Heard about the television show "Spartacus" and wonder what all the fuss is about? Let me warn you there will be plenty of mayhem in the upcoming third season of this show to talk about -- the primal sort of bedlam that was commonplace in ancient Rome.
In advance of Friday night's Starz season premiere of "Spartacus: Vengeance," creator and head writer Steven S. DeKnight ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel," "Smallville, "Viva Laughlin" and "Dollhouse") took part in a special conference call to discuss the increasingly popular franchise.
The most obvious questions about the show centered around what some see as a brutally violent and highly sexually explicit show.
DeKnight made no excuses for the uncensored and graphic battle and brothel scenes that have become the hallmark of this show: "Every now and then somebody will say something about oh it's too violent, oh there's too much sex, but that's the show it is. Thankfully Starz is very supportive, and we get to tell the story we want to tell."
As for the homosexual scenes in the show, he dismisses those critics, too. When people ask him to tone this content down he flat out refuses to do it.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's barely in there to start with. And it was part and parcel of this world and it's part and parcel of our world now. If people want to stop watching the show because two guys kiss, well, I shrug my shoulders. You know, that that will always be in there," said DeKnight.
Other things the show's critics have pointed out are the fit Gladiators walking around with shaved, glowing bodies, which DeKnight says is part of the show's appeal today.
"The men have it rougher than the women because the men are often practically naked all the time, you know, with just a little bit of strategic covering. So they have to watch what they eat and train like crazy for the entire shoot of the show, which is incredibly difficult."
And apparently fans of "Spartacus" might see more of these Ancient Romans' chiseled bodies at Comic-Con this summer.
I asked DeKnight if the show would be making a return visit to the pop-culture convention. "It's always a little trickier since we shoot in New Zealand and we have to actually shut down for a week to be able to get the actors here." He also said that the large dollar amount connected with shutting down production for a week makes this decision a "nail biter."
While he wouldn't confirm if the "Spartacus" cast would make it to the convention this year, he did reassure me he would be here. "You'll find me floating around the convention floor, if nothing else. But I suspect we'll be there. It's such a great event and we always love coming there," he said.
In the new season Liam McIntyre (Ektopos, Radev, “Neighbours,” “The Pacific”) takes the title role of Spartacus after Andy Whitfield died of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma last year. Lucy Lawless (“Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Battlestar Galactica”) returns as Lucretia; Peter Mensah ("Avatar,"" 300," "The Incredible Hulk") as Oenomaus – once known as Doctore; Manu Bennett ("The Marine," "30 Days of Night"), as Crixus; Dustin Clare (“Underbelly,” “Satisfaction”) as Gannicus; Nick E. Tarabay (“Crash,” “CSI: Miami”) as Ashur; and Katrina Law (“Third Watch”) as Mira.
"Spartacus: Vengeance" premiers with the episode "Fugitivius" and picks up where the final season left off: After Spartacus' wife is murdered, the raging leader is ready to avenge his wife's murder but chooses to control his beastly instinct to direct his growing army of freed slaves instead.
The first 15 minutes of this episode will take you from bloody battlefield, to gory fighting, to the main arena for more butchering. If you've got a week stomach for violence then you might want to change the channel. The camera stays continuously on the savage pugilists giving viewers just enough time to look away or dare to stare straight into the eyes of the mortally wounded without cutting away from the carnage.
Watch, blink and repeat with the sex scenes ... which are plentiful.