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Starz greenlights Spartacus prequel

US cable net Starz is making a prequel to its successful scripted series Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

Produciton of the second season of the original show had to be postponed this spring to allow Andy Whitfield, who played the title character, to be treated for cancer. Whitfield is said to be responding well to treatment and will make a brief appearance in the prequel.

The new series will be fronted by Lucy Lawless (Xena Warrior Princess) an John Hannah as Batiatus, her on-screen husband and gladiator owner. Both also appeared in Blood and Sand.

The title of the new series is yet to be confirmed, but it is known that it will go into production this summer and shot in New Zealand. It is slated to air on Starz next January.

“The prequel story maintains the excitement and entertainment value of the first season of ‘Spartacus,’ giving audiences the engaging experience they’ve come to expect,” said Starz CEO Chris Albrecht.

He added: “Fortunately, Andy is responding to his treatments, and will be able to be part of this prequel in a limited capacity. As soon as he’s able, we look forward to continuing the Spartacus story.”

The six-part prequel will be produced by the same team as the original, including Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert.