R.I.P. Andy Whitfield

Andy Whitfield, the original star of Starz’s surprise hit “Spartacus,” died yesterday at the age of 39 from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was ripped.

The Wales native was diagnosed 18 months ago while preparing for the second season of Spartacus. Though he was an relative unknown when the show started, Whitfield’s performance was so strong and iconic that production on season two was halted for about a year in an attempt to give Whitfield time to recover from the disease. During that time, producers shot a prequel series titled Gods of the Arena without the actor. Briefly it seemed Whitfield would make it — he was cleared to start work on season two and made a triumphant return appearance at Comic-Con. But Whitfield soon relapsed. Faced with the decision of either cancelling the series or recasting, Starz and producers opted to hire newcomer Liam McIntyre for the lead role, with Whitfield’s blessing. [EW]

Whitfield is survived by his wife and two children. Man, cancer’s a real assh*le. Go after old people and smokers, cancer. Leave us attractive people with great bodies alone.