Roman-Style Rebellion

Gearing up to shoot the final season of the blood-soaked series, ‘Spartacus’, Australian actor Dustin Clare gives us the insider’s take...

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Australian audiences may recognise Dustin Clare from his Logie-winning role on McLeod’s Daughters, his stints on Underbelly and Satisfaction, or his small part in Fred Schepisi’s Eye of the Storm. But to the rest of the world he’s Gannicus, the long-haired, muscle-bound, sword-wielding gladiator from the hit series, Spartacus

“I remember the first time I stepped onto one of the sets here and thought, ‘This is a lot bigger than anything I’ve ever worked on!’”

Originally from New South Wales, the 30-year-old actor graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2004. He first came to national attention after scoring the 2007 Silver Logie Award for Most Popular New Male Talent, for his portrayal of swaggering farmhand Riley Ward in the aforementioned McLeod’s Daughters.

Since then he’s traded flannel shirts for loin-cloths and sandals. An epic retelling of the slave uprising that shook the Roman Empire, Spartacus – packed with sex, violence and gratuitous slow motion – has been branded the television equivalent of Zack Snyder’s 300.

Filmed in New Zealand, the program is awash with Australian and New Zealand talent: not just Clare, but the late Andy Whitfield, as well as Liam McIntyre, Manu Bennett, Jai Courtney, Craig Parker, Viva Bianca, Dan Feuerriegel and Brett Tucker.

Clare’s character was actually introduced in the prequel miniseries, entitled Gods of the Arena, which US subscription channel, Starz, commissioned in the hiatus between season one and two in order to give Whitfield the chance to recover after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in early 2010.

Tragically, although Whitfield initially appeared to respond to treatment, he eventually relapsed, succumbing to illness in September 2011.

“It was a difficult situation,” recalls Clare. “I’d been brought in to essentially replace that title role for a period, just to hold the show over until Andy was back and ready to go again, and then that didn’t happen…he was this fresh face that the world hadn’t seen, and I think the American marketplace was really excited about that. And then for it to all stop suddenly, it was frightening for everybody.”

For the second season, the role of Spartacus was recast with Liam McIntyre. Clare joined the season midway through, with Gannicus teaming up with the rebel army in their fight against the Roman regime.

The character’s awesome fighting style and devil-may-care persona quickly made him a favourite with fans of the show. But Clare is determined not to let the popularity get to him.

“I don’t take any notice of it to be honest. I don’t have Facebook, I don’t have Twitter. I like to be outside of all that stuff, and remain an actor, not a personality,” he asserts.

Despite his desires to keep a low profile, it’s going to be a lot harder for Clare to go unrecognised now that Spartacus has introduced him to the world. But then again, fame has its benefits as well. “Part of the reason that I chose to do the role was because I could see the benefit it would have entering the international marketplace,” says Clare. “You spend all this time trying to build your career, and it’s so you can eventually do the type of work and be involved in the type of projects you want to be involved in.”

Indeed, Clare already has several projects lined up, including two feature films currently in post-production. One, entitled Goddess, is a far cry from anything he’s done before. “It’s a musical, so I’m singing and dancing and playing guitar. It’s actually the most rewarding experience I’ve had in my professional career,” says Clare of the musical, which also stars Ronan Keating, Magda Szubanski and theatre actress Laura Michelle Kelly.

The other project is one that’s particularly close to his heart. Set in earthquake ravaged Christchurch, Clare wrote Sunday with his partner and co-star Camille Keenan, as well as the director, Michelle Joy Lloyd. “It’s a story about a guy and a girl who are having a baby, but they’re not together anymore, and they’ve got 24 hours in Christchurch to find their way forward.”

Hopefully both those projects will see the light of day in 2013. But until then, there’s always the arena.

Of course, historically speaking, we know that the slave rebellion was ultimately unsuccessful, and with Starz recently announcing that the third season of Spartacus would be the show’s last, one suspects the rebels’ final stand may soon be upon them. “Yeah, the last season’s called War of the Damned, so it’s going to go pretty badly for the rebels,” says Clare with a laugh.

 Spartacus: Vengeance – Season 2 is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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