
My first question is to Liam. Do you think fans will look past the loss of Andy Whitfield that’s just a few short months ago and come to really embrace you with Spartacus, like you will be Spartacus now?
Lawless: What a cruel question to ask the poor man who has to play that role?
McIntyre: You know, that’s all right because again like I said, I mean, I would demand the scrutiny of fans in that sense. I hope they come asking difficult questions because frankly I would if I was in the reverse situation. I’m not, you know, trying to pretend that I am Andy or that I’m going to be matching Andy in any particular way. I just hope that I do the character justice and that…
Lawless: And you do. You do.
McIntyre: Thank you, Lucy. And with time I hope that they can like my Spartacus in a way that keeps him a compelling character in a way that they loved Andy’s, you know? That’s obviously at no stage is that for me to decide in any way. I guess time will be the judge of that question.
Lawless: People report that they were surprised at how very quickly they accepted you in the new role as Andy wished.
McIntyre: Well, I worked hard. That’s all I can say. I worked bloody hard.
Bianca: Well, it was evident to all of us as cast members is that Liam did what any great actor could do which was to bring integrity to the role and bring his own imagination and individuality and history to the role.
McIntyre: I’ve got the sweetest cast. Thanks, guys.
And this is just really for anybody that wants to sound off. Do you feel that it’s easier or more difficult to still play slightly fishlines versions of historical characters that have some vague and sometimes contradictory real life pasts. I mean, some of what we learned about them contradicts what’s come before.
McIntyre: You think? I don’t know because one of the things that I loved about researching Spartacus is that there are maybe four, five, six wildly varying accounts of what happened and who did it and how and very few people agree and often many of the reports are written hundreds of years after.
In a way it’s the perfect story to tell because it’s a great story with only little signposts for historical markers. So it’s great playing a character who is historically very valid and viable but has the creativity and drama of a well-written piece.
What about you, Peter?
Mensah: Well, I think the interesting thing is no there are very absolute histories in this world and so we on top of that are providing entertainment. We’re playing with the story or a version of the story and I think what makes this really entertaining is that you take such a heroic depiction of a character as we do in Spartacus and you’ve get someone like Liam who takes it on and plays – he does such a remarkable job of showing the conflict that may have been in this man. And Liam makes it very very real.
And I think what really works is that because there is license to play with history, we – and, you know, obviously with the grace of the audience, we get to actually go out and provide a version of what might have happened. And in no way are we claiming this is exactly what happened. You know, we’re just telling a story.
So hopefully we tell an entertaining one. And I love – this is why I love my craft because it’s sort of a chance to take a look at a situation and give a version of how we feel it may have happened.
So, you know, does anybody think that after the season’s wrap-up that this would do a big screen version, kind of like what they’re getting ready to do with 24?
Lawless: Cool idea.
McIntyre: Wouldn’t that be fun?
Mensah: I think you should tell someone that.
McIntyre: Yeah. Get on that. Start that trend.
Bianca: We just need a budget.
Lawless: What we need is money…
McIntyre: I’ll give you a budget, a hundred million dollars.
Mensah: Just ask James Cameron for the money.
McIntyre: We just need an investor I think is the real key.
Lawless: We’re kind of making a movie every week.
McIntyre: It is like that, isn’t it. It is like that. I feel like I’ve made ten little movies.
Lawless: Thank you. That’s an awesome idea.
I would love to see the movie. Besides that, what about lending your likenesses and voices, say, to a Spartacus video game?
McIntyre: Trust me, if there’s a video game out I’m so excited about the possibility of that happening. I would love that.
Lawless: There was an app early on in the days of apps.
Bianca: Okay. There’s been lots of like graphic novel kind of comic book things I’ve seen.
Lawless: I think there’s no way to stay out of that sort of stuff these days, you know? It’s all just part of the course possibly.
McIntyre: It’s a fun world to play in I think like for that same reason that Peter was talking about that you can tell a version of a story. It’s a fun story to explore and all in all the different avenues. So, I mean, here’s hoping, right?
Lawless: And wonderful wish fulfillment for people.
Lawless: People want to be Spartacus. They want to be Crixus.
I know I do.
Lawless: You are.
This question is actually for Lucy and it’s kind of not about Spartacus. Out of everything you’ve done, you know, Xena, Battlestar Galactica, I have to tell you, my favorite thing you’ve ever done is the one episode stint you did on Burn Notice. I loved you – seriously I loved you as Evelyn because I loved that show. Do you wish that it could have ended in a way where you could come back?
Lawless: Well, I must say that I was at a time in my life sick to death of acting, just wanted to give it up and Bruce Campbell convinced me to come down and do an episode and so I did. But I was about of a way, I was a bit (unintelligible). I was a bit pissed off at the world.
