Spartacus: Gods of the Arena rewinds the clock, resurrects a couple of dead guys and introduces two new characters who share in the gladiator-era debauchery and bloodlust.
Set approximately five years before Spartacus: Blood and Sand, the six-part prequel (premiering Friday at 10/9c on Starz) features a more youthful but no less ambitious Lentulus Batiatus (John Hannah), and his randy wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) as well as Gladitor Crixus (Manu Bennett) and Oenomaus (Peter Mensah). New to the story are Gannicus (Dustin Clare), a gladiator, and the merry widow Gaia (Jaime Murray), both of whom provide much of the entertainment — and trouble — in Batiatus' world before the arrival of Spartacus.
Series creator Steven S. DeKnight and the cast gave TVGuide.com the scoop on Ancient Rome's new and old players. Here's your rundown:
Gannicus, The Upstart: The new gladiator is as skilled as he is charming and arrogant. He quickly rises in the ranks of Batiatus' ludus, but his love of wine, women and hubris could be his downfall. "Gannicus is a pretty self-destructive gladiator modeled on [Australian boxer] Anthony Mundine," Clare says of his character. "He is always trying to escape his reality. He was an interesting character who we get to unpick through the six episodes. We have a great through line and opportunity to see this man rise within everything that keeps him down."
Gaia, Lucretia's Gal Pal: "She's an old chum of Lucretia's from back in the wild days," DeKnight says. "And they're very, very friendly." Murray added, "It's a time where women had very little power. They couldn't vote, they couldn't own property. It was looked down on for a woman to be without a husband. So she finds herself alone in the world and Lucretia is all she has."
Batiatus, The Headstrong Lanista: He's alive and well in the past, but hasn't achieved the respect he craves yet, leading him to make a few capricious decisions when it comes to his gladiators. "John Hannah had expressed interest in coming back," DeKnight says. "Of course, we practically chopped his head off at the end of season one, so unless he's a head in a jar, we had to go back in time. You learn about what drives Batiatus when we introduce a character we discuss in season one but never see, which is Batiatus' father Titus."
Lucretia, The Real (Bored) Housewife of Capua: Batiatus' amorous wife is incredibly devoted to her loving husband Batiatus, but she needs some distraction (hello, Gaia!) while he's attending to gladiator business. "Lucretia is trying to become more respectable but Gaia is still the wild card," DeKnight says. "Gaia actually loves Lucretia, will stand by her through thick and thin but is not adverse to pulling her into a bit of old-time trouble."
Crixus, The Skinny Slave: You might not recognize this Gaul at first. Before he became the Champion of Capua, he was a long-haired slave. Upon entry to Batiatus' ludus, he observes Gannicus and learns what it means to be a top gladiator. "I lost a lot of weight for the role because I had to come back as a slave who had been working in the mines who probably didn't eat very well and obviously didn't shave or get his hair cut," Bennett says. "It was a great opportunity to show somebody vulnerable and not as powerful, needing to learn any meaning of being a champion, of being a kingpin of a prison, a tough guy."
Oenomaus, The One-Time Champion Gladiator: Before becoming the Doctore, teacher of the gladiators, this slave was a triumphant gladiator himself with a lovely wife."You get to learn a lot more about Doctore and his relationship with Gannicus and Crixus," DeKnight says. "All their back stories are so juicy and surprising by the time you get to the end."
Gnaeus, An Ill-Fated Fellow: Wait, who's this guy again? "You may remember Gnaeus from season one," DeKnight says. "He's the guy that Spartacus threw off the cliff. We get to learn an incredible amount of what drove the characters you saw in Season 1, even characters like Gnaeus."