Spartacus wasn’t the first champion of the arena. Many men lived and died on the sands before him. “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” the prequel to Starz’ hit series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” brings to life the story of Gannicus, the first gladiator to become Champion of Capua. Australian actor Dustin Clare has been tapped for the role in the series which begins production this August and will air early next year on Starz.
Joining Clare in the series are Jaime Murray and Marisa Ramirez in two central roles. Also returning to reprise their roles in the series, which takes place before Spartacus joins the ludus (gladiator training school): Lucy Lawless (Lucretia), John Hannah (Batiatus), Peter Mensah (Oenomaus) and Manu Bennett (Crixus). Andy Whitfield (Spartacus), will appear briefly in the prequel, and rejoin the show in season two, which is set to begin production later this year.
Clare is best known to Australian audiences, where he had major roles on a number of long-running TV series, including “Satisfaction,” “Underbelly” and “McLeod’s Daughter.” Murray plays Gaia, Lucretia’s friend and a Capua social climber. She starred in the CW series “Valentine” and had an extended role on Showtime’s “Dexter.” Ramirez is best known for her long runs on “General Hospital” and “The Young and the Restless,” and was recently seen on “Past Life” and “Miami Medical.” Ramirez plays Melitta, a beautiful slave girl with complicated relationships.
“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” focuses on the House of Batiatus, in the days before Spartacus arrived. Hannah’s Batiatus is not yet the head of the family, or the ludus. Gannicus is the undisputed lead gladiator in the Ludus, but in the class-conscious world of ancient Capua, the House of Batiatus still hasn’t earned the respect of local society, or the right for its gladiators to fight in the championship bouts. Gannicus must survive the arena to not only keep his place in the ludus but also rise to become the champion in all of Capua.