And I had some other role I’d just done. I had these big gold fake fingernails stuck on. I’d thought I’d just keep them for the role. Anyway, at some point, Jeff Donovan’s character is supposed to still be in love with me. I just didn’t really see how.
But anyway he had some sort of a rescue scene to rescue me and at some point I lift my hand up there and it’s scripted that I touch his face and when I saw the episode like this great big (mudgepole) with big gold claws and it was like a man’s hand. And I was trying to touch Jeffrey Donovan on the face (unintelligible) you sort of claw…
Yeah, there’s a lot of things I remember about that episode and shooting that with those guys which was really fun and he’s brilliant but unfortunately my character just had to die. So I suggested that they hire Grace Park and Tricia Helfer from BSG because they were looking for women who could carry off that sort of action.
Well, they did a good job.
One more question. Really just anybody that wants to answer this. I mean, this show is an ancient period of time and it’s stripped of all the modern trappings that we have now. Is it a clash to do what you do and then walk off the set and walk to cars, cell phones, computers, laptops, assistants. Like, does your brain just go what the hell is going on?
Mensah: Your brain needs it because I don’t know if we could survive in that world?
McIntyre: Yes, true.
Bianca: We have slaves, we don’t need assistants.
Okay. Fair enough.
Lawless: Actually, no, it’s really important to be able to walk away from the modern world, away from your family, away from your relationship and go into this, you know, this make-believe world of ancient Rome. It’s helpful to have that universe separate from your own.
Bianca: I think that’s a lot of what makes actors actors. We love going into fantasy make-believe worlds and playing. So the fact that we get to go into a world that is so far from our own reality is part of the joy.
Lawless: It’s like having a second life. It’s like having a virtual life experience. And I just love it. I’ve had a really crazy ride as Lucretia this season. The most intense stuff I’ve ever ever shot. And I’m really grateful.
McIntyre: As far as slipping back into the modern world, though, I think it’s not too challenging for some people I think there’s a photo somewhere of most of the rebels on their iPads/iPhones in a row. I think that was quite – that’s something I found really really…
Lawless: Is that right because that’s banned from our set.
McIntyre: I know. And I think as a result it was banned from ours. But, yeah, there was one…
Bianca: I thought there was an email going around about those iPhones.
McIntyre: Yeah, I think that’s because I’ve said rebels. Sorry about that.
Lawless: They’ve got more time. There’s a lot of people doing things…
Bianca: We had a lot of dialogue because we were Romans.
McIntyre: All right. Don’t show off.
Lawless: Don’t rub it in.
McIntyre: I know. They should have been in a gym somewhere working out.
Lawless: No, it’s good. It’s like having the kids in the back of the car. You give them, you know, you give them a video game, you keep them quiet. That’s what we do with the rebels. We let them play with their iPads.
McIntyre: Sit there and be a good boy. We’ll call you when we need you.
The first season was largely centered on the House of Batiatus and the (Ludis) and so with the second season it seems the story is definitely widening in scope. How did that affect how you approached the character or how they approached the situation.? Maybe give us a little insight into that.
And I know that, Liam, you won’t be able to answer that quite as much as the other three so I just wanted to emphasize that well done, sir, what I’ve seen so far you’ve done a wonderful job.
McIntyre: Thank you. Fire away, guys.
Mensah: Come on, ladies. I’m just deferring.
Bianca: To me, it was different coming back to the House of Batiatus and actually being the lady of the house, the (domina) and kind of being like a subversion in power in roles with Lucretia.
So it was just kind of being in the same environment as season one but with a different relationship to that environment. So it was good because it meant that it was different and as an actor it’s always nice to be challenged by new things.
Mensah: I think what was great about it is with each episode we kind of have a little bit more information, a little bit more experience playing your character and I definitely feel like playing Oenomaus it was – it’s a sort of leaning, continuing learning curve always finding out the elements that help at one point, make him who he is and then exploring so the journey as it unfolds, he has to figure out, okay, there’s one structure in life that I was attached to, it’s all gone so now what do I do?
So it was sort of the expanding story. It was actually something I really embraced and I felt it was really useful in playing the character because it allowed for, you know, different platforms to react to. I think (unintelligible) and everybody meets Oenomaus in the first season as Doctore. He’s pretty impassive. He doesn’t’ really let on much.
And as the story unfolds you see a human person and the reasons why he was the way he was when you first meet him and I think in this season we really get to explore when all those structures are gone from him he’s incredibly vulnerable and for an actor it was just great to go to a higher range from being that dominant person to a person who really had to show every single emotion. So I loved doing it. It was a fantastic fantastic season to work.
Lawless: Yes, my character goes from having everything and being on the make on the up and up with her husband to losing everything, her husband, her baby, her lover, her house, her status and her marbles. So it’s going to be – she’s going to have to claw her way back to any kind of safety. And she’s in a pit of vipers so she better watch out. No offense, Ilithyia.
