Fans have wondered how Andy Whitfield's cancer diagnosis would impact the second season of Starz' "Spartacus." 
 
The premium cable network has come up with a solution: Prequel.
 
Starz' announced on Tuesday (May 11) that production will begin this summer on a six-episode "Spartacus" prequel focusing primarily on John Hannah's Batiatus and Lucy Lawless, telling the story of Batiatus' gladiatorial school before either Spartacus or Crixus were its champion.
 
The news of the prequel was first broken by the Tribune's Maureen Ryan.
 
The prequel season will shoot in New Zealand and will premiere on Starz in January 2011. Starz has yet to determine a subtitle for the "Spartacus: Blood & Sand" prequel, but it presumably will not be "Vengeance," the previously announced subtitle for a Whitfield-heavy season.
 
In the official Starz' release, the network says that Whitfield is currently undergoing treatment for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and that doctors say he's responding well.
 
As of now, Whitfield is scheduled to appear in two episodes of the "Spartacus" prequel. In addition to Hannah and Lawless, other returning actors will include Peter Mensah, Manu Bennett, Antonio Te Maioha, Nick E. Tarabay and Lesley-Ann Brandt. New characters will also be added including the aforementioned pre-Crixus champion of the House of Batiatus.
 
"The prequel story maintains the excitement and entertainment value of the first season of 'Spartacus,' giving audiences the engaging experience they’ve come to expect," states Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht. "We look forward to continuing the Spartacus story."
 
Led by Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Joshua Donen and Steven S. DeKnight, the "Spartacus" production team will remain intact.