Spartacus star Whitfield dies, age 39
Friends and family have paid tribute to former Spartacus star Andy Whitfield, who died on Sunday after a battle with cancer.
Whitfield's manager Sam Maydew said the 39-year-old actor died of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Sydney, Australia.
Whitfield's wife Vashti in a statement called her husband a "beautiful young warrior" who died on a "sunny Sydney morning" in the "arms of his loving wife".
Whitfield - who was born in Wales and lived in Australia - was a virtual unknown when he was cast as the title hero in New Zealand-filmed series Spartacus, a hit original series that made waves with its graphic violence and sexuality.
Whitfield was preparing for the second season when he was diagnosed 18 months ago.
New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless, who co-starred with Whitfield, said he had left an "indelible mark on all of us in the Spartacus family".
"He was a gentle man who never said a bad word about anyone, a gifted photographer, engineer (no really!) and a brilliant actor," Lawless wrote on her website.
"Andy's incandescent film presence made men want to be him and women want to marry him."
"How lucky we were to have him grace all our lives."
Spartacus director and producer Michael Hurst said production was stopped at all the show's studios this morning and cast and crew were told of Whitfield's death together.
"We took a little time to digest things and then carried on," Hurst said.
"The best tribute we can give to Andy is to go on and make a terrific show."
Hurst said although he was well aware of Whitefield's illness, the news was still sudden.
"But we're a strong family. We all loved Andy and he gave us his blessing. So we're getting on with it."
Spartacus: Blood and Sand creator and executive producer Steven DeKnight expressed his sadness at the announcement of Whitfield's passing via Twitter.
"No words to express the depth of such a loss. You will be deeply missed, my brother," McKnight said.
The Starz network also released a statement through the show's Facebook site.
"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."
In January the network announced that another Australian actor, Liam McIntyre, would take over the role.
-Stuff with AP