Bianca: I’m offended, Lucy. Not really.
This is just a quick follow-up for Peter. Earlier you were talking about the fact that Oenomaus had to make that choice at the end of the first season. Of course, part of that was the fact that he had been betrayed by Spartacus. So how does that play into the beginning of the second season if you can give us a taste.
Mensah: Well, actually, that’s the interesting thing. Effectively, you know, he recognizes that he has no affiliation. He’s been betrayed by everyone he knows and so the problem for Oenomaus as the season begins is, you know, he doesn’t identify himself with the rebels and absolutely is no longer attached to the (Ludis).
And remember he was just about to gain his freedom when all hell broke loose. So he remains a slave, he doesn’t have a status, he has no friends, it’s a pretty sad beginning to the show. So, you know, as I say, I hope everybody can go along on the journey with him but it’s a pretty tough place to start.
McIntyre: That’s one of the things I loved working with you on as our characters – when we meet was how we could build that relationship between us after we build that bridge. I think Peter is a real great thinking man’s actor and it was a real pleasure to be able to kind of develop that kind of relationship with someone like that.
Mensah: Thanks, Liam. I don’t remember thinking too much but, hey.
McIntyre: Well, it looks like it so that’s how good an actor is. You can look like a part while acting.
Mensah: Oh, that’s the acting part.
McIntyre: No, but it was really great for all those reasons and that kind of betrayal especially from Season One giving – when Andy gives you the poison (challis) as it were and really just building up because you’re a real powerful driving force in the rebellion as it moves forward and then really trying to get a relationship, way to base that relationship in was great.
Mensah: Well, I think that’s one of the interesting things about this season is that all the journeys that everyone goes through. Spartacus has so many sort of battles to fight but at the same time the humanity in him is what I think you tend to identify with and what Oenomaus sees in him ultimately as being someone to align with.
And I think that’s the interesting part. Everyone in this story has to find out who their affiliations are to and what they believe and sort of what to stand up for. And, you know, Liam plays a very strong very sensitive Spartacus that also sees all the conflict but somehow or other finds himself the leader of men and has to find a way.
And I think this is the journey – every character in this has to find out who they really are. And then Steve, his writers have actually put in a number of really challenging scenarios in front of everyone and I think that’s what helps the audience sort of go along with it.
So as usual there is no one clear path so what you might see in one episode gives you no indication what’s going to happen next which is, you know, the brilliant part about doing the show.
Bianca: It sure has kept it interesting for us, didn’t it?
Mensah: Oh, yeah.
Lucy, I wanted to ask quickly how is it kind of reorienting yourself because John isn’t part of the how this year and did it feel odd for you as an actor not having had him as a partner for the two series to not have him this year? And does anybody kind of take that role in her life as she starts clawing her way back out?
Lawless: What a good question. A lot of good questions. Yes, I miss John a lot, not just because of who he is but because I miss the aspect of love in Lucretia’s life. Somebody does in fact fall in love with her but the course of that love never did run smooth and certainly not in this case.
So I don’t want to give away too much but, yes, she does have two – I don’t want to say romantic partners. But she enters into relationships with two people but Batiatus is never replaceable in her heart.
Good. That’s interesting. And then just for all of you, whoever would like to answer first, I think you guys said the writers have done a really interesting shaping and pairing of all of the different characters and now that you guys are in a new environment and new place have they paired you either with each other in ways that you haven” been paired before and what that brings out in your character or are there new characters that you can speak of or tease that will have a great effect on each of your characters movements this season?
Bianca: For Ilithyia it’s I think going to be quite new to have Glaber around all the time. He’s a very significant part of season two. And is the man of the villa so there’s (unintelligible) and Glaber.
Lawless: Additionally in the Roman world comes these two Seppia and Seppius, a brother and sister duo and they’re a funky little pair and something weird is up with them so keep watching those two. They’re going to be trouble one way or another.
Bianca: And then in addition to that, Ilithyia and Lucretia are actually living under the same roof. So that’s…
Lawless: The ugliness goes on. I mean the beauty.
McIntyre: Yeah, Spartacus is great. It’s great from the rebels’ side because we’re a ragtag band running through the hills of, you know, Capua in southern Italy and we kind of – we have to try and survive.
So we’re on the run and it really creates great dynamics between our characters but then we get new characters that get introduced as the season goes along which really mix things up and challenge the existing status quo of the brotherhood as it where. It’s great.
Lawless: Yes, there will be new blood in the brotherhood and some very interesting characters emerging out of that. A young woman in particular, Ellen. What’s (Ellen)’s last name?
Lawless: (Ellen Holman).
McIntyre: And the young man.
