"I am Spartacus."
Newcomer Liam McIntyre pronounces these iconic words in Spartacus: Vengeance, which returns to Starz for its second season on Friday at 10/9c. In a way, the Aussie is proclaiming the new regime, both as the slave who won his freedom and as the actor who stepped into Spartacus' shoes after Andy Whitfield had to exit because of lymphoma. (Whitfield died in September.)
As the new guy, McIntyre enters into a fantastically overwrought world of gore, copulation and pseudo-period dialogue with which fans are already familiar. Despite the convoluted language and intense fight sequences requiring months of training, it was the revealing sex scenes that he found the most challenging.
"The language I liked because I had a Shakespeare background, so it was really fun to play," McIntyre tells TVGuide.com "It's like revisionist Shakespeare or something. The fighting is like being a 10-year-old; it's so much fun. So I guess the most challenging thing is the nudity. It's just such a weird thing. It always works in the story, it's always a combination of an important moment... but as an actor, it's just an odd experience. People just don't go around with their clothes off."
Nevertheless, McIntyre stripped down and stepped up, bringing Spartacus to life once again in all his naked glory. Season 2 picks up with Spartacus leading the rebels who have won their freedom by overthrowing the House of Batiatus in a bloody battle. Check out what else McIntyre, executive producer Steven DeKnight and co-star Lucy Lawless have to say about what's coming up this season:
A Brothel Massacre. Crixus (Manu Bennett) is intent on obtaining critical information, and he's not about to let a house of ill repute get in his way. Naturally, his fellow rebels are more than eager to participate. "In Episode 1, one of the early things we put up on the board in the writers' room, was 'Brothel Attack," and you just can't go wrong with a title like that. There's a very emotional story that goes with that, but we wanted to have it, 'Well, you don't want to just go in and attack a bunch of guys and get some information. They should attack a brothel.'"
The Roman Upstart. Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) was only seen briefly in the first season, but is back with more screen time as he sets out to oppose Spartacus and the rebels. Too bad the younger generation of Romans aren't always on the same page. "We definitely wanted to throw some roadblocks in his way and that's where we came in with Seppius [Tom Hobbs] and his sister Seppia. [Hanna Mangan Lawrence]," DeKnight explains, adding that they "wanted to have this young guy" cause Glaber some trouble. "Early on in the season, there's a scene between the two. They're just sitting and talking, but it's one of my favorites of the season, the scene in which Seppius eats the fig. It's a power battle."
The Unexpected Slave. As Spartacus and his men travel the countryside, freeing slaves as they go, they encounter Tiberius (Pana Hema-Taylor) a young man who isn't thrilled to have his master killed. "People like Tiberius challenge the idea that Spartacus has that everybody should be free," says McIntyre. "Rome is such an oppressive regime that sometimes it's better the devil you know than something else. And even if he was lashed and all those things, at least he knows where it's coming from. Whereas the problem the rebels have from the get-go is that we're on the lam. We're on the run from the law, and the law wants to kill you. Is that really a better thing than being fed and fighting in the arena for money? Is that a better situation to be in? In principle, yeah. In reality maybe not."
More Than Just Figs. "I'm big in the scripts about writing in certain times when people are eating. It carries so much more weight," says DeKnight. "It's one of the things we started doing with Nick Tarabay, who plays Ashur. There was a scene in Season 1 where we saw the dailies, and something terrible was happening to somebody, and we cut to Ashur, and he's having a little snack. So we started writing that in. That really just spoke tons about his character."
The Return of the Retiarus. Gnaeus (Raicho Vasilev), who wielded the trident and net in the arena, may be dead this season, but another gladiator will take up the "fisherman's gear." "The retiarus, the trident and net gladiator, in all the versions of movies and stuff, he tends to look ridiculous," DeKnight says. "But on our show — and that's the genius of [stunt supervisor] Allan Poppleton — he made it absolutely badass. You will see more of tridents and nets."
A Love for Lucretia. The domina survived the House of Batiatus slaughter, but is not the Lucretia we once knew. Nevertheless, she still holds appeal for at least one person. "Lucretia's lost everything," Lawless says. "She's lost her beloved husband, the child she was going to give him, the lover who enabled the child, the home, status and therefore it's quite understandable that she's lost her marbles in the meantime... but she does have two love interests. Somebody falls in love with her."
Check out what else is in store for Lucretia in our interview with Lawless:
Will you tune in for the new Spartacus? Which character are you excited to see back?