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Manu Bennett talks about “Spartacus: War of the Damned”

Manu Bennett talks about “Spartacus: War of the Damned”

photos by Alex A. Kecskes

Best known to worldwide audiences as Crixus, the honor-bound gladiator from Gaul, New Zealand born Manu Bennett has appeared in various films and TV dramas.

His film credits include Lantana opposite Anthony La Paglia and Tomoko opposite Japanese actress Rumiko Koyangi. He also co-stared with Robert Patrick in The Marine and Vinnie Jones and Steve Austin in The Condemned.

His TV credits include, ‘Shortland Steet” ‘Street Legal,” “Mataku,” and “Bike Wars: Brothers in Arms.”

In this roundtable interview, Bennett talks about his changing role in “Spartacus: War of the Damned” and what viewers can expect in the series’ action-packed final season.

What character changes can we expect in Season Three?

Manu Bennett: Well, you’re rally talking about subtle changes, not major shifts. Basically changes in attitude. In terms of the changes from the first season to what we’re shooting now, there’s still a determination between Spartacus and Crixus about what the real meaning behind freedom is. What the choices are. Whether you’re doing it for yourself or for others. What are the things to protect if you’re trying to gain freedom?

What about changes in the relationship between Crixus and Naevia?

MB: Once Crixus met Naevia and that love story began, it’s been about finding that window that she opened up for him. So when he found her in season two, she’d been in captivity, raped and tragically damaged. He was then in the process of helping her, and she got her strength back by exacting revenge on Ashur. We then begin season three with the idea that the two of them are in the zenith of their relationship. They’ve found what they were looking for, except they’re not yet beyond the borders of Rome. But then everything takes a slide for the worse.

How will the gladiator army confront the Roman legions?

MB: The “War of the Damned” is really about Spartacus and the rebellion having moved all the way from the first and second season. We’re at a decision point where the borders are close and if they can get out. The Romans have realized that it’s not just a rebellion that must be squashed, but a movement, which if it was to succeed, would be the end of Rome. If the rebellion had gained momentum and word got out to the Ottoman Empire that major legions were being threatened, then they (Rome’s enemies) would’ve squashed Rome. So Rome had to put down the rebellion, not only for their own forces but for international relations.

So in this season, it’s about Rome bringing all its might to put down this group who had dared to defy them. It starts off with the group being quite confident in themselves because they managed to beat one small legion and a few others and to hold a city for a while. But now, here comes the might of Rome. The epic nature of “War of the Damned” is this huge battle and trying avoid situations where the gladiator army knows they can be defeated. It’s a lot of tactics to evade the Romans and get them when we can. And we’re sort of saying good-bye to each other slowly as the end nears.

Will you have any internal conflicts to resolve in this final season?

MB: Crixus and Spartacus have a huge power struggle during this season. Spartacus believes that everybody deserves freedom—including the Romans in certain circumstances. So when he starts defending the enemy, Crixus asks Spartacus, “Are we in the middle of a war here? Can you afford to care for these people, feed these people? When all we have is barely enough rations for ourselves? When they’re the enemy and they’re the ones that have done this to us?” And that really starts the drama between the two. And the rebel force start to divide and we see whether this concept of freedom Spartacus proposes should be for everyone—including the Romans. It’s a good question, because that’s probably the heart of this season—the difference in opinion about the equality and freedom for all.

Tell us about the slogan on your shirt—“Be Here Now.”

MB: If you’re a fan of the show and you want to know more about Andy Whitfield, the brilliant actor, wonderful father and caring husband, then watch the documentary “Be Here Now,” which is about living the moment and the gift of life. It’s also about creating an awareness of the fight for a cure for cancer.

The climactic final season of “Spartacus: War of the Damned” will begin airing in January 2013 and will feature new cast members Todd Lasance as Gaius Julius Caesar, Simon Merrells as Marcus Crassus and Anna Hutchison as Laeta. Globally, the series will air in 150 countries in more than 15 languages. The Emmy® nominated series, with its groundbreaking production and visual style, will also feature new sets, including a full city, a Roman Villa, and the scene of the epic battle along the Appian Way.

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