New “Spartacus” Series Includes Lesbian Characters

Rob Tapert, left, and Lucy Lawless

The upcoming Starz drama series Spartacus: Blood and Sand will include both gay and lesbian characters, executive producer Rob Tapert told today.

The drama stars Andy Whitfield and Lucy Lawless in a retelling of the story of the legendary rebel Roman gladiator-slave who lived in Rome from 109 BC to 71 BC and led a slave rebellion that eventually included 140,000 escaped slaves. The first season leads up to Spartacus’s escape from the slave prison.

Tapert is co-executive producing the series along with Sam Raimi, with whom he executive-produced Xena: The Warrior Princess.

Spartacus’s showrunner is Steven DeKnight, who told IGN recently, “I come from the Joss Whedon camp, so I love strong women, and I love big sweeping romantic arcs that will probably end badly, just like Joss always does.”

Each of the 13 episodes in the first season — which debuts on the premium network in January — reportedly cost over $2 million, and will include more graphic sex and violence than 300, says Tapert. “[The network] has given us quite a bit of rope with which to hang ourselves,” he says. Filming for the series is currently taking place in New Zealand.

Lawless (who is married to Tapert) plays Lucretia, the owner of the gladiator school where Spartacus (Whitfield) is imprisoned. John Hannah will play her husband, and Erin Cummings (Bitch Slap!, Dante’s Cove) has been cast as Spartacus’s wife.

Whitfield and Cummings

Tapert declined to elaborate on the gay and lesbian characters, but Lawless’s character is not expected to be one of them. reported in January that Tapert told reporters at the TCA Winter Press Tour, “The beauty of being on premium cable is that there is no story that we can’t tell in detail. So the gay stories are totally accessible and don’t have to be handled with kid gloves. They can be confronted head-on.”

DeKnight added, “There will definitely be gay characters on the show, and relationships.” interview is the first confirmation that there will be gay women, as well as gay men, on the series. Bisexual characters are likely to be included, as well.

Tapert also confirmed in an interview earlier this week that there will be no Xena movie.