Spartacus Creator Steven S. DeKnight And Stars Talk War Of The Damned (Part 1)
You mentioned history and I wonder given the real history of Spartacus, should viewers be steeling themselves for a downer ending.
Steven S. DeKnight: I have a long history of ripping hearts out. So, yeah, itís a gut wrenching finale. But the interesting thing, and Iím so proud of the series finale. Itís so hard to end a series, but I think everyone did such a fantastic job on this. It is a beautiful, powerful, emotional ending. And the trick was, how do you end it Ė and this was something we talked about before we shot the first episode of the series, was what are we going to do at the end. I mean, everybody knows how it ends. It would be like doing a movie about the Titanic and the Titanic doesnít sink. But for us we wanted to (keep) as close to history as possible. So the challenge was, how do we have that ending but still make it a victory. And, you know, the last episode is called Victory and itís a bit of an ironic title. Because it really explores, you know, how the rebels gained victory in defeat. And how, frankly, with the Romans how they suffered defeat and victory.
No one comes out of this clean at the end. In true Spartacus fashion, itís all very grey at the end. But there is a powerful, I think, uplifting message at the end. And, you know, Iíve said this before but I wrote the finale, I watched all of the dailies, I saw cuts, but still at the end of the day when I watched it I cried. It was so powerful. So I can only imagine what the audience is going to feel.
Liam McIntyre: Yeah, it was very cool for us though. Especially for the rebels to sort of find a way, how do you win? How do you win out of all this that happened? Sort of a cool challenge. You know, I think they do a pretty good job. I really feel like Spartacus kind of wins.
Todd Lasance: No he doesnít.
Liam McIntyre: Toddís like, no he doesnít.
Todd Lasance: I had to pop up, sorry I had to.
Liam McIntyre: Alright you and your fancyÖ
Todd Lasance: Fancy long hair.
I watched the first two episodes and there is definitely a few moments where Iím like, ďSpartacus? What?Ē So I guess I would like to ask how he has sort of changed as far as his attitude towards things in sort of the grey area.
Liam McIntyre: Heís a lot more no nonsense this year. Itís been fun. I liked the writing team have kind of clearly (delineated) Spartacus in each season. Heís a reluctant slave, you know, who has the mission to regain his life essentially. Or, and thatís clearly defined in the second season that heís lost his old life and heís got the start of this new one as they take on this unique new responsibility that is given to him. Which is, you have the real opportunity to make a difference to so many lives, is that the person you are? And he sort of works that out.
But now itís about a year later almost in the midst of this war, this full scale rebellion that was made so famous. Heís not the questioning guy that he has been in the past about what he should be doing and how he should do it. Heís no nonsense, kick ass, take names kind of guy now. And heís been a lot of fun to play. Itís a great season for Spartacus this year because he gets to look at the rebels in a different way, you know? Up until now heís just been, you know, trying to get his own personal vengeance. And also try to free these people that look to him for leadership. But now heís seeing that freedom, you know, a different shape to the beast of his rebellion. Are they as good as he wants them to be? Are they doing what he thinks is right? Are they doing the right thing? Thereís a lot of questions raised about who the good guy is in this series.
And one of the things I love about what Simon and Todd do in the roles of Caesar and Crassus is they really get the audience to sort of question of who are they going for? And thatís one of the things I love about this show, is that the bad guys arenít really bad guys. They just happen to be fighting the hero. And so youíve got to put them in that pile. But yeah, so Spartacus has really hardened up and he has to Ė he sort of realizes that itís going to be his strength of will that leads these people to freedom or otherwise. And if heís going to have any chance against the impossible might of Rome heís going to have to steer the ship. So heís in a very firm place now.
Is there any possibility that weíll be seeing Spartacus with Crassus and the others before the end? Because generally we have to wait till the big finale for it, but I just felt that your characters are so intriguing Iíd like to see action ahead of time.
Liam McIntyre: Yeah, we get a lot of moments. There will be some bigger than others, but yeah they will not be too separate. They, obviously, whenever theyíre together itís probably not going to go well. But no, Steven has some wonderful little ideas this year about how to keep the interaction quite creative and I think itís ultimately very...
Steven S. DeKnight: That was definitely one of the trickiest elements of this season. Because now youíve got two forces. Youíve got Crassus and Caesar and Spartacus and his rebels. And whenever theyíre together, theyíre not going to be standing around talking. Theyíre going to try to murder each other. So finding creative ways to get around that was definitely a challenge.
