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I wanted to find out what have you enjoyed most about your Spartacus experience? And what, also, are you maybe going to take away from it both on a personal and professional level? If you don’t mind me asking?
Steven S. DeKnight: You know, one of the things I have enjoyed most about Spartacus is the joy of watching it. And just being amazed at how it all comes together. I mean, this is the kind of show that I just love. I think having the opportunity to play with language like this as a writer has just been phenomenal and, you know, unless we do a Caesar spinoff I doubt will ever happen again. And the faith that Starz and Rob Tapert placed in me to do this slightly odd, effected, constructed language was just enormous. And there was a lot of worrying early on. There was a lot of discussion about if the audience is going to understand anything that’s being said. And, you know, I (unintelligible) to get used to the way people talk. But as a writer, there’s just no greater joy to have the freedom to play with language like that. And to see your words come to life on screen by such fantastic actors, was just an absolute joy. What were the other two parts of the question?
Just maybe what you were going to take away from it on both a personal and professional level?
Steven S. DeKnight:Well professional level, it’s just – I can’t even begin to explain what it’s done on a professional level. I think, for me, on a professional level, it’s done what it’s done for some of the actors. It took me from writing on shows as at the time I was the co-executive producer, you know basically working for other people. And happily working for other people, actually working for Joss Whedon when I landed this job. But it took me from being a writer to being an executive producer/creator. Which is a very difficult set for a writer to make. It really requires a leap of faith from someone to give you that opportunity. It’s absolutely changed my career. It put me at a different level. It put me into the exclusive show runner category. Which aren’t a lot of in Hollywood. So on a professional level it’s just been stunning.
On a personal level it’s just – I’ve never created a show. And I’ve never guided a show from the very beginning to the very end. And just to go through that process and all the ups and downs, the triumphs and the tragedies from where we started when we first aired. We were universally hated, reviews were terrible. And to follow that to the end of the season where it all turned 180 and we were getting praised. It was such a roller coaster ride and, you know, the deep lasting emotions about Andy about having, you know, helped discover him and bring his talent to the world. And then to find out he was sick. And then to be told he was better and only to relapse and pass away, was, you know, so heartbreaking. It’s still difficult to talk about. And then the roller coaster ride of keeping the show going against all odds, bringing it back after the prequel. And see the ratings just keep rising. On a personal level it’s just – it’s hard to describe. It’s stunning. It’s a deep, deep gratitude for having had this opportunity.
To Liam, what is kind of stepping back into the role this season, what maybe or did you discover any new acting challenges with the role this season? And then part two of the question, how maybe have you seen yourself sort of grow as an actor playing this character?
Liam McIntyre: Well it’s been a journey of a lifetime. Like Steven for saying. For me, to come out of such unbelievable tragedy and agony. And this year, I guess I had that year behind me to feel like, “Okay, I can be Spartacus. This can be my role a little bit this year.” I was so overjoyed that the fans kept loving the show after Andy’s amazing job and me just trying to make sure I can honor that. And this year I was like, “Well what else can I bring to this guy?” and it was great.
The writers gave me a whole new guy. He’s obviously the same Spartacus, but I mean, in my normal life growing up I was never like the alpha male. I remember getting into the boot camp for the very first time weird to see people like Manu Bennett, these just monstrously powerful men, you know. And these amazing characters. And I just sort of stand there, especially as I was just getting into things. When I was very underweight and trying to train my ass off. Going, “Hell I’m not going to be able to lead these people.” Because there is an element of life that imitates art. So when you’ve got that many strong men together, even though they’re acting, they’re also kind of not acting at a certain level.
That first year was an interesting process in seeing what made me a leader anyway. This was my first experience with being the lead of the show and things like that, so it was quite strange. And this year it requires Spartacus to be absolutely the dominant male as it were. He had to be absolutely sure of himself, absolutely able to in a heartbeat say, “this is what we’re doing, and there’ll be no discussion.” And to embody that, for a person who historically like me – I was, I’m just not that kind of strong, tough, unwavering guy in real life. So that was a fascinating challenge. It’s why you get into acting. To just be people that you want to be. Spartacus is an amazing character and a phenomenal human being.
The idea that he really exists, still actually boggles my mind. That a guy could lead so many desperate cultures of down trodden people to any kind of unity like that is incredible. But it was, it was a fantastic opportunity to build on what I’d been learning every day of the previous year. And, you know, I’ve seen a rough cut of the final episode and, you know, to see the first episode I did of this show versus the last episode. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given. I’ve gotten to grow so much this year. I’ve learned so many things, I’ve got to work another astounding selection of actors and build relationships with the ones that I’ve worked with last year. I mean, they have amazing talent on this show and I love working with people like Dustin Clare, he’s just – you sort of work with him and he’s so effortless. You just, “Oh, okay. That scene seemed to go well.” And then you see him on camera and you go, “Geez that guys amazing.” You know, he’s truly fantastic.
So I’ve gotten to learn so much from my fellow actors. I’ve gotten to be directed by incredible people. I got to work with truly great scripts that you just don’t get. And, you know, people like Rob Tapert who are just so inspired in their vision and so clear in their message of getting that vision. Early in the first one, in Vengeance, I was like, “Wow, you get to this stage in your career and it feels like your cheating.” Like I’m used to working on short films and student films with no crew and nothing, and then suddenly you’ve got hundreds of people just trying to make your performance look wonderful. It’s opportunities like that that are just incredible in an actor’s growth. And that’s why I think so many of those in the cast have had their lives completely changed by what is truly a phenomenal and one of a kind show. We’ve all got to grow so much.
