ImageSwords-and-sandals epic lovers arise and claim your show: "Spartacus: Vengeance" is slashing its way back onto the Starz network on Jan. 27 with a new season of battles, escapes, affairs and intrigue.

But there will be one major difference: Spartacus himself has been replaced. Fans of the show are familiar with the untimely death of character originator Andy Whitfield, who portrayed the rebellious slave in "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" in 2010 before being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

"It's a horrifying thing to get everything you ever wanted – a wife, two children, your big break – and after one year, a horrifying diagnosis," Lucy Lawless, who stars as Lucretia, told "We thought he'd go into treatment, we'd execute a prequel and he'd come back. But that never happened."

Well, the prequel, "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" did happen, but Whitfield did not return. Enter Liam McIntyre, an Australian actor who some may have spotted in HBO’s "The Pacific," but who is mostly unknown.

"(Whitfield) wanted the show to continue," Lawless said. "He requested that they replace him quite early on, and even rang Liam to encourage him and congratulate him. He was a big man, and we remember him fondly for that. The tragedy was really his family's, and our loss is nothing compared to his."

McIntyre slips easily into the role, but he's more than just a new face, said Lawless. "He's a great morale leader on the set, which is what you need when you're leading 100 dudes in their underpants around without much to do for long periods at a stretch. They can get a bit ... distracted. They're totally nice, but you need someone to help focus on the work, and Liam has that kind of charisma."

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