I also interviewed 'Spartacus' executive producer and creator, Steven DeKnight, on Friday, and though I'll post the majority of the interview closer to the show's January premiere, but share some of his responses regarding the epic scope of the new season. First question: Did the show have the resources to properly depict Spartacus' post-ludus life on the run with his fellow escaped slaves?
"We definitely have quite a bit more money than we did in the past seasons and it shows," DeKnight said of the 10-episode season. "I mean, just look at the trailer. That one shot of a mine with a thousand people working in it gives you an idea the scope that we're going for."
Earlier that day, in a panel devoted to the show at the Television Critics Association press tour, DeKnight spoke even more about the challenges of making the new season. "This season is epic. It's gigantic on all levels. Usually, in a show like this, every three or four episodes, you'll do something big. But, this season, literally, it's every single episode is a gigantic production challenge," DeKnight said then.
In our interview later, I noted that, just as Spartacus, Crixus and the others have freed themselves, the show's writers are like gladiators who have finally been let loose from the ludus. As I said to DeKnight, "You're out of your confined cage and you are able to go anywhere. As a storyteller is that kind of daunting or awesome or both?"
"It's both, actually. By the end of 'Gods of the Arena,' we were pulling our hair out," said DeKnight (who has no hair on his head to pull out, in point of fact). "My writers that had hair were pulling it out, because within the ludus, especially on the hero side, [the characters] could be in their cells, they could be eating, they could be training. You didn't have a lot of places to go. On the plus side, it forced a lot of conflict because the villains and the heroes were constantly in contact with each other. Now that we have gone outside, there are a lot more stories we can tell, but it is a lot more difficult to have the villains and the heroes cross each other, because when they do, they will try to murder each other. So it takes a very inventive kind of structuring that was a bit of a learning curve for this season."
I asked if he and the writers found themselves having to invent reasons that Spartacus and his followers would come across their adversaries such as Claudius Glaber (the husband of Ilythia and the one of the Romans pursuing Spartacus). "Or does the conflict have to come from within each camp?" I asked.
"They definitely cross paths. Like I said though, when they cross paths, they'll ultimately try to kill each other, so it's a little tricky," DeKnight observed. "And you hit upon it: The secret is there is a lot of conflict in both camps. Within the villain camp, there are people who are really, really bad and not so bad and people just trying to get by, and everybody is trying to maneuver each other, and on the hero side, one of the things I love about the show is that we can exist in a grey area. Not all the people on the hero side are good people, and there are good people that do the wrong thing for the right reason, but it is still wrong."
As he's said in previous interviews about the show, DeKnight sees the show about being all about love and the quest for connection. But I couldn't help observing that, given what Ilythia did to Lucretia at the end of 'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' (Ilythia made sure Lucretia and Batiatus couldn't escape from a house full of murderous slaves), there was probably "no love lost" between those two characters.
"That will surprise you," DeKnight replied.
Hmmm, that does track with what Lucy Lawless said in the video interviews we recently did with the cast at Comic-Con (check them out here). It sounds as though those women spend a lot of time together in the new season, and given that Lucretia does not look fully sane in the video below, things could get twisted.
What am I saying? It's 'Spartacus.' Of course it will be gloriously twisted.
By the way, you may be wondering what characters will be back in the new season. Here's a listof the 'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' and 'Spartacus: Gods of the Arena' characters who will be featured in the new season of the Starz drama.
And as I said, I'll have much more from DeKnight and new 'Spartacus' star Liam McIntyre closer to the January premiere date of 'Vengeance.' For now, feast your eyes on the clip below or revisit our coverage of 'Gods of the Arena' and all things 'Spartacus' here.
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