Spartacus

Spartacus: Blood and Sand creator Steven. S. DeKnight wants Andy Whitfield's fans to know the actor is actively fighting the disease.

"Andy of course is being very private about his condition and what he's going through with his family," DeKnight said Tuesday to discuss the prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. "It's been a little while, but the last thing I heard was that he was attacking it like a true champion. I have the utmost faith that he will pull through with flying colors."

The 36-year-old Whitfield has been battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, forcing him to drop out of the Starz series in September. Liam McIntyre was recently announced as Whitfield's replacement as the titular gladiator.

Liam McIntyre replaces Andy Whitfield in Spartacus

"We're all just praying for him," Manu Bennett, who plays fellow gladiator Crixus, said. "When the cancer has moved on as it has, it's a bigger battle for him. I can't tell you how deeply saddened it has been for all of us to know that our friend, our colleague, our inspiration has been given such a challenge. It's going to be a longer period of time before any of us know what is going to be the result with Andy right now. All communications would indicate that he's in very high spirits and that he's fighting this thing with as much strength as he fought [with] on the show."

In the meantime, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena will premiere the first of six episodes Friday at 10/9c. The series focuses on Batiatus (John Hannah) before his ludus becomes a contender in the gladiator tournaments and Crixus before he becomes a fighting champion.

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In the spring, production will begin on the second season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

"The only juice I'll give you is that it's extra sweet," DeKnight said. "Season 2 is shaping up to be a hell of a ride. We're actually about halfway through figuring [it] out. We're obviously deeply saddened that Andy couldn't continue with us. He was a huge part of the show's success. We wish him the best and a speedy recovery."

As for Whitfield's replacement, DeKnight said they did " an exhaustive search to find somebody not to replace Andy but to step into the role of Spartacus. We feel very fortunate that we were able to find Liam, who we felt really embodied everything we were looking for in the character looking forward."