Andy Whitfield always commanded attention in front of the camera. The fashion model-turned-actor first gained a foothold with appearances on Australian television dramas before winning the title role in the blockbuster action-thriller, "Gabriel" (2007), as an archangel who fought to save the souls in purgatory. The physically challenging part likely prepared Whitfield for his next role as the infamous Roman gladiator on the American historical drama, "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" (Starz!, 2010- ). As the fiercely loyal fighter with the killer instincts, Whitfield quickly gained a multitude of fans in the United States and made the show one of the network's top draws. However, shortly after the show's first season wrapped in March 2010, Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The brave actor received immediate treatment after his diagnosis, and was given a clean bill of health in June. The good news was short-lived, however; in September that year, Whitfield stepped down from his role following his doctors' advise to resume aggressive cancer treatment. The saddening news sent shockwaves to Whitfield's family, peers, and his fans - a testament to the actor's undeniable talent and dedication to his craft.
Andy Whitfield was born in 1974 in Amlwch, Wales. He later studied at Sheffield University in England before spending five years working as a diagnostic engineer in London's construction industry. In 1999, Whitfield moved to Sydney, Australia where he attended Screenwise Film & TV School for Actors. Before landing acting roles, Whitfield appeared in numerous advertising campaigns in Europe and Asia as a fashion model. He started to gain acclaim by appearing on a number of Australian TV shows including the long-running medical series "All Saints" (Seven Network, 1998- ), the crime drama "The Strip" (Nine Network Australia, 2008- ), and the sitcom, "Packed to the Rafters" (Seven Network, 2008- ). In 2007, Whitfield landed the title role in the film "Gabriel," as the archangel fighting to bring light to purgatory. His performance earned him a Best Newcomer nomination at Australia's Filmink Awards the following year.
While still a relative newcomer to American audiences, Whitfield nabbed the lead role on the period drama, "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," a high-octane series set in the violent Roman gladiator era. According to the show's executive producer, Rob Tapert, Whitfield won the coveted role after a worldwide talent search for an actor not yet on Hollywood's radar, but one who had potential to become a star. Whitfield's intense turn as the rebellious soldier-turned-gladiator with the instinct to win near-impossible battles instantly caught Hollywood's collective eye. After its January 2010 premiere, the series steadily gained ratings, but just as the production of season two began in March, Whitfield was diagnosed with early-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The news came as a shock to the then 35-year-old actor who, up until his cancer diagnosis, felt healthy enough to tackle the physically demanding role, as well as the vigorous workouts required of him. Whitfield began treatment immediately and after a month of undergoing chemotherapy, tests revealed that he was clear of cancer. But in September 2010, news broke that Whitfield had bowed out of the show's second season after doctors advised him to resume aggressive cancer treatment. There was talk that due to Whitfield's absence, production would either "close up shop or recast," but in early October, the network announced that it started officially looking for an actor to take over Whitfield's role. The news was met with sadness from fans around the world who collectively hoped for another remission. That was not in the cards. On Sept. 11, 2011, Whitfield passed away from his disease in Sydney, Australia. He was 39 years old.