Steven we’ve talked a lot about the violence that’s in the season. But are there going to be any epic battles that you can talk about? And just for the actors, so they can think about it while you’re talking, I’d like them to tell me what their favorite episode is when you’re done.
Steven S. DeKnight: Sure, there are many epic battles. We start off at the tail end of one, that we see in the trailer, a great reveal of Spartacus coming up over a hill charging on a horse. And we really wanted to use that image, you know, this season is different. The scope is just spectacular. There’s a running battle that happens mid-season that I think is pretty damn cool. And, of course, we build to an epic conclusion. I think the biggest battle that we’ve ever attempted, which is truly spectacular and I’m still scratching my head how we actually pulled that one off.
But yeah, the battles are fantastic. But more importantly, just like the early days of this show with the gladiator fights. The important thing for us was, what’s the emotion behind the battle? Who wants what? Who needs what? What are the stakes for the characters? Not just, you know, big fights. And that was a tricky part this season because the battles are so gigantic, but I think we managed to nail that one.
Thanks, and now the actors, favorite episodes?
Cynthia Addai-Robinson: I’ll go first I guess. Well I’ve only seen the first couple of them, so when we’re performing it versus what the final end result is. Is, you know, a night and day difference from what I’ve seen from the first couple episodes. Because you have to remember too, you know, often times we’re essentially working in from of a green curtain and we have an amazing post production team. They’re kind of the unsung heroes of the whole thing. Because they, especially this season, and I think advancements in technology – it’s cinematic, some of these backdrops and environments that we’re using this season.
So I think the audience is going to particularly be into that. I can say that I think my favorite episode that we worked on, which I haven’t seen yet, is sort of more towards the end. And that would be episode eight. It was a monster, monster episode to shoot. And obviously can’t go into any details but I know, again, as a fan, as an audience member it’s one of the ones I actually can’t wait to see. And I’ve heard sort of little whispers about it, but I think that, you know, each episode we can’t afford to waste a frame, a word, a scene. Each episode is so dense, you know, there isn’t any one episode that’s kind of a lull in the season. Each episode ends and your jaw is on the floor and you’re like, “Oh my God. What’s next? What’s next?” so they’re all pretty powerful.
Liam McIntyre: For me, I just can’t wait to see Episode 9 and how that comes together. Because, for me, that’s just before the epic finale. So (unintelligible), I don’t know it’s sweet, it’s emotionally hard, and it integrates with history in parts I’ve been really looking forward to since the start of the story. And obviously again, I wouldn’t go through it and ruin it for people. But yeah, I was looking forward to some of that since I got the role. So there’s some stuff in line that I think you’d be really – well I’m excited to see.
Todd Lasance: It’s always difficult picking a favorite episode because they have so many different elements. Liam just nailed it when talking about the shifts and also what Cynthia said about leaving your jaw dropped. I’m going to go with both of their answers.
It’s so boring but it’s so true. Anywhere sort of seven, eight, nine. I mean there’s a lot for me to do personally in seven. But yeah Cynthia is right, there’s some jaw dropping moments which just leaves it hanging. And then the next episode just floors you again, you think, “No, it can’t get any better than that.” and it just continues to escalate. So yeah, any of those episodes in there the audience is just going to be gagging for the next episode. Because it’s one of those moments.
We were talking about relationships earlier Steven, and you mentioned that in a sense Kore and Caesar are kind of part of a surrogate family with Crassus and Tiberius. And I was just wondering, how did you develop the Crassus/Caesar relationship beyond commanding officer and commanded officer.
Steven S. DeKnight: Well to start with I took a page out of history. Crassus and Caesar, they have a very complicated relationship. They appear to be very close but they also, the letters that they sent back and forth that they really traded barbs. One of the most famous ones was Crassus came to Caesar’s aid and paid the ransom when Caesar was kidnapped by the pirates. But Crassus didn’t actually rush to pay it, and Caesar sent basically a, you know, rather irate note, you know, “Thanks for the payment, what the fuck took so long?” So they had a very, it was almost like a love/hate relationship. But Crassus definitely needed Caesar. He did not have the storied name that would propel him to the top of politics. And Caesar had the Julian name but had no money, he was broke. Crassus paid off a bunch of his debts and helped fund him in his political lies.
So we really wanted to explore the early days of that. That these are two guys that there is a mutual respect, and even I think, at the barest essence of their characters, a fondness for each other. But they are often at odds. Even though they’re working towards the same goal. They often don’t agree with each other. It’s a very rocky relationship. And really that was my building blocks for this relationship. But you will see as we go along, that Caesar is very loyal to Crassus. And Crassus does have a great respect for Caesar. In my mind, I think Crassus feels like Caesar is kind of like a son to him. And, you know, it’s almost like the son you wish you had. Which causes problems with his real son.
And Caesar and Crassus’ son Tiberius, this is really like, I played it as much as I could like two brothers. You know, each vying for their father’s approval. And it causes a very interesting dynamic and spins into a hell of a great story.
Todd Lasance: I like the way that you created this symmetry through a lot of so much of this season. Spartacus and Crassus, they’re not entirely separate from each other. And Spartacus and Crixus and Caesar and Crassus, they’re both very dominant in their two groups. And they’re both fighting for what they believe is right, they’re both similar but very different. There’s great symmetry in terms of all the stories this time around, I think it’s very nice.
Steven S. DeKnight:Yeah, we were definitely shooting for that two sides of the same coin feel with the rebels and the Romans.
Read Part 1 of the conversation here.
Spartacus: War of the Damned premieres Friday, January 25 at 9:00 p.m. Et on Starz.
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