Thereís been much said about Crassus and Julius Caesar, but I was also intrigued by some of the other new characters. Could you say something more about Kore and Tiberius? And what their roles are and questions that are brought up by their presence?
Steven S. DeKnight: Yes, Kore is Crassusí trusted and beloved house slave. And really I think his general compass is heart. She plays a very, very large role in who Crassus is. And I really wanted to find a way to humanize Crassus. Heís not a monster, he is not a two dimensional villain. He has feelings, and desires, and he has a heart. Tiberius is Carrusí son, his youngest son. Heís going to war for the first time with his father. And thatís the other dynamic I thought was really important for Crassus. Is to show this father son relationship and that balance between needing to guide your son in the right path, in the Roman way. But also this struggle about, you know, you want to be tough but you want to also show love. And that constant struggle for Crassus is something that plays out through the entire season. Those two elements, the Kore and Tiberius elements, I think, were vital in really fleshing out the character of Crassus.
Well what I felt was intriguing also was that Tiberius seems to also have respect and sort of reverence for Kore, even though she is a house slave too. So he picked up something from his dad? Or what is that relationship like?
Steven S. DeKnight: Definitely. Thatís something in the first episode that I wanted to show about Crassus, is that he is not a guy that feels like all slaves should be ground under the heel. He, in this time period I believe, was the largest slave owner in Rome. And he didnít just own slaves that did, you know, manual labor. He owned slaves that were scholars and architects. It was like a labor force. He made money off this because he would rent out his experts to other Romans to do work for them. And to teach their children. And he made quite a bit of money out of that. And also a lot of people think that slavery in this time the slaves were all in chains, were all treated poorly. But, in fact, a lot of slaves had their own homes, had their own families. But they were, you know, under the slave owner. And Crassus really had the most elite level slaves. And thereís a certain, I think, respect that he has for them.
He realizes this is a necessary component of this society. And he completely accepts that, heís not against slavery. But I wanted to show that he had a respect, and on some level a love, for certain slaves. And I think that all really, really comes out in his relationship with Kore and even his interactions with a slave that he has helping him train to fight in episode one.
Liam McIntyre: (Unintelligible) defines Caesarís relationship in that (unintelligible). In that sort of family environment as well. Heís sort of the outsider coming in to some extent right?
Steven S. DeKnight: Yeah, family is just so important. You know, itís a thing Ė Liamís interviewing me. No, but family is so important. It was important in the beginning of this show with Lucretia and Batiatus and (unintelligible). And it was important with Glabor and Ilithyia, and Ilithyiaís father. And it is very, very important this season with Crassus and Tiberius and, you know, I include Kore and Caesar to some extent, in Crassusí family. I think that building off that feeling of family is so important, and very important on the rebel side too.
Is there a point where Spartacus is going to say, ďThis is too far? These people are innocent, we need to stop.Ē
Liam McIntyre: That would be an interesting question. Look, all I can say is that the thing I like about Spartacus is he isnít necessarily a cut and dried hero character. Heís aware of the world around him and the fact that itís not a pretty Disney World. Itís not something with a Spielberg ending. And he kind of, you know, he has to take stock of what does he want, whatís it for, and what is he prepared to sacrifice to get it? And, yeah, there will be many times that the Romans and his own rebels make him look at what heís created and question whether or not itís okay what he is doing and the people around him are doing. Both sides. To tell you exactly how he decides that would be ruining the story, but it is part of what makes this character so fascinating.
Because heís not always the good guy. And some of the things that make him the hero I like to think he is, are those difficult decisions that arenít always good guy decisions. And so when he does fight and fight the good fight, it sort of more important. So he will be tested more than he ever has been and what is he doing, and why is he doing it?
Is there someone in his group that maybe acts as a bit of a conscience for him?
Liam McIntyre: Yeah, Iíve always thought that. Strangely enough, youíd never think it on the surface but, I've personally always found that Gannicus is something of his moral compass. Because heís the only one that really tells Spartacus the truth. Whether itís from the minute he met him in Vengeance, because you know obviously I think, (Varro) was that kind of guy back in Blood and Sand. He was the friend that just told Spartacus how it was. So Spartacus didnít have that for a while. And then this rock star Gannicus comes along and just sort of lays it out in a way that Spartacus didnít get any more. And throughout Vengeance and War of the Damned, they have this very Ė I love it. A very interesting relationship where two of the toughest men there are sort of lean on each other in sort of intercept able ways, in sort of manly ways. And they open up to each other that makes sort kind of (right) for the other character. So yeah, they have this strange, you know, odd bond. That like neither of them sort of looks for, but there it is, you know. And I really like the way their journey goes, especially this season.
