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January 22, 2013

"Spartacus:War of the Damned" is upon us in its final seson

At first glance, it appears to be a show for men with all the sex, blood and violence. But some of the best and most complicated female characters can be found in the show. Since the very first season, Starz Spartacus has been a showcase for fascinating female characters and for the actors who play them.
Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Naevia in Spartacus: War of the Damned, copyright Starz Entertainment.

 That will be no different in the final season, Spartacus: War of the Damned, premiering Friday night, January 25th, on the Starz network.

“The show is known for the sex and violence but what keeps viewers coming back are the relationships and the love between the characters,” said Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who plays Naevia, the longest surviving female character on the show. Naevia’s sometimes star-crossed love story with Crixus (Manu Bennett), a former gladiator turned rebel, has been woven through all the show’s seasons.

The women of this final season, Laeta (Anna Hutchison), Saxa (Ellen Hollman), and Naevia, are a fascinating trio: the Roman woman suddenly a widow fighting to survive in the midst of a war, the fierce German warrior who will match any man in love or war, and Naevia, who has come into her own.

The common thread among the women was how excited they were to have been part of the show and how thrilled they are to see the final product, as much is added in post-production after they finished their work.

In an interview Addai-Robinson said the experience was so confidence-building that she felt “ready for anything,” perhaps even a musical. Ellen Hollman, who plays Saxa, is a comic geek and said her dream job would be to play Ms. Marvel, now Captain Marvel, a super-powered Marvel Comics character. (Joss Whedon, new Marvel Movie and Television guru, are you listening?) Anna Hutchison, a former Power Ranger who starred in Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods, said she’s done horror and now “outrageous drama” and now she’s ready to try some comedy.


Ellen Hollman as Saxa in Spartacus: War of the Damned, image copyright Starz. 

“It’s been an amazing gift that’s been given to me to take the character from one extreme to the other,” said Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who took on the role of Naevia in Spartacus: Vengeance. Addai-Robinson began her role as Naevia was a prisoner in a mine where slaves are worked to death. By the end of the season, she was exacting a measure of vengeance against the man responsible for putting her there. Her love for Crixus kept her alive.
“Crixus is the light at the end of the tunnel for her,” Addai-Robinson said. When I expressed concern about the eventual ending for the lovers–characters die on this show with regularity– she said the ending was bittersweet but may leave room for some “positives,” even though their real-life historical counterparts didn’t survive the rebellion. “At the end of the day, it’s a television and there are some surprises,” she said.

Ellen Hollman said this year, viewers will see “Hurricane Saxa,” and said she’s the female version of Gannicus this season in that she never apologies for anything. She’s also paired up (or threesomed up?) with Gannicus in the first episode of the season.

Like most of the cast members, all three women had to attend gladiator camp, a four-week program of five days a week, four hours a day of intense physical activity designed to get all the actors into shape for the demanding show before shooting starts.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Addai-Robinson said. “While Naevia was learning from Crixus in the show, Cynthia was learning from the stunt guys.” She also said the confidence she gained in filming the show would stay with her. “We’re all in this bubble, and we need each other’s support to inhabit the roles properly and they especially helped me get there. I don’t know if I ever dreamed of doing something like this and to take that away was big, in that they saw more in me than maybe I originally saw in myself.”

The trio said all the cast members were nothing but supportive. Hutchison said everyone made her feel immediately welcome. “It was a great way to join the cast and after that connection from the camp, you feel safe acting with them.”

Hollman took the focus on being in shape one step farther. She had no stunt double on the show. ”It was a once in a lifetime role and I wanted to bring my A game. I wanted the challenge.”

She said her countless hours of training pays off on screen in her fight sequences. She said it’s a little surreal that she no longer has to fight for her life on the battlefield and laughed, joking that walking around Los Angeles without a sword or weapon seems so odd after being so immersed in the show’s world. “We call it post-traumatic Spartacus syndrome.” She said, proudly, that the show left her with a permanent reminder: a four-inch scar on her quad. A comic geek who owns Rogue’s first appearance, she hopes to stay in the action genre while she’s in optimum shape. Hollman wanted to add a mention for "Visual Impact Now", her non-profit organization dedicated to providing eye care to Los Angeles youth that she founded during the writer’s strike. She does need glasses, she said, but generally wears contacts. “It wouldn’t be right to have Saxa wearing them,” she added with a laugh.

Anna Hutchison as Laeta in Spartacus: War of the Damned, image copyright Starz

Hutchison, the former Power Ranger in Power Rangers: Jungle Fury, came in as the newcomer to the show, following the footsteps of the Roman women played by Lucy Lawless (Lucretia) and Viva Bianca (Ilithyia). Hutchison has a fine first appearance as Laeta in episode 2. “We’re all trying to survive,” she said. “Laeta was an incredible journey because she starts with all these pretty dresses and a home and ends up fighting for her life. For me, one of the cool things taking this role was researching how the women were treated in this time period and how different it is from today.”
Hutchison gave credit to Lawless and Bianca for paving the way for how she played the role.Without giving too much away, Laeta’s point of view, especially in how she wants to protect the Roman citizens of a city that Spartacus attacks, adds another layer to the show, allowing viewers to see how sometimes even those fighting for the right thing–freedom–can impact seemingly innocent bystanders.

 The three women are excited for the premiere this week, especially the other cast members and crew, for which they had nothing but praise.

Original article can be found here:http://www.wired.com/geekmom/2013/01/women-of-spartacus-war-of-the-damned/

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