"Spartacus" star Andy Whitfield died of recurring cancer in Sydney, Australia, after struggling for 18 months with his incurable disease. He was 39.
Whitfield appeared in all 13 episodes of the first season that aired in 2010, and was preparing to shoot the second when his condition started getting worse. Whitfield took what was supposed to be a temporary leave from the show, which was an instant hit after its January 2010 debut, after a routine check-up in March of that year had revealed a recurrence of cancer.
While waiting for Whitfield's treatment and expected recovery, the network produced a six-part prequel, "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena", which aired earlier this year with only a brief voiceover from the actor. But in January, after Whitfield's condition had grown worse, the network announced that another Australian actor, Liam McIntyre, would take over the role.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield," Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht said in a statement Sunday night. "We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in 'Spartacus' and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life."
Whitfield faced his fatal disease with courage, strength and grace, he said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans."
"Spartacus" creator Steven DeKnight delivered his condolences through a tweet saying, "No words to express the depth of such a loss. You will be deeply missed, my brother."
In a statement, Whitfield's wife, Vashti, described her husband as "a beautiful young warrior", adding that he died surrounded by the ones who loved him the most.
"On a beautiful sunny Sydney spring morning, surrounded by his family, in the arms of his loving wife, our beautiful young warrior Andy Whitfield lost his 18-month battle with lymphoma cancer," Vashti said in a statement. "He passed peacefully surrounded by love. Thank you to all his fans whose love and support have help carry him to this point. He will be remembered as the inspiring, courageous and gentle man, father and husband he was."
After his first round of cancer treatment, Whitfield did an interview in which he said that after he had discovered about his disease, he learned some important lessons. He said he had decided to spend more time with his family and enjoy every moment while he's still alive.