Steven S. DeKnight: Yeah, that relationship was so important to me this season. And it really bookends the season. There is an important scene in episode one between the two. And there is a call back to that scene in the finale that is really, really important. And that scene in the finale, the call back, when we were fighting the page count and the original breakdown of the script said it would take, I donít know, 32 days to shoot. That was one of the scenes that people were talking about cutting. And I said, ďNo, you canít cut that scene. Thatís a really important scene.Ē In fact I think that scene, that call back scene, was not in the original draft of the finale.
Liam McIntyre: Interesting.
Steven S. DeKnight: And (unintelligible) said, ďHey I think, you know, we need a Spartacus Gannicus scene. And he was dead on. I think the finale would suffer without that scene between those two. Very, very important relationship.
What makes this Julius Caesar, besides his age, different than the others that weíve seen on television or movies?
Todd Lasance: Interesting question. I think the element of, I think the idea of him having a bit of a rogue element sort of springs to mind as being different from the other seasons portrayed. He doesnít, he sort of appears to not conform and stick directly to what would be a Ė whatís the word? A traditional Roman way. He kind of flyís his own flag to a degree, but obviously there is still that respect element with Crassus. So that rogue element was interesting, I wasnít sure what was going to be introduced as far as this Caesar as well. Coming into the show I wasnít sure of his whole character (act). So the rogue element was certainly interesting. I think his ability on the battlefield as well is something that hasnít really been touched on in previous Caesars. Particularly as well, obviously given the fact that most of the time Caesar is betrayed itís in his later years. But I think it will be interesting for the audience to see the fact that he was extremely formidable with the sword.
And he needed to be a direct threat to Spartacus and the rebels themselves and have that sort of physical presence in the sense that he needed to be an opponent that was worthy of fighting and could potentially take down the rebels. So they introduce a few one on ones between the higher ranking rebels as well. To kind of show off, I guess you could say, his fighting ability. And it becomes quite apparent very early on that obviously heís a definite physical threat as well. Not just a sharp wit, but also an extremely threatening on the battlefield. So I think those two elements will be something that hasnít really been seen before in a Caesar in the past.
Steven S. DeKnight: And to add to that. That was an element that I really wanted to show. Is just how dangerous Caesar was militarily. Since historically he goes on to fight a brutal campaign in Gaul and at this point in our story, heís coming back from helping (unintelligible) fight against the pirates. So he knew how to fight. He was a military guy, and he became a military commander. And thatís the other thing about Crassus too that I wanted to show. A lot of people just think of Crassus as the statesman, the rich statesman. But he actually, his nickname was the Hero of (Common) Gate, I believe it was. There was a big battle during the times of (Marius) where he did this decisive maneuver in a battle that won the day.
But I also (looked) in history for that and I wanted Crassus and Caesar both to be very, very good fighters. And for the audience to have the idea that, okay if one of these guys went head to head with Spartacus, you know, maybe he wonít win. But by God heíll give him a run for his money. That they are dangerous and on the right day, at the right time, they could kill any of the main rebel characters.
Todd Lasance: Actually adding to that as well. It was interesting for me to read personally about his Ė about the fact that at such an early age he was commanding legions. I think we lose scope of the age, do you know what I mean. I look at Ė Iím 27, and to think two or three years prior Caesar was commanding legions of men. And at the front line of the battlefield. I canít even fathom what that must have been like. So for him to prove himself at such a young age as well, I think it was important for that element to be introduced in the season as well. Or in the series itself. Just because people werenít aware of that. I most certainly wasnít aware of it until I came across it in the readings and, you know, we had Ė thereís a couple of accounts of high ranking soldiers moving to the front of the line with Caesar and wanting to be the first to charge the line, so they could die in his name. So he obviously held an extremely large amount of respect with the military. And ultimately thatís how he gained so much power and became emperor, was through the military. So itís an important element.
Steven S. DeKnight: That sounds like a great show that Iíd like to see.
Todd Lasance: Little drop in.
Liam McIntyre: No, I keep saying that. I swear, I donít want to talk it up too much. But whenever I watch it Iím just compelled by the Roman side of the story. I mean, truly I think Toddís portrayal of Caesar is just brilliant. And honestly Crassus is a fantastic nemesis. Heís just unlike any other villain that weíve portrayed so far. And those two together, theyíre so different, but thatís what makes them (unintelligible) wonderful partnership. Because they are like two sides of the same coin in some regard. And the portrayals I think are just exceptional. They really blew me away.
Todd Lasance: Thank you.
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