TRADING SWORDS FOR SUITS. Australian actor Liam McIntyre stepped into the role of Spartacus in the hit action drama of the same name and made the character his own. Now that he has finished filming the show’s final season, he talks to DA MAN about his gladiator workouts, how tough his last day was and what his next battle will be. By Anand Mathai.
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Liam McIntyre started Spartacus with some big sandals to fill. He took on the role of the historical warrior in the acclaimed Starz action-drama during the show’s second proper season after former series lead Andy Whitfield tragically passed away due to cancer. As his first major role, fans of the series worried whether McIntyre had what it would take to step into the role. News that Whitfield blessed the casting of a new lead helped, but McIntyre was able to win over fans and critics alike with a strong performance that was true to the character his predecessor had created without coming of as imitation. The show is currently in its third and final season, subtitled “War of the Damned,” which has been hailed by reviewers for its powerful storytelling, deep characters and beautifully grim atmosphere.
DA MAN: You have described feeling a bit like Spartacus yourself when you started on Season 2, in that you felt like you had to earn the trust and respect of your fellow actors in order to lead them. How did it feel coming back for season 3?
Liam McIntyre: Well I guess not dissimilar. As opposed to winning people over, proving myself and trying to lead last year (and honor the fallen, which hasn’t changed this year!), this year I was the leader, and I knew we were headed for the end, and so I did my best to lead by example, push myself to the limit, as far as I could go, and help motivate everyone to do the best damn job they could do. But I have to tell you, they didn’t need much motivation, I’ve never seen a harder working, more talented group of people in all my life!
DA MAN: How grueling was your workout regimen for the show? Now that the show is done filming, are you trying to keep up the gladiator physique?
Liam McIntyre: I made a promise to myself and with my trainer on the show, Tyrone Bell, that we were going to train every week, without fail. In Vengeance [the show’s second season] that meant five times a week, plus cycling in the mornings. War of the Damned had an even more difficult schedule, so it was 3–4 times a week, after filming, as hard as we could go, plus cycling in the morning. It wasn’t easy, but when you make that promise and commitment, you have to do it. I’m glad I did. I’m definitely trying to keep it up – we worked too hard to get it to let it go now!
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DA MAN: What is the craziest or most physically demanding stunt you ever did for the show?
Liam McIntyre: Just one? Jumping off a ledge two stories up and ‘riding a wall’ down to the ground. Getting knocked off a horse and rolling into a fight. Doing a ‘Hurricarana’ —Google it — while running at full speed… There are too many to name!
DA MAN: This season of Spartacus has been especially dark. How did you guys keep things from getting too grim on the set?
Liam McIntyre: Haha. No we were moping around every day, no fun at all. Of course not! There was such a great air of camaraderie on set with the other performers and crew, that we had a lot of fun. I think it helped with energy levels so that when things had to get really heavy—which, okay, was quite a lot—it made it easier to go to those places, because you knew your buddies were there to help pull you out again. And of course we had Dustin Clare on set. The number one prankster. I personally hope they make a DVD special features of just him playing jokes on people. It’d go for hours and never be boring.
DA MAN: A lot of Spartacus is filmed in front of green screen. How hard was it to get used to that at first and how comfortable are you with it now?
Liam McIntyre: Almost everything is green screen in some way. I actually love it. It’s, in a weird way, a bit like a fusion of Theatre and Film. You have these incredible costumes, amazing sets and a wonderful script to work with, but then there’s a lot of ‘the world’ left to your imagination. Like in theatre where half your world is a crowd looking back, you have to use your imagination, and in a strange way, for me, that’s quite freeing. So it didn’t feel too strange for me at all.
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DA MAN: This season is the last for Spartacus. How do you feel about that? Do you wish you had had more time with the character?
Liam McIntyre: How can you not want more time with one of history’s greatest freedom fighters? He’s an incredible, once in a lifetime kind of character and I’ll miss him greatly. When we all found out this was the last season, we were all a little heartbroken, and felt like we really wanted a longer time telling the story, and that it was ending prematurely. But as we moved forward, say by episode 6 or so, we all got this sense of what we were creating, and, having finished it all now, I really can’t think of a better way to end it. It’s always better to go out on top, than to limp to the finish line.
DA MAN: What was the mood like on the set on the last day of filming?
Liam McIntyre: So sad. Truth be told we were too busy to think too hard about it—there was a lot to film, and not much time—but any time you took a breath, it was like the heaviest feeling. This show has been through a lot. It lost a great man in its incredible lead in Andy Whitfield, it’s broken new ground in television, it’s been critically panned and earned its way into people’s hearts, it’s had so much pressure just getting such a huge show made, and so much more. It’s meant so much to everyone on the production, from its creators Starz, its producers Rob Tapert and Chloe Smith, to all the New Zealand crew. It’s also been the first big thing a lot of the actors (like me!) have done. We poured our hearts into Spartacus, and to know it was ending brought a tear to every eye. I make no attempt to hide the fact that I was openly weeping in my goodbye speech to everyone, even if it’s not very ‘action hero-y’. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
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DA MAN: You were quoted as saying that, “As Spartacus, I try to contain the nerdy side of me, which is a challenge.” What is the nerdiest, most un-Spartacus like thing about you?
LM: Haha, that’s a whole article just by itself! Pretty much everything. I play more video games than you can possibly imagine, I play board games, I used to collect miniatures. My last short film before I did Spartacus was actually about Dungeons and Dragons. And I’m a big Star Wars nerd, Lord of the Rings… look I could go on here, but you get the idea. I feel like everything I learned about being cool, I learned from Spartacus. Thanks Buddy.
DA MAN: How did you first get into acting? Is it something you’ve wanted to do since you were young?
Liam McIntyre: Actually, no. I always wanted to be a painter. I had absolutely no interest in acting— except, maybe, playing the occasional 3rd King at Christmas as a 6 year old. I literally got tricked into it when I was studying commerce in Ireland for a year. An Irish director talked me into auditioning, I kept telling him I didn’t want it, he tried to tell me it was only for the first scene of this Shakespeare play he was doing. He talked me into it. When I then read the play, it turned out my character left in scene one, but returned in scene three undercover. And is in it all the time. I assumed it was going to be played by another guy. It was not. I tried to get out of it, and he said ‘well, we’re printing the flyers already’. He tricked me. I hated him till the second week of the show, when I realized I loved theatre. I tracked him down and thanked him when I got Spartacus. I will never again fight to not get a lead role in something.
DA MAN: What’s the next step for you now that Spartacus is wrapped up?
Liam McIntyre: Well we just moved countries, so [Erin Hasan, his fiance] and I are now in LA, making a new start, and seeing what America has in store for us! It’s very exciting. I’m back to auditioning, which is a totally different world this time around, it’s a blast to be given so many different people to be. But I do feel a little schizophrenic at times. And I’m finally getting some time to write a show that I’ve been developing for a little while, so I’m excited to see where that goes. And, of course, video games.
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Juliet Vo