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'Spartacus' Podcast Party: Creator Steven DeKnight Talks 'Gods of the Arena' and What's to Come

by Maureen Ryan, posted Feb 24th 2011 1:00PM
Here's a question I'm betting you never asked yourself: What's the connection between 'Viva Laughlin' and 'Spartacus'?

Don't laugh, there actually is one. Steven DeKnight, the executive producer and showrunner of Starz's 'Spartacus,' worked on CBS' ill-fated 'Laughlin' during its short-lived debut season, and in the 44-minute Talking TV podcast he recorded with Ryan McGee and myself on Wednesday, DeKnight talked about how he learned as much or more from that high-profile failure as he did from his stints on 'Angel,' 'Buffy' and 'Smallville.'

Of course, the drama we talked about most was 'Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,' a prequel series that has its season finale Friday and has proved itself a worthy addition to the 'Spartacus' roster of gladiator tales. In fact, as DeKnight noted, some fans were angry about 'Spartacus' making a prequel series at all, but now there are complaints about the fact that the season is ending after only six episodes.

As for the season finale of 'Gods of the Arena,' DeKnight wanted to let fans know that it may unfold a little differently than they might have thought. As he explained, at one point, there had been a plan to bookend the prequel season with new footage of Andy Whitfield, the star of 'Spartacus: Blood and Sand.' That is not the case, given that Whitfield's ongoing cancer battle made shooting that footage impossible, but DeKnight noted that the character's "presence will be felt" in the finale episode of 'Gods of the Arena.'

'Gods,' which stars Dustin Clare as Gannicus as well as Lucy Lawless and John Hannah as gladiator owners Batiatus and Lucretia, had to do quite a few things in pretty short order, and it did them pretty well, in my view (my recaps of each episode of the season can be found here). It had to get us invested in several characters we hadn't met before, it had to give interesting texture to the backstories of characters we already knew, and it had to set up the events of the next full season of 'Spartacus,' which is set to arrive in early 2012. After what I thought was a slightly compressed start, 'Gods of the Arena' hit its stride about midway through its run and did all those things well. And in the podcast, DeKnight talks about how 'Gods,' even though it is set five years in the past, sets up the further adventures of Batiatus' gladiators.

Don't worry, there aren't any spoilers about the finale, though DeKnight promised the kind of intrigue and bloodshed that fans have come to expect. From what he said, it won't be quite as opulently blood-soaked as the 'Blood and Sand' finale, but it sounds as though there will be plenty of twists and turns in the 'Gods' finale. "There's always a chance there will be a couple of surprises and somebody will get it," he said.

As for the next season of the show, DeKnight said it will be "very different" from the previous iterations of 'Spartacus,' given that it will take place outside the ludus (as we discussed in the podcast, it will also have some new cast members -- Liam McIntyre as Spartacus and an actress to be named as Naevia). The creative team is working with "a bigger canvas," DeKnight noted, and Batiatus' escaped slaves will have to draw on new skills and abilities, as well as their well-honed fighting techniques.

Will the characters learn from their mistakes in the future? Some will, he said. But we discussed that question at length in the podcast, which I urge 'Spartacus' fans to listen to here, here or here.

For all my previous 'Spartacus' recaps and stories (including interviews with John Hannah, who plays Batiatus, and Peter Mensah, aka Doctore), look here.

As always, you can subscribe to the Talking TV podcast on iTunes, or you can listen to or grab the mp3 file from this site.

This week's podcast is also available here, as are full archives of every 'Talking TV' podcast. The 'Talking TV' archives are also available on iTunes as well.

If you listen or subscribe, gratitude!

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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I enjoyed the interview. Steven DeKnight seemed like a very cool guy, who knows how to promote the show to skeptics and how to talk about it on the same level as fans and critics.

I am really enjoying Gods of the Arena. I am happy with the six episode length because it means a lot happens in each episode rather than having the plot stretched out over several. I know exactly what DeKnight meant when he described other series dragging the plot out over several episodes for no other reason than to fill up the season. I feel like I understand Quintus' and Lucretia's motivations much better now, and I feel like I've known Gannicus since the beginning of the series even though we just met him a few weeks ago. I really hope he'll be back for future seasons. It's also interesting to see the life of Doctore when he was just another gladiator.

I do worry about season 2, though. It was bad enough to lose Andy Whitfield as Spartacus; news of Naevia being recast doesn't help. Why not just focus on another love interest for Crixus? I assumed she was out of the picture at the end of Blood and Sand anyway. While we probably won't be seeing too many more gladiatorial fights, I am looking forward to some epic the battles.

Hey, Mo, what are your thoughts on the new Starz series, Camelot? Will you be watching the sneak peak and writing about it? Do you know if the series will airing be on Netflix streaming as they have done with other Starz series?

February 24 2011 at 8:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought last weeks episode was up there as one of the best eppies yet for Spartacus. I wish Andy was back and I still don't like the idea of his character being recasted. I think they should have stuck with these characters and focused here. I love Batiatus and his struggles with his feelings for Melitta, but also being a badass in the ring. Just all around I am sad it is ending because I feel like I am really hooked.

February 24 2011 at 6:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fabfreckled's comment

Um, Batiatus is the ludes owner, not a gladiator...

February 25 2011 at 5:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think every season of Spartacus should get a new title.

February 24 2011 at 2:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Cool where 2 season http://youtube.com

February 24 2011 at 1:49 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Any word if the recent earthquake(s) have impacted cast, crew, or production of Season 2?

February 24 2011 at 1:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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