Spartacus Star Andy Whitfield Dies at 39

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Andy Whitfield, the hunky actor who appeared on TV's Spartacus: Blood and Sand, died on Sunday, his family and the Starz network confirmed to the Associated Press

Following an 18-month battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Whitfield passed away in Sydney, Australia. He was 39 years old.

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The breakout star appeared as the gladiator hero in the first season of Spartacus, but stepped down in January when his cancer took a turn for the worse. (Actor Liam McIntyre took over the role for the second season.)

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His wife, Vashti Whitfield, said in satement: "On a beautiful sunny Sydney spring morning, surrounded by his family, in the arms of his loving wife, our beautiful young warrior Andy Whitfield lost his 18 month battle with lymphoma cancer. He passed peacefully surrounded by love. Thank you to all his fans whose love and support have help carry him to this point. He will be remembered as the inspiring, courageous and gentle man, father and husband he was."

Born in Wales, Whitfield had previously appeared in Australian TV shows Packed to the Rathers and McLeod's Daughters.

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Added Chris Albrecht, President and CEO of Starz: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield. We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in Spartacus and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life. Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans."

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