Andy Whitfield, who plays the title character in Starz's original drama Spartacus: Blood and Sand, has had a recurrence of cancer, and will not be returning to show's second season, which was tentatively set to debut in September 2011.
Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in March, while preparing for the show's second season.
With the actor receiving treatment, the premium network elected to go with a six-episode prequel, which it still plans to air in January.
Whitfield issued the following statement: "It's with a deep sense of disappointment that I must step aside from such an exceptional project as Spartacus‚ and all the wonderful people involved. It seems that it is time for myself and my family to embark on another extraordinary journey. Thank you sincerely for the support so far."
"Our hearts and prayers are with Andy and his family during this difficult time," said Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht. "Andy is not only an incredible actor whose portrayal of Spartacus made an indelible impression on Starz audiences, he is also an amazing human being whose courage, strength, and grace in the face of adversity have inspired all of us."
Evidently no decision has been made about the future of the series.
"Right now, we just want to extend our concern and support to Andy and his family," said Carmi Zlotnik, managing director, Starz Media. "We will address our programming plans at some later date."