INTERVIEW: SPARTACUS Showrunner Steven DeKnight Reveals Season Three Details & Reflects on Shocking Season Two Moments
Published: April 3, 2012 - 10:47am
Spoiler Warning: During a roundtable interview session, Spartacus: Vengeance creator, writer and showrunner Steven DeKnight spoke at great length on the chaotic second season of the Starz hit series and addressed what fans can expect for the third season when it returns January 2013.
After six main characters were killed during the season two finale of Spartacus: Vengeance, many fans were left stunned and unsure of which direction the series would head as the rebel heroes prepare to launch a full scale attack on the Roman Republic. The title character had finally fulfilled his revenge by killing main foe Glaber, avenging the death of his wife. When asked if he regretted killing any characters off, showrunner Steven DeKnight said no, however, "There are many actors and character traits that I miss, for example John Hannah from season one. I'll miss everyone that was killed off during this season but I don't regret any of those decisions," said DeKnight. He went on to say that it wouldn't make sense to bring back a character as an add-on for later seasons because they would eventually wear out their welcome.
"As much as the audience may love that character (who died), I personally think that if you don't do the character justice, the audience will start to not like that character and that will change their memory of them, so it's best to end it on a high note. 99% of the time if you've got to be killed off on a show, Spartacus is the way to go because you will get a spectacular send-off."
He went on to say that the two deaths that he receives the most angry emails from fans about are that of Varro from season one (Spartacus was forced to murder his best friend for the entertainment of houseguests) and most recently Lucretia. The fan favorite character portrayed by Lucy Lawless finally died this season after committing suicide by falling off a cliff whilst holding Illithyia's newborn child – an act in which she justified as taking a son to her deceased husband. "The decision to kill Lucretia goes back to season one when I actually decided to kill her the first time. In my mind, Lucretia got a reprieve. She was in a six-episode prequel and then another entire season when she was supposed to be dead at the end of season one." DeKnight said that they shot two different endings for the first season, one of Lucretia motionless and one of her twitching. Despite this, the initial plan was never to bring her back.
"I was approached by Starz and producer Rob Tapert, who is married to Lucy and the concern was that for the second season, should we bring back arguably the biggest name in the show. I was adamant that no, she had to die and it wouldn't work. The next morning I had this idea of a mad Lucretia, criminally insane at this point and everybody thinks she wants to take (Illithyia's) child and run away with it but if you look back over the season you realize she wants to take the child to her dead husband in the afterlife. She was brought back based on this idea."
When season three kicks off next year-- DeKnight confirmed that they do not have a subtitle chosen at this time -- the story will jump six months forward to show Spartacus' rebel army grown significantly into the thousands. New antagonists include Marcus Crassus and a young Julius Caeser who is brought in to fight Spartacus' rebellion. ""I've been pelted by messages on the internet saying 'You're ruining history, Julius Caeser has nothing to do with the Spartacus war!' That's actually true and not true. This is an off-period in Julius Caeser's history. All accounts that I've read so far say he most likely was part of this army sent after Spartacus especially since he does have a relationship with Crassus. This is definitely the war years."
"[The scope of the battles will be] shockingly even bigger since we've said goodbye to the ludus, the arena and city of Capua. (Season Three) will literally be entirely new locations and sets. The war does take us all over the Republic, from the Alps to Italy.
When I asked Deknight whether or not Spartacus and Crixus will clash with each other during season three because of our main character's motives being driven by loss and revenge while Crixus fights for love, he replied, "Historically the rebels were constantly clashing and breaking apart. We really wanted to explore why this was happening, in history they just say they fell apart and not why. That's definitely a big part of next season. You're absolutely right, Crixus is very much driven by love and Spartacus with his loss and at the end of Vengeance, now closure, moving into next season the question is what drives him now. When is the war over and is it ever over? This will haunt Spartacus for much of the next season as to how you define victory."
Following up this question I asked if fan perception of Spartacus will change from that of a heroic figure to something much more 'grey' with the coming war atrocities. "Historically, people have a very romanticized vision of Spartacus and his rebels, escaping and fighting for freedom. In reality and of course the history was written by the Romans, what they did was they escaped and they raped, pillaged and robbed their way through Italy very brutally exacting their revenge. This is something we did not want to shy away from and this idea of war crimes and the idea of how do you not become what you are fighting is something we want to explore next season."
"It does get dirty, it does get very grey next season. Spartacus is our moral center trying to hold things together but he completely understands why he would want to make the Romans suffer even more than he suffered. It is a very, very dirty season. Everyone morally and ethically gets a little muddy next season."
Now that Spartacus, Crixus and Gannicus have all united in this rebel alliance against the Republic of Rome, it was asked how the tension would be amongst the three strong personalities. That's something we've been discussing especially between Spartacus and Krixus but also how do you have this tension and still have the idea of 'I love you as a brother'."
"I don't want to regress back to season one where they (Spartacus and Crixus) just hated each other. I think they've come too far for that and respect each other too much. There will be an overall ideology fallout about what they're doing and what they should do next."
Additional Important Notes from the Discussion
- A potential spin-off film or series would likely focus on Gannicus's free years during the period of time between 'Gods of the Arena' and 'Vengeance'. However, neither a film nor another spin-off is in serious consideration at this time.
- Illithyia is dead and DeKnight regrets not going back in post-production to truly define this closure for audiences.
- There are no plans for flashbacks to revisit dead characters, although DeKnight said that he will not rule the opportunity out down the road.
- Ashur's motives when he was sent up the mountain to deliver a message to Spartacus: "He knew he was f***ed," said DeKnight. However despite this, Ashur still believed he could talk his way out of it and that his taunting of Crixus was just because his character cannot resist emotionally torturing someone else.
- Rome is worried at the start of season three that Spartacus' army is a legitimate threat, whereas prior seasons they've been underestimated. "The switch-up here, is that the Romans are in trouble."
- Crassus and Caeser's relationship is born out of Marcus having enormous wealth but not the lower class Julius Caeser's famous name, which is traced back to the gods. Their team-up balances this.
- Crassus' son Publius will play a major role in season three.
- Three new female characters are joining the cast but DeKnight assures they won't be "pale imitations" of Lucretia and Illithyia as DeKnight doesn't like rehashed storylines, while Naevia and the German warrior woman Saxa will have more prominent roles in season three.
- Agron and Nasir's same sex relationship will be explored much further next season. "They were just adorable together". DeKnight mentioned that originally the idea of a same sex female couple came up but was squashed because it felt "easy and pandering".
- DeKnight also mentioned that Gannicus will potentially have a new love interest with Saxa but that the character tends to end up going in the direction you don't expect him to.
- Zack Snyder's 300 was the main inspiration behind the series and DeKnight praised Snyder's film.
- Every season of Spartacus is about love and how it drives everyone, including the upcoming season and how Spartacus is the odd man out. "He feels he can't love anyone now because it's the kiss of death."
- DeKnight reaffirmed that he is not a fan of the first episode in the series. "I think the writing is suspect. Everything is a little off". This is because they did not have a pilot and didn't have time to go back and retool the first episode because they had to start shooting the next ones.
- Adding subtitles to the Spartacus show title is DeKnight's "Best, worst idea." He said that the prequel subtitle of 'Gods of the Arena' was the most difficult to come up with and that the only easy one was season one's 'Blood & Sand'.
- DeKnight would love to play a Spartacus videogame and mentioned that they are always talking about the possibility although nothing is confirmed at this time.