'Spartacus': Liam McIntyre cast in title role, has big sandals to fill

liam-mcintyre.jpgLadies and gentlemen of the arena, meet Liam McIntyre, the man taking over for the ailing Andy Whitfield in the lead role of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand."

The Australian actor, best known for a brief role in HBO's mini-series "The Pacific," was subjected to a "grueling and rigorous" audition process.

Starz CEO Chris Albrecht released a statement backing the decision, making sure to give Whitfield his due credit for originating the role in Season 1: "Since no one can really replace Andy, we realized that we should instead find an actor who can truly lead 'Spartacus' forward. It was important to us to have Andy endorse the idea of recasting this part, which he did in the same heroic manner that he's dealt with his whole ordeal. And that, coupled with our fortune in finding a young actor with the gladiator credentials and the acting ability of Liam, makes it easier for us to keep this hit franchise going."

McIntyre faced some tough competition for the role, including "Vampire Diaries'" Steven Amell and "Prison Break" con Dominic Purcell, a fellow Aussie. Now that the audition process is over, though, the pressure is really on. Luckily, his soon-to-be co-star Lucy Lawless tells Zap2it that McIntyre will face a warm welcome when he arrives on set.

"No one can fill Andy's shoes," she says, "but we've got his blessing and we're looking forward to continuing the series. He'll be missed, terribly, and his replacement certainly doesn't have an easy road ahead of him. It's an incredibly difficult role -- one of the most physically and emotionally demanding in film or television, I think, but we've got a wonderful cast and crew who will be there to support him."