TCA: Chris Albrecht On 'Spartacus', Comedy

Spartacus: Blood and Sand will continue. Ending months of speculation, Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht confirmed that the costume drama will proceed with Season 2. “We are officially going ahead with the long planned but unfortunately delayed second season of Spartacus,” he said at the opening of Starz’s TCA session. “We don’t have casting news but … we’re very confident where we are in the casting process that we will find an actor who will step in the sandals of Spartacus although we will never be able to replace (cancer-stricken original star) Andy Whitfield.” In November, Starz flew 3 actors to New Zealand, with one of them, Australian Liam McIntyre, still in the running for the lead as he is bulking up for the task.

Albrecht was unapologetic about the channel’s creative direction towards noisy, commercial dramas or as he called it “premium TV-flavored popcorn. “We’re leaving the quiet dramas to other networks.” Here are few more soundbites from Albrecht’s short impromptu Q&A:

– On how Starz is able to do expensive-looking costume dramas like Spartacus and Camelot: “We borrowed costumes from Rome,” a series he once launched on HBO.

– On Starz’s decision to get out of the comedy series business with the cancellation of Party Down: “We’re not a very funny group.” He then added: “We decided to focus on one-hour dramas, those are the kind of productions that travel better. And it takes one to fill an hour, it’s hard to find two comedies that go together. So we will concentrate on the hours to fill out the schedule and see what we get.”

Later during the Q&A session for the Spartacus prequel Gods of the Arena, Rob Tapert, executive producer of both Spartacus: Blood and Sand and the prequel, which premieres on Jan. 21, also addressed the search for a new Spartacus lead. “That role will be recast,” he said. “We feel confident, as does Starz, that we will find the right person to play him.”

Writer-executive producer Steven S. DeKnight added that Whitfield’s illness had no impact on he prequel: “It was a very unfortunate circumstance but the story (for the prequel) was what the story was. Nothing good came from losing Andy. But we had the luxury of building an infrastructure with having the prequel. If there us any upside to Andy’s illness, it is that we are better equipped to support the the new Spartacus.  At the session’s conclusion, a rep for Starz said that Whitfied himself “is very supportive of our decision to recast the role.”

During the session for the new Starz/BBC Torchwood, Russell T. Davies — creator of the British series and executive producer of a new series — noted that the incarnation set to premiere in July will be called Torchwood: Miracle Day and deal with a novel new premise: “A miracle happens in the world,” he says. “One day on Earth, no one dies. The next day, no one dies. The day after that, no one dies…No one actually dies, on and on and on. What will society do now? This is what we’ll explore.”

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline Hollywood’s TCA coverage.

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