Andy Whitfield, star of the Starz Entertainment sword-and-sandal series “Spartacus,” died in Australia on Sunday at the age of 39.
The muscled actor succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer with which he was diagnosed in March 2010, according to The New York Times.
Whitfield was born in Wales, but made his home in Australia, where he first came to attention after stints in a number TV shows, including “All Saints” and “Packed to the Rafters.” The sometime model had his biggest breakthrough, though, when he was cast in the Starz series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” in which he played the title role of a soldier who leads a rebellion against the Roman Empire. The series was an instant hit thanks to his turn in the classic role that had previously been filled by such screen icons as Kirk Douglas.
After his diagnosis last March, Whitfield began to undergo treatment in New Zealand, which led to the delay of the second season of the show and the filming of a six-part prequel, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” for which he provided some voiceover work. He was initially declared cancer-free a few months after treatment, but suffered a relapse later in the year that forced him to abandon the role, which was recast.
His wife, Vashti, issued a statement on Sunday confirming his death. “On a beautiful sunny Sydney morning, surrounded by his family, in the arms of his love wife, our beautiful young warrior Andy Whitfield lost his 18-month battle with lymphoma cancer … he passed peacefully surrounded by love,” the statement said. “Thank you to all his fans whose love and support have helped carry him to this point. He will be remembered as the inspiring, courageous and gentle man, father and husband he was.”
The cable network Whitfield called home also released a statement on his passing. “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield,” said Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht. “We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in ’Spartacus’ and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life. Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans.”