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'Spartacus' star Andy Whitfield has died [Updated]

Andy Whitfield dead at 39
Andy Whitfield, who appeared in the Starz period drama "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," has died, the network confirmed.

Whitfield died Sunday of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Sydney, Australia. He was 39.

Whitfield appeared as the gladiator hero in the first season of the cable series but stepped down from the role before the second season because of his illness. 

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield,” said Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht in a statement.  “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."

The network announced back in January that Australian actor Liam McIntyre had been enlisted to take over the role.

“It’s hard. You kind of wish you didn’t have the opportunity,” McIntyre said at this year's Comic-Con about taking on the role. “The best thing I can do is bust my [butt] … and honor the legacy.”

"Spartacus: Vengeance" is slated to premiere in January.

[Updated at 8:20 p.m., Sept. 11: The following is a statement from his wife, Vashti Whitfield: "On a beautiful sunny Sydney spring morning, surrounded by his family, in the arms of his loving wife, our beautiful young warrior Andy Whitfield lost his 18-month battle with lymphoma cancer. He passed peacefully surrounded by love. Thank you to all his fans whose love and support have help carry him to this point. He will be remembered as the inspiring, courageous and gentle man, father and husband he was."]

ALSO:

Mary Fickett dies; longtime actress on 'All My Children'

Actor Cliff Robertson dies at 88

Notable deaths of 2011

-- Yvonne Villarreal

twitter.com/villarrealy

Photo: Andy Whitfield in a scene from "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." Credit: Starz

 
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