Lawless: And the reemergence of the most excellent Nick Tarbay’s character Ashur. Ashur’s the sly one, the one that goes between worlds.
McIntyre: He’s not the only one though. There is another one of loved character called Gannicus that might make a reappearance and really mix things up and, again, sort of slinks between the worlds.
Lawless: Yeah, he’s a lone wolf. So Oenomaus goes between two, Gannicus goes between two worlds and Ashur has – well, he has to make a choice actually and anything to do with that guy is going to be treacherous.
McIntyre: Yeah, absolutely.
Mensah: Very well played though.
McIntyre: Yeah, he’s fantastic in his part.
Lawless: Scene stealer. It’s like he steals every scene. I want to kill him but I love him so much.
My first question is for Liam. It’s to do with Tiberius. I’ve seen the first two episodes and I think you’re doing a great job by the way, You know, I was a little bit worried and a little bit anxious about a new actor coming in to play Spartacus and I’m not worried there. You’re doing a great job.
Anyway, the scene in the second episode where you were actually start training (Tiberius) after he’s made an attempt on Spartacus’ life. I’m just wondering will we might see Spartacus and somebody else (unintelligible) gladiators in the series training some of these slaves that have been rescued? You know, how is that going to pan out?
McIntyre: Well, that brings up one of the points that I love about this season that I think Steven DeKnight and his team have captured well is that Spartacus was a free man and then became a slave and has now freed himself and his band.
But they really raise an issue that I like to think that Spartacus may not have really thought about because I guess the regular person wouldn’t think about it and that’s better the devil you know sometimes.
Are they better off out of that horrible system or was it, you know, and so I like the idea that they introduce characters that do challenge the idea because now they’re on the run for their life, at least before they had a life albeit a not so glamorous one in some regards.
But as far as training characters, it becomes – well, the rebels are fighting the greatest force Europe has ever known. You know, the military leaders of the known world at the time and that can’t be done with just a handful of gladiators.
So they really have a responsibility to their own survival to create their own force that can stand on their own two feet. So getting more people on board and making sure they’re fighting fit becomes very important to the rebels.
And I’ve got a little bit of follow-up for that as well. First to (unintelligible) kind of apparent that there’s a little bit of a triangle going on between yourself, Crixus and Mira. So again, in the episode is Mira that has told Crixus that you wandered off, that she woke up and you weren’t there. Is that likely to play out a bit more as the season goes on?
McIntyre: It gets more and more complicated so rather than Spartacus getting that nice simple all right so we’ve sorted things out. Why is it they keep going that? His life made harder by different deals and different characters appearing and changing the terms of engagement in some regards. So he when the cause of true love never did run smooth. The course of war isn’t easy either, sadly, for him.
So, thanks a lot for your time here. I’ve got a quick question for Lucy actually. I noticed at the end of the first episode we see the reemergence of Ashur and, you know, I just found that your character and Lucretia’s reaction to that reemergence of Ashur was kind of, you know, interesting. It was almost like she, you know, (unintelligible). Is that what you…
Lawless: I don’t really see it as that but certainly he’s a touchstone to her past and to her husband. So she can’t remember much but he stirs something in her and look for more developments there Because Nick and I talk about this all the time, we find our characters very much the same, really motivated by to survive in way they can. All bets are off with the two of them so look at if they pair up.
Thank you. A very quick one for – is it Viva?
Okay. I keep thinking Viva Espana for some reason. I don’t know why.
Bianca: Viva is Spanish.
McIntyre: Viva Espana is their catch cry for when they go into war or something.
I just wanted to quickly ask about, you know, there was also seen in the first two episodes where you – you’re out with Lucretia and we capture a glimpse of Seppia and she’s sort of like being pampered and all that. And even Lucretia kind of (unintelligible) sort of thing. And I’m just wondering I would just like to see quite a tension between your character around Seppia as the season abounds?
Bianca: Well, you know, I think I’m planting Seppia in the Roman world which is really clever because actually she is a direct competition for Ilithyia. She’s absolutely of Ilithyia’s class and she’s also…
Lawless: Some would say higher.
McIntyre: Stop it you two. Stop it you two.
Bianca: I think more importantly she’s younger. She also embodies a similar quality I think to what Ilithyia had to the beginning of season one, that absolutely kind of spoiled kind of naïve giggly thing going on. And I think in a way Ilithyia sees herself in Seppia but she’s also seeing a real threat.
I mean, girls are girls after all, right? But there is a really very interesting storyline that will play out with Seppia and Ilithyia in the Roman world that, you know, is very cleverly written.
This question is for Liam. I was wondering if you had any stories about – from playing in the mud in the mine.
