Liam McIntyre has won the lead role in season two of Starz original series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” replacing Andy Whitfield, whose ongoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma forced him to depart after the show’s freshman season.

The Australian-born McIntyre, who appeared in HBO’s “The Pacific” and indie film “Frozen Moments,” will join the cast as production for season two begins in new Zealand this spring. Starz said Whitfield had a say in the casting.

“Since no one can really replace Andy, we realized that we should instead find an actor who can truly lead ‘Spartacus’ forward,” Starz prexy-CEO Chris Albrecht said. “It was important to us to have Andy endorse the idea of recasting this part, which he did in the same heroic manner that he’s dealt with his whole ordeal. And that, coupled with our fortune in finding a young actor with the gladiator credentials and the acting ability of Liam, makes it easier for us to keep this hit franchise going.”

“Spartacus” has been a major success for pay cabler Starz, often leading all cable programs in total audience during its Friday timeslot. The popularity inspired a six-episode prequel, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” that will launch Jan. 21. John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Peter Mensah and Manu Bennett appear in both series, with Dustin Claire playing the role of Gannicus in the spinoff.