Andy Whitfield pulls away from the second season production of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" for health concern. The actor was diagnosed with treatable stage 1 non-Hodgkin lymphoma back in March. The cancer has apparently returned and doctors advised him to take an aggressive treatment which may require a lot of time and energy.
Starz cable network which is home to "Spartacus" had produced "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena", a prequel to the series which doesn't involve Whitfield's character. The prequel is still scheduled for January 2011 premiere but the second season of "Blood and Sand" which is due to premiere in September 2011 is still a question mark.
"It's with a deep sense of disappointment that I must step aside from such an exceptional project as Spartacus and all the wonderful people involved. It seems that it is time for myself and my family to embark on another extraordinary journey. Thank you sincerely for the support so far," said Whitfield in a press release.
Starz also release a statement, saying "Our hearts and prayers are with Andy and his family during this difficult time. Andy is not only an incredible actor whose portrayal of Spartacus made an indelible impression on Starz audiences, he is also an amazing human being whose courage, strength, and grace in the face of adversity have inspired all of us."
As for whether Whitfield will be replaced, Starz has no answer. "Right now, we just want to extend our concern and support to Andy and his family," said Carmi Zlotnik, Managing Director, Starz Media. "We will address our programming plans at some later date."