Remembering Andy Whitfield

“I am going to go to sleep now as my body won’t work anymore.  I am like a butterfly with broken wings.  I will always be with you and will always be watching over you. I love you.’”—Andy Whitfield

One year ago today, my heart hiccupped for the loss of Andy Whitfield.  If you are a fan of the Starz series, Spartacus, I know you are in this exact moment with me now as you were the day you heard the news that this champion had lost his 18-month long battle with cancer.

When you’re reading a book and the hero is a fierce champion with a gentle soul and does things merely with his eyes like smile, bring calmness, flash fear, stand defiant, crumble from heartache, promise death—and you wonder what that looks like in a flesh and blood man?  It’s Andy.

The very first time I saw him on the screen as the long, scraggly haired Thracian, I didn’t know what to think.  He played the character as wild as he did tender.  After that first episode, The Red Serpent, I sat watching, week after week, as hooked as I was horrified.  I would sit through men having their faces sliced off because I knew what I was watching was oddly special.

That first season ended with the episode Kill Them All.  And do you know it was still a great cliffhanger.  You see with Spartacus, you’d just spent 13 weeks always with a breath of hope that came from that man.  The next season was bound to be spectacular, no matter that you had no idea of the cast.

In the offseason, Andy began his battle with cancer.  He appeared to have beaten it and even attended the 2010 Spartacus panel at San Diego’s Comic-Con.  There are several moments I feel blessed to have been a part of in my lifetime and sitting in that room with him is one of them.

Here are some of the things I remember hearing that day:

“It’s profound to get such a great connection to complete strangers.” Andy after coming out to a true hero’s welcome from the crowd.

“People like their universe to work in logical ways.” The moderator framed one of his questions to Andy with this lead in, perplexed as to how cancer shows up in one of the fittest guys in the world.

“It’s not rocket science.  You do more exercise.  You eat less food.  You look like Spartacus.”  Andy sharing the secret all men and women wanted to know with his special humor.

“I’ve had a great rest. I’ve had time to kind of reboot.  I’m kind of enjoying a little fearlessness I’ve never had before, so bring it on.” Andy sharing his outlook that day in July of 2010.

Moderator: “How awesome is it to be at Comic-Con right now?”  Andy nearly cried.  “I’ll remember this for a long time.  Can we do it again?”

For the majority of the next fifty minutes, Andy sat resting his chin on folded hands, sometimes rubbing at his whiskers, smiling with his eyes.

It makes me so happy to have read recently that Andy and his family allowed a documentary crew to film his battle with cancer.  Titled Be Here Now, the film will hopefully be released in early 2013.  If you would like to see this beautiful champion’s work, I recommend the movie, Gabriel, the story of an archangel who fights to bring light back to purgatory in which Andy plays the title role, and of course the treasured first season—Spartacus:Blood and Sand.  And here is an Entertainment Weekly article with a link to the entire 58 minute long SDCC Spartacus Panel from July 2010.

*All photos in this post were taken by me