Yesterday we heard from Spartacus himself, Liam McIntyre about his role in the Starz TV show, Spartacus: War of the Damned and today it’s the turn of his nemesis (and reallife-flatmate) Todd Lasance who plays Caesar in the show.
I got him chatting about working on the TV series, what it was like coming into an alredy established cast and how he aproached the role as one of the most formdable leaders the world has ever seen. We all know about the polictical life of Caesar so this was a good chance to explore the younger version.
Spartacus: War of the Damned and Spartacus: The Complete Collection come to DVD and Blu-ray on 29 April 2013
HeyUGuys: What was it like joining the Spartacus family after it being established?
Todd Lasance: Yeah It was interesting. I was a little bit (not so much apprehensive) just a little nervous as there’s an element of the unknown when you come into an already established cast. My first actual day was the boot camp when they began their training as I got a chance to bond with everyone outside of the actual set before we started filming. That’s the crucial time where all the cast and crew gel together and you get to know the other actors, training and pushing yourselves all the time. It was kind of the best way i could be introduced and to be hoenst, there wasn’t a single person that didn’t welcome me with open arms. I felt very at home within a matter of days. Luckily that was a positive introduction to the show and meeting the cast.
HeyUGuys: Where is it that you shoot the show and did you know any of the cast before you started filming?
TL: I had met Christian [Antidormi] who plays Tiberius in Sydney a couple of times when we were out in the city a couple of times through a mutual friend. I’d also worked with Daniel Feuerriegel who plays Agron and had also worked with Manu [Bennett] who plays Crixus.
HeyUGuys: Because it strikes me that although Spartacus and Caesar are at war, that off-camera everyone is just talking about cricket an awful lot of the time?!
TL: Well that’s the funniest thing! Liam is pretty much the nicest guy on the planet and a fellow Aussie as well and we hit it off straight away. We actually live together in Los Angeles now which is kind of ironic considering we’re mortal enemies on the show.
HeyUGuys: You’re playing a young version of the Caesar that most people know, how did you approach that role?
TL: It was interesting because I was in a similar situation, aware of Caesar and his general accomplishments but that was in his political years. This particular period focuses on his military achievements. There is obviously some historical creativity to align everything with Spartacus etc. but for me it was an element of two main things. One was research; reading as much as I possibly could from books, online and speaking to other people who know about Caesar and that particular period. The second part was speaking to the Producers, who had a lot of insight into how they wanted Caesar to come across, the kind of character arc they had for him. They could give me a general overview and then it was up to me to create the character in a sense and make choices along the way and mould him and tweak him as we go. The producers were always there if they wanted to change him or take him in a different direction they could guide us but it’s mostly up to the actor to make those choices and if they’re happy with him then you don’t hear anything which is a bonus.
HeyUGuys: Obviously this is a very creative interpretation of history but do you have historians on set talking about weaponry, costumes etc?
TL: The historians specifically are there mainly in pre-production aspects of the show. They co-ordinate with the writers, and the Producers. As I said, the historical licence is a little bit stretched so they speak to the historians to ask if it all could have been possible or a change of events leading up to it or during that period that they may be able to introduce into the show.
The elements of the Pirates for example. That was obviously not as black and white as what was expressed on War of the Damned but there’s quite a famous story between Caesar and the Pirates, him getting captured and that sort of thing. We then have the stunt performances, the fighting, the costume design, sets, armourers are incredible. They custom build all of the main characters swords and armour to represent the period and they’re extremely accurate. They try to get the best visual accounts of what the armour was, what the weapons were in that period then replicate that but as far of the historians on set, that’s more behind the scenes.
HeyUGuys:The use of the English language in the show is brilliant, how long did it take you to wrap your head around that way of speaking and do you now say ‘Gratitude’ instead of ‘Thank You’ all the time?
TL: [Laughs] It’s got like an old English experian-type element. I found personally (and I think most actors found) that was the hardest element of the show. Obviously it’s physically exhausting as well but you can cope with that, looking after your body. As far as learning the language for characters who had a lot of dialogue like Crassus and Spartacus, the annoying thing is that sometimes there isn’t a speech pattern, the way in which we communicate today in this period and in this culture, we have a very difficult part about it. It also took me a couple of episodes once I started watching Spartacus, to get used to the language. I find if people come straight in and start watching from War of the Damned, it’ll take two or three episodes to get used to that language. Once you get an ear for it, you can pick it up quite easily. We still say ‘Gratitude’ now because of Spartacus and ‘With Child’! We love that one!
HeyUGuys:The action sequences in the show are amazing, what’s the process of choreographing them?
TL: The fight sequences are just epic. Long story short, as far as rehearsals we have our stunt team who even before getting to the actor, speak with the Director to plot out the fight. They’ll look to see what the fight needs to happen, what part of the set they’ll be on, who’s going to come out victorious. Does there need to be tooing and frowing or will it be a whitewash. Then they’ll speak to the Director of that episode to see where the fight will take place, how much time they have etc. Then they’ll build the fight with the stunt team, then the final stage is bringing the actors in and we get taught the fight;and run the fight about forty billion times (!), so that it’s almost like a dance, like a brutal dance where you learn every move perfectly. At the end of the day, it’s crutial because if you miss one step of the dance or fight, there’s a chance you’ll hit the other person in the face or stab them. Obviously we’re not using real metal swords.
They would friggin hurt if they hit you (which they do), but they’re like a hardened rubber. The guys who build them make them look like they’re metal and then the sound effects are added in afterwards. Those swords are still coming at you pretty damn hard and you don’t want them to hit you!
HeyUGuys: The brutal action is very much part of the show but also sex plays a heavy part. Were you nervous about that side of things going onto the show?
TL: Always nervous for sure. There was a little bit of apprehension going into it. It’s almost like the name Spartacus carries that intense combat and then also the fairly confronting sex scenes and language etc. It was a bit nervous about it because you don’t really have a Producers meeting and they tell you about all the sex that you’re going to be having! SO it’s sort of a little bit of a surprise when the scripts come your way, as I said we don’t get much prior warning. There is if there has to be something really confronting, like the altercation between Casear and Tiberius in episode 8 and since it was fairly intense, they gave us prior warning.
It’s always going to be awkward because at the end of the day there’s nothing really that sexy about it when you’re on set because you’ve got about 30 guys standing around you on set with cameras, sound equiptment and lighting and you’re standing there in the nud in between shots with a twoel around you. Then having to rehearse it, block it out then rehearse it again and by the time you shoot it, it’s not as organic as what people would like to think. It just comes down to the editing and camera work that makes it look appealing!
HeyUGuys: Obviousy this is the end of the ‘Spartacus’ story but do you think we’ll see a Caesar story to keep the tale going?
TL: I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that. I’m in the dark as much as everyone else is. I had heard a few things thrown aroundas far as to a potential spin-off. I honestly don’t know. If they are working on something it would be very early stages as I’m not aware of any major details of it. It’s definately something that i’d have a look at doing. It would depend on schedule when it actually happens, other projects I might have running at the time.
HeyUGuys: I guess it would be nice for you to drive through LA with your face on a twenty story billboard so you can compare them!
TL: [Laughs] Yeah! Then we could compare our billboards with each other at home and give each other crap about it!