McIntyre: That was when I went – you know funny enough, I remember watching Lord of the Rings and the special commentary on that and being told about how freezing cold that lake that Bilbo and – that, sorry, Frodo and Sam try to escape in and how they spent like 14 hour days in there and they were freezing to death. And I was like, “Oh, yes. Sure. I bet it’s really hard being an actor in a huge show.”
That mud was one of the toughest experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and I apologize to every actor that I’ve ever judged because I didn’t think they were tough enough.
Yes, that was sticky. Gross. Freezing. There were – I don’t – with all respect to the makeup team, I don’t have a lot good to say about the mud besides the fact that it looks amazing on screen. That was an experience that I – you know what? I asked specifically that the characters that weren’t involved in that particular episode on our side have an episode all of their own where they run off into the mines and do that just so they can know what it’s about.
Mensah: So kind of you.
I was wondering Lucy if you could – your character starts off you know in a pretty bad place at the beginning of this season. I was wondering if you can give Lucretia any advice, what would you give her? What would you tell her?
Lawless: Just to keep breathing and pay attention to all the people around her, as she does, and it’ll all work out fine. And in the end, Lucretia gets everything she wants.
And this question is for anyone and everyone. Do you find any similarities between yourselves and the characters that you play?
McIntyre: Well, I hate wearing pants, (unintelligible). I don’t know. So that works out well. Anyone (such as) me?
Lawless: You like fashion V?
Bianca: Yes. Actually that’s true Lucy. I hadn’t thought of that. Yes, I really like fashion.
Lawless: You like fashion.
Bianca: Ilithyia is a fashionista. She’s more fashionable than me actually. Lucy and I had a joke going on for the whole of Season (2) on the set. Those – she’s turn to me every now and then to say, ‘You are not fashionable.’ And then what would I say to you?
Lawless: That you’re…
Bianca: You are not convincing.
McIntyre: With that in mind, I always wondered who does the rebels’ hair? Does anyone know who does the rebels hair?
Mensah: Hey listen, I have no hair. Leave me alone. I mean the deal is it’s such a fantasy. I mean I don’t think I would’ve survived in Oenomaus’ world, frankly.
McIntyre: With a body like that, of course you could.
Mensah: Well you know what? Do you know how often we got hurt doing this thing? I’m not doing that again.
It’s a stretch, but I’m sure that there’s something of each of us in what we play, but man; that time in that life must have been incredibly hard.
McIntyre: Seriously. It’s a whole different – I don’t think you can really truly understand what, you know, that kind of life and death really means to someone.
Bianca: But you know, we can’t understand really that given the circumstances in which they’re living, but all human drama is ultimately the same.
McIntyre: Well that’s – well obviously, that’s what the show hinges on, you know.
Bianca: But yes. You know, at times and places.
I mean, I can say that playing a pregnant lady was a very new thing for me because I’ve never had a baby, and I think that was a really interesting journey to travel through — without giving too much away –throughout the season because it became kind of a pivotal catalyst for changing growth in Ilithyia.
McIntyre: In relation to that question as well, I think – I tell you what was really interesting for me was in a world that is so far removed from our own, it was fascinating to discover what kind of parts of my life and parts of my real person I had to use to transfer into that character.
I thought that was quite fascinating in the ways that you go, “Oh, okay. So if that’s going to work for that for me,” and what parts of your life you have to uncover to actually try to make sense of such a – in many ways, barbaric world.
We didn’t answer that question well at all, did we?
No, you did great. You did great. Lucy, do you see anything you’re using yourself in Lucretia?
Lawless: Well, Liam touched on something that is essential. I don’t like to talk acting technique unless people are really serious about it themselves. But if you boil it down, the trick is to have as wide an experience of yourself in as many situations in life that you can draw on different threads of yourself and your past to – and weave them together to make separate characters that all rooted in truth and yet completely distinct.
So you shouldn’t see too – any of Xena in Lucretia for example; however, they’re all part of – taken with impulses that I have felt or can extrapolate out to make this character real.
Now, don’t ever ask me again.
I won’t. I swear I won’t.
My question – first one is for Liam. I know that Andy wanted the show to go on. And as Lucy said earlier, he was happy – or he wished that you would take over the role. So, how was it to have his support? How did that impact you?
McIntyre: Things like that are more important than you can imagine. As you know, it’s – especially being a fan of the show, it’s the last thing you want to hear, but it is that – you know, the star of one of your favorite shows has been taken ill. And then it’s also a strange situation to then be told to try and you know keep that thing alive – that character alive.
To know that the person who made it so wonderful was on your side, as it were, especially considering all the…
Lawless: Yes, that’s (unintelligible).
McIntyre: Yes. Especially considering all the harrowing personal experience he had to survive at the time. That means more to an actor than you can possibly imagine.
And then how did it actually feel for you when you stepped onto the set for the very first day of filming knowing that you were stepping onto a set that he was on earlier?
