ImageThe king of the arena returns to challenge the might of the Roman army in the epic second series, Spartacus – Vengeance.

A brand new face in the form of Liam McIntyre replaces Andy Whitfield, who sadly lost his battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma last year, but has Liam got the chops to prove himself as the legendary hero who raged against Rome? Sky Guide meets Liam and co-star Lucy Lawless, to find out more.

'Obviously, Andy Whitfield left an indelible mark on all of us in the Spartacus family,' says Lucy. 'He was a gentle man who never said a bad word about anyone, and a brilliant actor. Andy's presence made men want to be him and women want to marry him. How lucky we were to have him grace all our lives.'

McIntyre, who starred in HBO's The Pacific and Neighbours, is up for the challenge. 'I have to live up to Andy's legacy. I was a fan of the show beforehand and if he hadn’t done such a great job, none of us would be here.' Legacy is the right word. First series Spartacus – Blood And Sand quickly gained a cult following, enticing audiences with its action, political machinations and saucy sex scenes in debauched Rome.

In the thrilling finale we watched as Spartacus, a Thracian slave thrown into the life of a gladiator, rose up against owners Batiatus [John Hannah] and Lucretia [Lucy Lawless]. Now Batiatus is dead, and Spartacus has escaped with his fellow slaves. What next? According to Liam, 'Spartacus has to face the might of the republic.' Lucy Lawless tells us more…

Can you describe the show?

At first glance, it is full of sex and violence. So if that's a turn off to you, please do not tune into the show. If you can handle it, it's a rollicking good ride. People would often question if it is soft porn, and I’d say no it's hardcore drama. It's very intelligently written and we are very proud of it.

Blood And Sand concluded with you wounded, Batiatus dead, and the gladiators on the run… What happens next?

Well I live! Spartacus has busted out with his rotten mates. My husband [Robert G.Tapert] produces it. We find it best if I don’t know anything too far in advance, otherwise you spend all your time in angst over something that may or may not happen. Initially I was meant to die too and then they figured out they get press out of me, so they resurrected my character, which I'm thrilled about [laughs].

Do you think there will be just as much sex this time around?

Probably! But when you think, 'sweet! I'm going to be naked 24/7' – nobody is really naked. They've got these hand-knotted little merkins, everybody has got one. So you feel like you are wearing underwear, and I've never actually been naked myself. The suggestion on the sets are far greater than what's being filmed. It's the way you frame things. If you see my ankles over somebody else's you are going to make assumptions about what's going on between you. It's quite clever and funny.

How would you describe Lucretia?

The ultimate survivor! Loved her husband, did anything for him even to a point of having sex with another man to produce an heir.

Do you think that she's a bit like Lady Macbeth?

That was the immediate attraction for me to play her. I didn't want her to be melodramatic and two dimensional, so I tried to make her somebody where you can kind of see her point. She does terrible things but I'm totally interested in them, rather than just writing her like she’s Joan Collins.

How do you feel about the costumes, especially the bright red hair?

I love all that, it really kicks you into a whole other dimension. It helps me with the character. I really never think about the character until the costume is on, then something just pops out of me.

Is it hard to take a back seat having been the main character of a TV series for so long on Xena: Warrior Princess, or do you just love your role?

Yeah, I do, I love the new character and I wouldn't trade it. You have to be humble, you have to take your place and I think that is part of life too. I feel it's all part of it, although when you see Judi Dench doing astonishing work, you think, 'hey, the best could be yet to come!'

Why do you think people love the Roman era?

It's purely voyeuristic, because you can see people behaving badly and doing all the things that we are highly curious about, even if we don't want to do it ourselves. For example, a husband and wife can be having a chat and a slave goes to him and the conversation continues without missing a beat. It means nothing to them that the slave is sexually servicing the husband. It blows the audience's mind, because they've never seen that before, and then you quickly realise that you aren't in Kansas, you're not in London…

So did this all really happen?

Evidently we are bending history a bit because we don't know a lot about these characters, but they are real names quite often. The customs and the costumes are all well researched and the pretty weird stuff you see wouldn’t happen unless we knew it was well documented. We have a couple of historians who are on tap all the time.

What do you miss about home when you are away?

I don't have the missing gene, the gene to miss things, I'm like a goldfish. After five minutes wherever I am, it's like my new favourite place. But I miss my children and my husband of course! Sometimes you just need a cuddle and sometimes you go through Frankfurt airport and they pat you down and you say, 'this is better than sex!' Instead of intimacy I would take a rub down at the airport! Sometimes I stash paper clips down my pockets just to trick them!

You are still in incredible shape. How do you do that?

I am working on it. I'm in my forties now. I do weight training, which funnily enough is better at burning fat, and I cut sugar out for a while, but then I'm back on it again. Weight training is my little secret. It's really good for you. In New Zealand they're not into the craziness of dieting and exercise. If I can be better at 43 than when I was at 23 that’s awesome! By the time I am 50, forget it I'm not doing anything, I'm going to turn into one of those French women who sit on the beach with their bosom sagging, eating a croissant, having a fag and loving it!