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It was a bittersweet season-three preem for the cast of Starz’s “Spartacus: Vengeance” as they posed for pictures at the Cinerama Dome on Jan. 18 without lead actor Andy Whitfield, who succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in September.

“Replacing Andy was one of the most difficult things for everybody, not just professionally but personally. Everybody knew him and loved him,” creator-scribe Steven S. DeKnight said about the actor who played the titular role in the first season.

Fans were quick to embrace broad-shouldered Liam McIntyre, who takes on the role of Spartacus. “I didn’t try and copy, I didn’t try and mimic. I thought that would be a shadow of an already amazing performance,” said the thesp.

McIntyre’s turn as the gladiatorial defector was not a lock, however. Originally, the Aussie actor was 45 pounds underweight.

“He looked physically ill. I could have (beaten him up) at that weight,” DeKnight said. “We put him on a workout retainer where he didn’t have the job until he proved he could gain all the weight and look good.”

After the show’s long hiatus, the crowd gasped and cheered at the blood sport onscreen that mirrored the cries for spectacular death in the arena.

“They liked the blood and the gore. That’s good to know going forward,” DeKnight said at the Roman-themed afterparty at the Sunset Landmark.