Thursday, August 23, 2012

SDCC 2012 Recap: "Spartacus" Gives Fans An Energetic Farewell

Oh, it is with such sweet parting sorrow to be able to sit through Starz's "Spartacus" panel at this year's Comic-Con. *sniff*

Red Dot Diva was almost unable to make it to the panel because she was busy covering another event at an exhibitor's booth. However, she managed to say farewells quickly and gracefully, just in time to make a Olympics-worthy sprint from the basement to Room 6BCF, with barely 4 minutes to spare!

Was she even able to get into the room at all? It was the last "Spartacus" panel for the fans and the series is admired by so many. When she arrived at the venue, there wasn't a line at all, and the volunteers were not stopping anyone from entering yet. Phew!

But inside, the room was nearly filled with spots of empty seats here and there. Red Dot Diva knew she would not be able to sit up front but she managed to snag a seat in the middle of the room, where she had a good wide-angle view of both the projection screen and the guests on stage.

It was a warm, lively and memorable panel with lots of laughter. The cast members were absolutely having fun being there, teasing the fans in general, and having a go at it with each other.

Red Dot Diva's good friend Chelle was in the "Falling Skies" panel earlier, and was lucky enough to score a seat at 6th row centre of the room, enjoying a darn good droolicious view of all those hunky biceps. So, Red Dot Diva will leave it to Chelle to give a recount of that wonderful hour.


The "Spartacus" panel was one of the last few of the day and I was really excited about it. The room was packed with equally eager fans.

Jenny Busch was moderator and she introduced cast members Manu Bennett ("Crixus") and Liam McIntyre ("Spartacus") first, along with creator Steven S DeKnight.

To optimize the time allocated for the panel, Jenny did not waste time firing off questions to the three men on stage. One of which was about the boot camp that is being referred to in the actors' tweets.

Manu revealed that boot camp was "painful but fantastic". It kept their bodies up to pace and fit for the strenuous roles they portrayed because of the many fight sequences in the next season. There were also made to do many group exercises because of several scenes required group effort and teamwork. Liam half-joked that their stunt coordinator was a "horribly horribly, mean person" because he mixed it up with military-style training and that it was really tough.

When asked what the biggest challenge was, Steven said that ending the show was the hardest and making it as big as the finale of season 1 instead of having the audience say that it sucked. Liam mentioned that there is so much story to tell in such a short amount of time, and Manu added that there was a lot of heart in the show and that they know that the audience are invested with the different characters.

Jenny then opened panel questions to the floor, and the first fan in line asked how difficult it was for Liam to follow in the late Andy Whitfield’s footsteps in the role of Spartacus.

Liam admitted that it was the hardest thing in the world, and as a tribute to Andy, he has tried not to duplicate Andy's amazing performance in Season 1. Everyone in the room then stood up and cheered for Andy's brilliant portrayal of the character. A moving moment indeed.

Manu then pointed out that he was wearing a t-shirt called “Be Here Now”, a tattoo that Andy got when he was going through cancer treatment. The cast also helped plug a documentary called “Be Here Now” about Andy's life journey including his battle with cancer, which will be coming out sometime next year.

Poignant moments like these were later followed by very cheeky ones. Including Steven's answer to the question about which was their favourite scene of the whole series. He said it was the one that he got "the most angry emails about", which was the death of Varro. He felt that it was brilliantly directed and brilliantly played. "And Manu was naked," Steven quipped with a straight face. To which, the ladies in the audience squealed with glee as Manu nodded his head and silently smiled. And then, he did another dirty gesture. Hahaha. This was definitely not a panel for the young and innocent!

The best panel highlight of all was when a fan asked them how they dealt with a fellow well-loved cast member has a character who dies on the show. "We usually send them off with a haka," Manu said, solemnly. Liam added that Manu would always lead the hakas and "that they were amazingly passionate and fantastic".

To which, the fans started yelling out for Manu to perform the haka. At first, he was reluctant but after much coaxing from the audience (mainly the ladies), he performed the first bit of it, almost ripping off his shirt and showing off those beautiful abs. *SQUEE!* Favorite panel ever!

Watch that eye-popping moment here:

( Video by ausxip1)

Soon after, Jenny stated they had a special surprise guest for the panel, and it was a big fan favourite - the beautiful Lucy Lawless!! After a standing ovation and a few Xena war cries, the audience settled down for more questions.

Liam, Manu, and Lucy were asked to share about an embarrassing moment on the show. Lucy piped in about John Hanna’s how “leading tackle” escaped. He was not the least bit embarrassed - he just tucked it back in, and went about his own business. Liam then told a funny little story about how he felt a little over-exposed and how the boom mic guy must have felt looking at his butt for 8 hours during filming. (Note: For the record,  I would love to have that job…!) ;-)

Oh ... and wait, Jenny revealed that there was going to be a “few” more surprise guests. A fan shouted out Dustin Clare ("Gannicus") and Liam promptly whipped out a t-shirt with Dustin’s photo on it. Haha.

Dustin was not at San Diego, unfortunately, but there were the others who were present - Craig Parker, Peter Mensah, Viva Bianca, Katrina Law, Nick Tarabay, and Cynthia Addai-Robinson! Wow! The fans gave a massive cheer and standing ovation.

A fan asked how it felt to be in the season finale, and Craig answered that six weeks later, every single actor was bloodied, bruised, and battered. He then joked that the blood on their skin turned into glue and ripped off a top layer of skin. He said it was really sad to finish off the show but he was like “thank !%@@# the show is over, I wanna work for Disney.” Everyone cracked up over that. Craig is such a dramatic joke-ster (I know, because I’ve met him several times during the "Lord of The Rings" trilogy days).

Viva said during her death scene, one of the producers said she did not look dead enough. But by that time, she was so emotionally drained and did not want to reshoot it over again but she did anyway. Lucy said comfortingly that Ilythia had a beautiful death. Peter, who seems as quietly noble-like as Doctore in real life, added to say that his death was perfect and he could not have asked for anything better written for him.

At this juncture, Jenny gave kudos to the women characters in "Spartacus" because they were really strong characters. Steven mentioned he came from the Joss Whedon camp where he believed in powerful women and that writing for Lucy and the other women on the show was a joy.

On that note, Jenny said that time was up and the cast members received another big round of standing ovation from everyone. As a parting farewell, the fans were shown the "Spartacus: War of the Damned" trailer for the second time.

Here's the very bloody trailer that was screened:

Overall, it was an amazing panel and a fantastic send off for the series finale. I look forward to the new season when it begins next year.

PS: The next day I was standing in the Hall H line by the marina, and the cast of Spartacus walked by on their way to a boat party. I spotted Craig and called him over. He actually recognized me and gave me a huge hug and a kiss. He asked me how I was doing, what the line was for, and if I was attending DragonCon, which sadly, I wasn’t :( The other cast members had left him behind so he said he had to go. I told him it was fine but it was wonderful to see him again and off he went.

For the rest of the weekend I was on a Craig Parker high even though I didn’t get a photo with us together :-)


Thanks Chelle, for another wonderful panel recap!

Spartacus: War of the Damned” is currently in production in New Zealand and is scheduled to air January 2013. Argh! Red Dot Diva is already twitchy just waiting for the final season!

There will be new cast members for the new season. Todd Lasance joins the cast as Gaius Julius Caesar, along with Simon Merrells, who will be playing Marcus Crassus and Anna Hutchison as Laeta.

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