"Spartacus: Vengeance" doesn't return to Starz until January of next year, but we already know about one big change: Andy Whitfield, having dropped out due to a recurrence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, has been replaced in the title role by little known Australian actor Liam McIntyre. "it's a role you wish was never there, especially as a fan," McIntyre explained at a panel held during the TCA cable press tour. "What he did in season one was exceptional...it's a tought act to follow, but i have an oblication to fans of the show and to Andy." 

As bloody as the show may be, the transition has been perfectly civil, according to McIntyre. "Andy's contacted me," he says. "He's met with this tragic circumstance and yet has the strength of character to contact me and say good luck and give me advice on how to proceed. That really speaks to the substance of the man." And those pointers? "He reminded me it was grueling. He said what I've now discovered, which is that it's not easy being Spartacus. Lift heavy weights, eat well and look after yourself, because it's a long season."

After the panel, McIntyre spoke briefly to HitFix and other journalists and admitted that getting the role took more than a willingness to eat right. "[Starz] brought me to New Zealand to train me with the guys and train me in sword fighting, and that was long before  they decided whether I'd get the role. Later on they sent someone who was an ex-military trainer down and there were two days when the head stunt guy I'm sure had told him, see where he breaks. It must have been far enough along the line they thought he can do it. It was tough times." 

McIntyre, who had to regain "more than a fifth" of his body weight to take the role after getting skinny for another role, isn't complaining about any of it. "To be typecast as a leading actor is not the worst job in the world, is it? Every day is a blessing," he admitted with a grin. 

But a new Spartacus isn't the only thing for fans of the show to look forward to. A bloody trailer shown during the panel, which featured a shaky (and not dead) Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) and a determined Spartacus, suggests that in addition to the expected dose of action, there will also be plenty of complex storytelling. 
 

"It's quite different than the first season... it goes places that aren't expected," said Manu Bennett (Crixus).  And as far as the effects, he says, "We rented new warehouse space... it was a limited world for us. But we've gone from Disneyworld to Six Flags Magic Mountain." 

It isn't beefy guys hurling swords, though. "If you remember, when Ilythia [Viva Bianca] left us at the end of season one, she barricaded the door," Lawless said during the panel. "The series is called 'Vengeance,' and my relationship with Ilythia will definitely bear witness to that. Lots and lots of vengeance is meted out."
 
Not that Lucretia will be in control, necessarily. "Lucretia has never had any power. She's always towed the line and she pays the price every time when things come unstuck. She's a little fish swimming for her life with these sharks on every side. she'll chomp a few... but she's a little puffer fish."

Unfortunately, those wondering how she survived last season will just have to wait for an answer -- but there is one.  "You do find out how she survived and it's going to backfire horribly on her. Poor widdle Lucretia," Lawless joked.