McIntyre: Humbling is probably the most appropriate word. Very humbling. And a little daunting.
How long did it take you to…
Mensah: But all of us that were on set recognized the sheer amount of work that Liam had put in. He didn’t just show up and walk on. He was there for months – months ahead of time working. Really, he devoted an awful lot of effort to this. So I think all of us on set appreciated how much he had put into to be that character and to step in and take over and keep the role going.
So you know all of us that’d been there originally with Andy, certainly appreciate Liam.
Bianca: That’s right. And he had to become our new leader. And, I think we all agreed that from the Day 1, he dealt with the situation with complete grace and humility.
McIntyre: Whatever – I mean, I know that from my experience ever since the very first test in New Zealand where I had to work with you know, Manu Bennett and Brooke and Craig, and all those – you know, people that were just fantastic in their roles.
That – from the person that picked me up at the airport to the – you know Rob the Producer, it was like working with a family. And it was very hard to leave when I didn’t know if I had the role, because it really felt like I was in a special environment with a family and a bunch of people that really cared. And I was lucky enough to have that with all my cast and crew as I tried to take on this crazy task.
Well, how did it feel for you when you actually said, ‘I am Spartacus,’ for the first time?
McIntyre: Oh, that’s – you know, and – oh, that’s – it’s so – such a big line, isn’t it?
McIntyre: And in this instance more so than any other time. I remember acutely Andy’s – Spartacus saying that in the arena at the top of his lungs, you know. And you know, going back into – you know, to the Stanley Kubrick Spartacus where everybody says they’re Spartacus. You know, it’s – I guess it’s kind of like saying you know, ‘I’m Bond – James Bond,’ or something like that. It’s…
You know, I wanted to do like 100 takes and the director just had to sit down and say, “We’ve got it. Move one. We’ve got to film the show. Come on.” So I – you know, it’s – you just – again, try to be honest and truthful with your character and say it as he needed to say it in the script and hope that you don’t look like an idiot.
If you hear a beep, my mom’s been trying to call for the past ten minutes, so just ignore that.
McIntyre: Oh, moms, right? (Unintelligible).
So you know, you guys go to the set and you’re in like jeans and t-shirts and normal everyday clothes. And when you get to your trailer you put on your wardrobe or I guess lack thereof. So how does that help you get into character and I guess transport you into that – I guess the Spartacus world?
Lawless: It’s not a short process, so you’ve got a an hour and a half minimum every day to – for that character to sort of happen, and I think we just are so accustomed to it that we don’t even realize that’s such a part of our process you know.
McIntyre: Yes. And when that first layer of spray tan goes on, I really start to absorb the character.
Yes. No, it’s – I don’t know. It is one of those things. I remember – again, going back as again an actor, start – that’s in some ways green in terms of experience, that first test where they take us to – you know, they took me and put me in the actual costume. You know, it’s amazing how much it adds to the work you’ve already done on your character.
It just – you know, they’re so – the craftsmen on that set from the set builders to the whole wardrobe department and the wardrobe they create by hand – you know, leather workers and that sort of thing add so much more to what, you know, is already a very interesting character. You know, in – certainly in my case, it’s just – it’s amazing how much more you feel like you’re in the time, in the place when you all the costume on.
Lawless: Yes. We have a huge workshop of leather craftsmen, jewelry, people dying, specialists. People who make things with rubber and resins and all – whatnot. And obviously, the costume sewing you know, people in design. They’re an incredible team.
Bianca: And obviously Barbara Darragh continually just turned out episode after episode all of these very elegant dresses…
Lawless: Of world class, yes.
Bianca: …for the Roman ladies. And for Lucy and myself, you know every morning we would be in our trailers and be dressed in these corset dresses and they’re all very intricate and detailed. And it really helps as a lady to enter you know high society in a frock, and you know it informs every choice you make in your physicality, your breath, your gait, and even the way you use your voice. So it’s kind of impossible to enter that character without the gown really.
Lawless: And then when they embellish it all with this great confection of hair on your head, you know, the wig work is amazing. So we have a lot of genius designers working on us.
McIntyre: I would love to see a great confection of hair placed on Peter’s head.
Mensah: And for us slaves, not having clothes really gets you into character.
McIntyre: I know. But you know it’s funny. It’s one of those things – as my wardrobe changed, occasionally I would be – you know, I’d be given something where I had more clothes on and it felt odd, and then I felt terrible – I felt weird, the feeling that that’s held on.
And Lucy, you’re going to hate this question, but just I guess in general, what would your advice to actors be?
Lawless: I’ve given up giving advice.
Pay attention, because it’s like your career is like a marriage. There are good years and bad years, and you get (unintelligible). And if you can’t be with the ones you love, love the ones you’re with. That was a big one. Work breeds more work. Another good one.
