Dustin Clare as Gannicus in Spartacus: Vengeance
In January 2011, the STARZ cable network premiered Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, a prequel to its hugely successful 2010 series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. This miniseries told the story of Gannicus, the first gladiator to become champion of Capua representing Quintus Lentulus Batiatus. The character was played by Australian actor Dustin Clare, who reprises his role beginning in this Friday night’s (February 24th) episode of Spartacus: Vengeance, the second season of the Spartacus saga, airing Fridays @ 10:00 p.m. EST/PST on STARZ.
Born and raised in Australia, Clare trained at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. Along with a number of miniseries, he has appeared on several TV series including All Saints, Headland and Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities. The actor also played the regular role of Riley Ward in McLeod’s Daughters, for which he won a 2007 Australian Silver Logie award for “Most Popular New Male Talent.”
Last week, the handsome and talented Clare spoke with me as well as handful of other journalists about his character’s return to the Spartacus fold. The following is an edited version of our Q & A. Enjoy!
In Spartacus: Gods of the Arena you had a feature role, and now you're coming back to an established show where someone else is in the main role. Did you have any difficulty sharing the spotlight?
Dustin Clare: No, not at all. I think we're all pretty generous. It's a big ensemble cast you know, and I think that the stories have very much been ensemble-based, so it's all shared around the storyline.
Did the popularity of Gannicus in Gods of the Arena have any influence on him appearing in Vengeance or was he in the mix all along?
DC: Yes, he was in the mix all along, I just kept it pretty low key.
Can you talk about any challenges that Gannicus faces as a free man?
DC: Just getting some cash together to get a meal (he jokes) as well as looking for a roof over his head.
Gannicus has really been sort of a journeyman, and in between the prequel and Vengeance he’s done a lot of traveling and discovering and is still very much someone who’s the master of his own destiny. I also see my character as a sort of anti-hero. Unfortunately, I can't really tell you how the writers have brought him back into the series. That’s kind of a major plot point. He's still the Gannicus we left in some ways, but also he's definitely had some time to mature and see the world. He very much enjoys being a free man, too.
What can you tell us about Gannicus’ return and how he will be received by the other characters, especially Crixus (Manu Bennett)?
DC: Again, it's a major plot point in terms of how he's brought back into the story, so I don't want to ruin that for any of the fans. I know you guys love spoilers over there (he jokes).
What I can tell you is that eventually Gannicus will meet up with all those old characters, and that's going to be really interesting for the audience. However, there’s also a character that he's never met and who is kind of integral to the story, and that's Spartacus (Liam McIntyre). There are some similarities with the two men, but they’re also pursuing different things. So I think there's a real clash there as well.
In terms of Crixus, my character was always a mentor in a way to him, but some time has passed, you know, and hopefully there’s been a little bit of mending on Crixus' part during that time.
What are your thoughts on your character's development since the last time we saw him?
DC: For the audience, I wanted him to have grown and changed. I think it's pretty boring to see the same kind of character reintroduced, but that said, Gannicus still has a lot of his old habits. He has matured, though, and has had some time to spend as a free man which, again, he's really enjoyed. And because he's a free man, he can move between both the Roman and rebel worlds.
Barbara Darragh, the show’s costume designer, and I worked closely together to really show that evolution of Gannicus and that he has been to other places and there's a maturity in him together with experience that he's gained in his travels.
DC: Yes, sure. I mean, that was a while ago now for Gods of the Arena, and it was just like anything else, I was approached about the part. Rob Tapert (executive producer) had seen my work in an Australian TV series and wanted to have me test for a role in Spartacus, which was that of Gannicus, and things ended up going my way.
So it was pretty straightforward, really. I taped an audition piece at home in my living room, which I sent to the producers, and then I went to Sydney to retest if you will, and the role was mine. I was always going to be involved in Spartacus: Vengeance; it’s just sort of something that we kept under wraps as much as possible until now.
What would you say were some of the initial acting challenges you found stepping into this role?
DC: This is very much a genre piece, so you have to find the style of the genre along with the real truth of the story. It’s also a period piece, so there are things to think about like accents; obviously I’m not going to come on and do an Australian accent (he jokes). So it’s more about having to think about new things, and while that might also be considered a challenge, it’s an enjoyable one.
DC: We follow very strict diets during the six or seven months that we’re filming, and, yes, there's a lot of training. We do a boot camp for a month before we start shooting, which gets us in pretty good shape. But I don't think anyone is really out of shape, in that sense.
We spend about four weeks training from eight in the morning till sort of one in the afternoon, have some lunch and then go home. I’ll usually do some light pool work after that.
So it's a really good routine to get our bodies flexible, mobile and ready to undertake the type of workload that we're about to embark on. Without a doubt, though, everyone is injured at some point, usually about three-quarters of the way through shooting. It’s when the body begins to get tired and the physical exertion is sort of pushing it to another limit where you're starting to put stress on your body.
That said, we're lucky to have a fantastic team of stunt coordinators and stunt men who really look after us and train with us all the time. I also train a great deal with my stunt double, Jacob Tomuri, who I have a terrific relationship with, and I really enjoy that as well.
Dustin, did you always want to work in this industry while you were growing up or did you have other professions in mind?
DC: I think I was about 18 before I decided I wanted to pursue acting. So I guess compared with some people it was a bit late. When I was 19 I enrolled in drama school, but to be honest with you, before that, I wanted to be an agriculturist and have my own fish farm setups. I was also sort of contemplating pursuing something I enjoy as just sort of a hobby, which is surfboard creating/building.
DC: McLeod's Daughters was my first regular job out of drama school and my first full-time role. It was great because I learnt a number of technical aspects about working in front of the camera, which you take for granted now, but you have to learn somewhere along the way.
So it was a bit of a training ground for me in that regard, which included dealing with media. I think I made some mistakes back then, technically as well as with the media and the sort of professional engagements that you had to be involved in. However, I’m lucky because I learnt from those mistakes and I have definitely not made them again since.
What is it like working with Lucy Lawless (Lucretia) again in Vengeance as compared to the prequel?
DC: I'm really fond of Lucy and I think she's doing great work in this show. Personally, I think it's some of the best work she's done in her career. Lucy has really flown with this role and it's wonderful to see her kind of attack it so beautifully. The two of us actually worked together this season, which was fun and something I really enjoyed. Lucy is a consummate professional, very down to Earth and a lot of fun. She's great for the show, too.
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