Andy Whitfield

Spartacus: Blood and Sand star Andy Whitfield has died. He was 39.

Whitfield died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Sydney on Sunday, his manager, Sam Maydew, told The Associated Press. In a statement, Whitfield's wife, Vashti, called her husband a "beautiful young warrior" who died in the "arms of his loving wife," according to the AP.

See other celebrities who have died this year

Whitfield, a Welsh actor who lived in Australia, was virtually unknown to American audiences when he was cast in the lead of the graphically violent and sexual Starz series. Whitfield was preparing to shoot the second season of Spartacus when he received his original diagnosis.

Starz then produced the six-episode prequel series Spartacus: Gods of the Arena while Whitfield sought treatment. Whitfield was declared cancer free in May 2010, but in September of that same year, Starz announced that Whitfield's cancer had returned and the show would move forward without him.

In January, Liam McIntyre was announced as Whitfield's replacement in the title role.

Spartacus' Andy Whitfield "attacking cancer like a true champion"

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield," Starz President Chris Albrecht said in a statement. "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."

Series creator/executive producer Steven S. DeKnight tweeted: "No words to express the depth of such a loss. You will be deeply missed, my brother."

And Whitfield's co-star, Lucy Lawless, said he "left an indelible mark on all of us in the Spartacus family." In a statement, she added: "He was a gentle man who never said a bad word about anyone, a gifted photographer, engineer (no really!) and a brilliant actor. Andy's incandescent film presence made men want to be him and women want to marry him."