I’d like to go back with what one fellow said earlier. He was talking about Lucretia being – I believe the term he used was ‘bat sh** crazy’ this year. And Lucy, you said, ‘We’ll see,’ or words to that effect.
The think I’m wondering is because she seems to be coming across as a little bit on the mad side, there would’ve been an expectation, maybe, from viewers to see you go big with the role. Instead, she seems quieter and more intense, and not to mention a little bit on the cunning side, which she had when she was sane. And I’m just wondering if you could speak about the challenges of playing this kind of emotional and mental state versus that (unintelligible)…
Lawless: It was so hard. I tell you what, it was really hard, and I completely lost my perspective. I maybe did too much research. Maybe the wrong kind of research, and I really needed my directors to guide me to set parameters. Because yes, you – trust me. Sometimes I went big, and my personal inclination is always just to do shtick and just turn it into slapstick. You know but obviously that’s not going to work on this show, so I had to sit on that urge very hard.
And I don’t know. It’s difficult. I haven’t had much experience with madness, but I have met post traumatic stress disorder before, and I believe that’s a justifiable outcome given all she’s been through. And you will find out how she survived by the way. That will be revealed in the fullness of time.
And Peter, now that we’ve seen in the second episode what Oenomaus’ back story is, and we see him adrift in the new season, how did the knowledge of that back story inform how you approached the role this season?
Mensah: Well, the prequel – the back story actually was useful all around just in terms of having opportunity to flesh out the character and allow the audience to see more of who he is. And so in this season, which takes place quite a number of years later, it was sort of more continuing – a continuation of the character you met in the first season as opposed to the prequel that the story really picks up.
So it was an opportunity to explore the – sort of the human Oenomaus as opposed to the tough trainer of gladiators. And the circumstances in the story all hinges so very much to exposing who he is. So really, it was sort of the prequel allows all of us to know him a lot better.
But, the situations are completely new now, and if anything, he is in such a vulnerable position at the beginning of the show. And when you think things couldn’t get worse, they just keep getting worse for him. So I think you’re going to see quite the journey which I’ll just say is informed by what happened before, but there really are new situations for him.
And I’d just like to say Liam that I found that in the first two episodes, you brought a slightly wilder energy to the role, and that seemed very appropriate for someone who is now in a position where he is pretty much forced into leadership. And, I thought you did a really good job. Thank you so much.
McIntyre: Thank you.
Lawless: Oh, how nice.
McIntyre: You can stay.
My first question is actually for Peter and Viva. And I wanted to find out maybe if you could perhaps tell us a little bit about some of the initial acting challenges found both stepping into your roles and finding your respective characters.
Mensah: Go ahead, Viva.
Bianca: I’m sorry. Can you just repeat the last thing you said?
Sure. A little bit about some of the initial acting challenges you found stepping into your respective roles and finding each of your characters.
Bianca: Well as I said earlier in this phone call, you know that there was quite a hiatus for me in terms of wrapping on Season 1 and starting this – last year on Vengeance. But really, I suppose the way I approached it was the way one would approach any new role, which is understanding the given circumstances in which this character is living.
And the great thing is because I’ve played the role before and had the history of Season 1 behind me, which is really only about eight weeks kind of earlier in the timeline of our show, there was so much to inform the choices that I’d make coming into Season 2.
So much of the research had been done for me, but still you know, I had to go through the process of reentering the very skin, heartbeat, and sort the cell of this woman. And a woman who had I think grown up a lot by the time we find her in Season 2. And, has a whole new set of hopes and dreams and plans for her future, and that’s kind of where we find Ilithyia with Glaber in Rome in Episode 1 of Vengeance.
But, her hopes are so quickly shattered and then she’d just – you know, I’m dealt this hand of cards that kind of isn’t at all what she planned. And suddenly the princess who had everything you know, very quickly ends up in the heap of all the other characters grappling for their lives and their livelihood.
Mensah: Yes. And very similarly, I think that the great thing about this is this – a lot of the underlying story to Oenomaus had been laid out previously by Steven and his writers. But – and in terms of stepping into the character, a couple of things do help.
I mean obviously the story lines themselves are sort of really, really vivid. The sets and the makeup and all the – sort of the support structures are so clearly transformative that by the time you step on set, you very much have entered that world of despair and hardship that Oenomaus lives in. So unlike, you know, real life that every time I’d go to work it was definitely a case of stepping into another world.
Now the story lines themselves take such trajectories that it’s very hard to prepare yourself for them. You sort of have to react to situations as they show up.
Bianca: Which is a great thing, because acting is reacting.
