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Actor Andy Whitfield lost his battle with cancer today. The actor, known for playing the title character in the excellent Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, had been suffering from non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and had to drop out of the gladiator role as a result of his health issues.

The Associated Press reported the news tonight, stating that Whitfield died today in Sydney, Australia after an 18-month battle with cancer. He was 39 years old.

As a fan of Spartacus, it is with genuine sadness that I share this news. Whitfield was relatively unknown before taking on the role of Spartacus, but he exuded a stoic strength in the part that made me believe we had only just begun to see his true potential as an actor. When the cast of Spartacus spoke with the press at Comic-Con last July, actor Manu Bennett (Crixus) spoke of Whitfield’s “unmatchable” quality and charisma as an actor.

Spartacus: Vengeance will premiere on Starz this January, with actor Liam McIntyre set to take over the role of Spartacus.

Our thoughts go out to Andy Whitfield’s friends and family.