Starz greenlights ‘Spartacus’ prequel

Lucy Lawless, John Hannah to star in series

Swords and sandals remains the outfit du jour at Starz.

Cabler has given the go-ahead for a six-part prequel to “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” the Andy Whitfield series that — along with comedy “Party Down” — has helped Starz become an original scripted programming player.

Lucy Lawless and John Hannah will co-star in the untitled skein, with Whitfield making only a brief appearance. Pre-production is currently underway and filming will begin this summer in New Zealand. Show is scheduled to air in January.

Starz gave “Spartacus” a second-season renewal even before it premiered, but production has been halted due to Whitfield’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis.

Ratings for the just concluded season were solid. Show averaged 1.2 million viewers during its Friday night timeslot, and the 18-49 demo nearly doubled to 725,000 by season’s end .

With former HBO topper CEO Chris Albrecht in charge, Starz is ramping up its slate with a continued emphasis on period dramas.

In development is “Men of the Dusk” from writer S. Craig Zahler. Show examines a former Confederate soldier who oversees a group of workers who transport items and people from town to town. Albrecht is also working with former NBC chieftan Ben Silverman and his Electus shingle with “William the Conquerer” and “Peacekeeper” in the Starz pipeline.

“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is produced by Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Joshua Donen and Steven S. DeKnight.