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'Spartacus' star Andy Whitfield dead at 39
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"Spartacus" actor Andy Whitfield has died, CNN has confirmed. Fans of Starz Entertainment's original drama "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" know Whitfield as the titular gladiator.

According to the New York Times, the 39-year-old passed away on Sunday in Sydney, Australia from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Whitfield leaves behind his wife, Vashti, two children, and a sister.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield, said Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht in a statement.

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," Albrecht continued. "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.

"Spartacus" creator Steven DeKnight shared his thoughts on Twitter, writing, "No words to express the depth of such a loss. You will be deeply missed, my brother."

Whitfield rose to stardom on the Starz series, but took what was intended to be a temporary hiatus following a check-up in March of 2010, the NYT reports. Starz ended up using a variety of actors for a prequel, "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" as they waited for Whitfield to return, but he never became well enough to do so.

Australian actor Liam McIntyre was tapped to fill the lead for the second season. At the time, McIntyre commended Whitfield for his work on the show, and said that "everybody hurts that he's had to give up that role, myself included."

Whitfield's co-stars are chiming in with their condolences as well. In a statement on her fan site, "Spartacus" actress (and former "Xena" star) Lucy Lawless is quoted as saying that "Obviously, Andy Whitfield 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," the statement said. "Andy's incandescent film presence made men want to be him and women want to marry him. Andy's two babies will always know that their Daddy cherished them and their mother, Vashti, above all things. How lucky we were to have him grace all our lives. Godspeed, Andy!"

Source CNN