lucretia01.jpgLucy Lawless is hitting the gym to prepare for nudity required in her new role in upcoming series Spartacus.

New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless says her latest sword-and-sandals series for television, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, is "big fun back on the small screen".

She was speaking as the United States cable television channel, Starz, unveiled its trailer for the gladiator series at a major fan gathering in California, Comic-Con, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Billed as looking like the film 300 - which was based on a graphic novel - with the nudity of HBO's Rome, and the violence of Gladiator, Spartacus will have "a death toll like nothing you've seen on television before," producer Steven DeKnight told the audience.

Lawless said the nudity had forced her to hit the gym.

"I do have to work out," she said. "Being naked on-screen is no fun."

The series has already begun production in New Zealand and is scheduled to go to air on Starz next January.

Lawless is playing Lucretia, who along with her husband Batiatus, own the Ludus (a gladiator camp) - as well as Spartacus.

The couple has fallen on hard times financially and has bought Spartacus, hoping his fighting prowess will help them regain their status in the brutal world of gladiatorial contests.

Best known for portraying Xena: Warrior Princess in the long-running TV series filmed in New Zealand, Lawless has also appeared on the critically acclaimed science fiction series Battlestar Galactica.

Spartacus is being played by Briton Andy Whitfield (McLeod's Daughters, Packed to the Rafters), who lives in Australia, and the series is being produced by Sam Raimi and Joshua Donen, and Lawless' husband, Rob Tapert.

Other cast members include Manu Bennett (30 Days of Night, The Condemned) as Crixus, the top gladiator at the training camp, Antonio Te Maioha (Xena: Warrior Princess, Legend of the Seeker) as Barca, Batiatus' bodyguard and hit man; and Craig Parker (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Legend of the Seeker) as Glaber, a Roman legate, who blames Spartacus for his failed military campaign.

The series is loosely set around historical events in the Roman Republic in 73 BC when a slave revolt grew to more than 120,000 fighters before being put down by the Roman army.


News submitted by Barbara Davies