Dustin Clare, a virtual unknown in the U.S., but a popular TV actor in his native Australia, has landed the lead in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Starz’s six-part prequel to hit series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Jaime Murray and Marisa Ramirez are set to co-star in the prequel, which focuses on the House of Batiatus in its pre-Spartacus days and chronicles the rise of Gannicus (Clare), the first gladiator to become Champion of Capua. Returning to reprise their roles from Spartacus: Blood and Sand are Lucy Lawless (Lucretia), John Hannah (Batiatus), Peter Mensah (Oenomaus) and Manu Bennett (Crixus). Murray, repped by Gersh and Luber Rocklin, will play Gaia, Lucretia’s (Lawless) friend and a Capua social climber. Ramirez will play a beautiful slave girl with complicated relationships. Spartacus: Blood and Sand star Andy Whitfield will appear briefly in the prequel, which is slated to begin production in August in New Zealand for a January premiere on Starz. Whitfield, who plays the title character of Spartacus, will then rejoin the show in season two, which is set to begin production later this year. Whitfield, Lawless, Hannah, Spartacus: Blood and Sand co-star Viva Bianca and executive producer/head writer Steven S. DeKnight will be on hand for the series’ panel at Comic-Con on July 23.