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Steven DeKnight on Spartacus

Published January 21, 2010 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of Starz
Spartacus Spartacus

The characters of Spartacus: Blood and Sand refer to the gods a lot, as we’re used to seeing folks in ancient Roman times do. Whether this harkens back to actual society or just the movies’ portrayal of their society, the series acknowledges it without going into full on fantasy territory.

Steven DeKnight Talks Spartacus

“When we approached this, there was a very brief discussion about the mythological element but we decided very strongly not to move into a Clash of the Titans kind of arena, which I love but this is definitely not that story,” said series creator Steven S. DeKnight. “When we did our research and had our historical consultants come on, I was personally surprised that the feeling toward the gods was a lot different than I had assumed it was. It was very much about fortune and the gods giving good fortune. You would pray basically to advance yourself. That’s very much the take we have on it here. It’s very irreverent. There are people that believe in the gods. There are people that don’t believe in the gods. It’s very much like modern times. We wanted as real a feeling towards the gods as possible so you won’t see any krakens or minotaurs or actual gods, but there will be talks about them.”

DeKnight wanted to clarify that “created by” is only a WGA term and he shares credit with his entire team. Particularly, creating an ancient Rome via green screen builds off of what’s come before.

“We loved the HBO series Rome but we didn’t want to do Rome. In a way, it’s modern and it’s pushing the technology of television, but it’s a throwback to the old days where every episode ended with some sort of cliffhanger. One thing that I really wanted to bring into this is that at the end of every episode, I wanted the audience to say, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to see what happens next.’ That’s something we always strive to do in this show. Visually, we wanted to take the technology that Zack Snyder had pushed so far in 300 and see what we could do with that in television. Honestly, budget-wise, we needed that because we can’t afford the vast vistas that it would cost to really show this epic. So the green screen really helped that.”

Green screen would not only be a budgetary concern though. Once they agreed on that style, the creators of the show realized they could use it to stylize the show as well. “Rob and I are both very much influenced by graphic novels. We wanted to bring that graphic novel feel, especially to the violence. We agreed that we wanted the violence to be very rough, very bloody but not so hyper realistic that it was a horror show. We wanted it to be more operatic. I can’t say enough about what Rob has done down in New Zealand with the costumes, the set, the visual effects. I think it’s just all very stunning and very different for television.”

Now that the show is about to air, DeKnight has to get back to work writing scripts. Starz has already ordered a second season of Spartacus. “Time is always the enemy in television. On the production side, I believe we will have the exact same amount of time to shoot it. On the writing side, we’re trying to do it about six to eight weeks faster, which should be completely possible because season one, we went straight to 13 with no pilot so we had to jump right in and just start whacking at it. Now we have established characters. After the first few episodes, we settled into the right tone so it’s very beneficial to us having already done season one. But Starz, by green lighting season two before we aired, did us a great service because we did have more time to think about it. On the writing side, we just started yesterday plotting out season two and we’re already vastly ahead of where we were in season one. It really gives us an opportunity to explore the richness of the characters and really build on what we saw in season one.”

Spartacus: Blood and Sand premieres Friday on Starz.
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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Starz

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