'Spartacus' star Andy Whitfield dies after battle with lymphoma

andy-whitfield-obit-gi.jpg Andy Whitfield, who starred in the first season of "Spartacus" on Starz but had to leave the show after being diagnosed with cancer, has died.

Whitfield, 39, died Sunday (Sept. 11) in Sydney, Australia, his manager tells the AP. His wife, Vashti, says he passed away on a "sunny Sydney morning in the arms of his loving wife."

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield. We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in 'Spartacus' and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life," Starz says in a statement. "Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans."

Whitfield had only a handful of acting credits in Australia when he was cast in the title role of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," which premiered in January 2010 on Starz. It proved to be a breakout role for him, but he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in March of that year.

Starz delayed the second season and went ahead with a prequel, "Gods of the Arena," while he was undergoing treatment. Whitfield said in the summer of 2010 that he hoped to return for Season 2. The cancer recurred a few months later, though, and he had to step aside. Liam McIntyre will play Spartacus in the second season, subtitled "Vengeance."

He is survived by his wife and two children.
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