It is our sad duty to report that Andy Whitfield, the original star of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, died of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in his home country of Australia yesterday. The 39-year-old actor is survived by his wife and two children.

Whitfield enjoyed critical and ratings success on Spartacus‘ first season in 2010 after playing the titular gladiator. In March of that year, Whitfield was diagnosed with lymphocyte cancer and began immediate treatment in New Zealand. At that point, doctors gave him an excellent prognosis with a high likelihood of recovery.

Production on the second season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand was halted to give Whitfield time to recover, with the  prequel miniseries Gods of the Arena created as a filler. Whitfield had a small voice-only part in the prequel, which ran early this year.

In June 2010, Whitfield was declared “cancer-free” by his physicians and planned to return to the role. “I’m raring to go,” was the star’s official statement, and he thrilled fans and media with an appearance at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con Spartacus panel. The celebration would not last. In September Whitfield’s cancer recurred agressively, and under the advice of his doctors he immediately began treatment again.

Whitfield would continue his bitter fight with lymphoma for another year. Upon his death on September 11th, 2011, outpourings of support from the Spartacus cast and crew were sent to his wife Vashti Whitfield, who said that her husband died peacefully surrounded by his family.

Starz president Chris Albrecht had this to say:

We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield. 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. Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace. 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.

In a succinct Twitter post, Spartacus creator Steven DeKnight said, “No words to express the depth of such a loss. You will be deeply missed, my brother.”

Whitfield was a relatively new star with a bright future in front of him. The Welsh-born Australian went to college in Sydney and worked as an engineer through his early thirties before being cast in various Aussie TV shows. Whitfield’s two film credits are supernatural thriller Gabriel (2007) and horror movie The Clinic (2009).

Spartacus will continue with its second season, Vengeance, in 2012. Fellow Australian Liam McIntyre will take over the title role.

We at Screen Rant send our deepest condolences to Andy Whitfield’s family and friends.

Source: Entertainment Weekly