Mensah: Yes, there it is. And there’s plenty to react to in this. So yes, it was a great challenge, and hopefully we sort of, you know, keep the story tight enough for everybody to enjoy the journey along with us. But, it was certainly fantastic fun doing it.
Bianca: Yes. And just to add to that as well, I think for me coming back into Season 2 was – it was particularly useful having Lucy – Lucy Lawless and Craig Parker being – Ilithyia has kind of two key relationships in the show. And you know, it’s really the relationships your character has that informs who they are and reminds you of, you know, where they sit in the world.
So you know, it was those two actors that kind of kept me rooted in the show and reminded me of my place in the world of Spartacus.
And my question is for Lucy. And I hope I phrase it – my question correctly Lucy. I wanted to find out – you’ve played a lot of wonderful, really strong and driven female characters. And I just wanted to find out maybe what you enjoy perhaps most about those types of roles? And how do you try to sort of make each one different from the other? And, you’ve succeeded in all the roles I’ve seen you in.
Lawless: What was the first part of that question?
What do you perhaps…
Lawless: What do I like about it?
Yes. Playing those types of roles.
Lawless: I like if the person appears to be strong, I want to show their vulnerability. I want – if the person appears to be evil, I want to show their love, their capacity for love. I want to bring the flipside of their humanity through so that you will relate, whether they’re a good person or not.
Even if they’re a wicked person, I try to make you relate and maybe even love them. So that’s my mission in life. And if they’re a really good – you know, a – if they are an upstanding citizen, I want to show their vulnerability and frailty and (unintelligible)… Light and shade. Light and shade.
And then last but not least for Liam. And first off, I want to echo some earlier sentiments from callers. From what I’ve seen, you’ve done a fantastic job taking over the role. You really, really have.
McIntyre: Thank you.
Liam, you mentioned earlier about doing some research on Spartacus, and just a very general question. What sort of prep and research did you do for this role once you booked it? Before (unintelligible)…
McIntyre: Well, just I guess – I used to play computer games about the Roman Legions and that sort of thing every since I was a little kid, so I always interested in the world. So I came in there knowing a fair amount – I mean a fair bit about the Republic and the Empire that followed just out of a personal interest sake.
But then I was lucky enough to be lent an entire library from one of the producers, Chloe Smith, which I got to ingest and go through. And then you know, really explore what was known of Spartacus and that time in history and his – you know, his position in history and what he did or was taught – was said to have done.
And you know – and it was fascinating trying to piece that together and then seeing what Steven DeKnight and his team did in terms of the story they wanted to tell, and trying to really connect those dots. And then from those sort of outlines, fill it in with an actual emotion that I could understand.
It was – I love history and I love that kind of – I especially love that sort of epoch of history, so it was great to go through that in more detail for more purpose than just, you know, general curiosity.
What I want to – yes, most of my questions have been answered, but I’m curious with – and anybody can answer it. With you depicting a world of such oppression and you know mistreatment of people, does this rub off and empower you in terms of fighting, you know, for justice and stuff like that in the real world?
McIntyre: Well, I always find it amazing how stories like this last the test of time in the same way that Shakespearian stories are told again and again in different forms. I mean, the story of oppression is as relevant today as it was then. And I guess it’s nice to be able to tell a story that people can still gain some sort of you know real value out of now.
But in terms of being self-liberating, I mean it is – it’s certainly empowering to know that you can – you know, already I’ve heard of people – heard people say how empowering the story can be to them as people. So I mean I think that’s a lot of the reason why actors do what they do. It’s nice to know that you can tell a story that resonates and helps people.
Great. And I’ll just a real quickie last one of Lucy.
I’m – I’ve been watching John Hannah for years, and years, and years. All his British stuff and things, and I think he’s such a wonderful actor. And I was just wondering if he contributed something that’s now missing not having him there?
Lawless: Well certainly for my character, there is – well a couple of things actually. You know, I miss the love relationship in my character’s life. I miss that – John and I had a great sort of couple connection. I found it very easy to put him in the husband role in my life, at least on set.
And I think for the show, you do lose – it’s kind of Tony Soprano, he does terrible things. He’s a treacherous man, but he – but you love him all the same. So fortunately, we have plenty of that in the women, and now we – our – we’ve got a few new Roman men who are pretty rotten themselves, so whether they can (unintelligible) that kind of love from the audience is going to be up to the audience to decide. But yes, we miss him. Not too much though.
Bianca: (Unintelligible) is one of those inherent natural things that, you know, it’s so effortless isn’t it?
McIntyre: Now, I mean it’s the shadow of Batiatus that hangs over so much of the Roman story as I see it, which is you know he’s essentially still part of the show through the specter of his character you know.
Lawless: That’s true.
Well thank you very much.
Bianca: Oh, thank you.
Mensah: Thank you.
Lawless: That’s it kids.
Photos courtesy Starz