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April 22 2010

10 Questions for Spartacus' Steven S. DeKnight. "I come from the Joss Whedon camp, having worked on Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse, and fully share his love and fascination for strong women. Moving forward I will continue to develop these kinds of roles..."

Spoilers in the Q&A for up to Episode 11 (out of 13).

Addresses the language and nudity, the types of sexuality portrayed, what he thinks of watchdog groups & those who would censor the series (take a guess), his comments on respecting the historical accuracy vs. needing to mold the show around an arc/arcs, plus interesting answers/details about a bunch more for his series Spartacus.

Yes, I shamelessly copy/pasted his response to Question 5 in a long-shot attempt to get more Whedon fans to try out this incredibly well-crafted series or give it another shot (especially with the mid-to-latter Season 1 episodes), since a lotta folks will only watch a show if it contains strong female characters or a subjective balance of both male and female actors. Fair enough. And I think maybe the impression was that it was only pure testosterone-drenched sex & violence after the first couple episodes, but the series turned out to be more than that, from what I saw (but then again, it's ancient Rome--there was a lot of unabashed sex and violence).

"Same sex relationships will continue to be presented in every season that I am associated with, along with a multi-racial cast."

How insane and tense were those last two episodes of Season 1...

Spartacus turned out to be my 2nd favourite show this season. I loved it.
What was your first ? I dunno if I tried out any other new shows this season (unless you count Nurse Jackie, but I'm not sure which season that would fit under, since it began last summer and will have had its first two seasons aired within less than a year).
I loved it too. The first few episodes left you wondering.... Hmmm, is this worth it? But then... It just took of, and I gotta say turned into my favorite show this season.

I read this interview a few days ago. Glad it got posted here - I didn't think about it at the time.

So, those of you on the fence, stick with this show, it becomes really awesome a few eps into the season, and then just keeps on getting better!

And Steven DeKnight, he has learnt well from his master.
Guess I'll have to give it another go. I didn't make it past episode 3.
Yeah same here Ara_celi. I forced myself through the first 3 eps then just couldn't be bothered with it any more. Might try again one day.
I was thinking about watching it but then I saw Charlie Brooker and co rip the piss out of it last week on 'You Have Been Watching'. It looked pretty bad from what I saw. But I may tune in on Bravo if nothing else is on.
I've been thinking about watching it too. If only because Lucy Lawless is in it. :)
Spartacus started out pretty horrible, but greatly improved over the course of the season as the narrative picked up and the characters became more compelling. I'll definitely continue watching the show.
Let me be perfectly blunt: censor groups and religious watchdogs can kiss my creative ass.


I think I'll watch the show just for that quote. ;)
deepgirl187: I think I'll watch the show just for that quote. ;)

Just don't expect to see it on the show. I heard it got censored, on religious grounds...
I don't know where you read that. The first few episodes are a bit ropey, you can tell they were feeling out the show as they went along. I think it takes off from about eps 5 onwards.
guess i need to jump back into this show since everyone is saying it gets better. I initially tuned in for the shirtless male specimen quotient, but that wasn't enough to hold me there.
So--I just invested in Netflix again. Mostly because so many shows & movies are available for streaming. (DVD's are so last decade!) Such as: Everything Whedon, Farscape, Coupling, Doctor Who, Xena, etc.

Hey, I'd already added every episode of Spartacus to my queue. Guess I'll check it out.
Great interview! Thanks for posting it.
By episodes 4-5 it became a really great show. You need to give it another chance. Can't wait to see Season 2.
After the first episode, I was ready to give up on it. Thankfully my husband wanted to stick it out and see where it went, so I stuck it out with him. I really liked how season one turned out and am very much looking forward to season two!
The show is fantastic. My skepticism kept me from watching until six episodes had already aired. I then watched six over two nights. Episode three knocked me on my ass. Then episode five drove my ass into the ground. I haven't stopped watching since.
DeKnight, I love you: These calls for censorship are often couched in the hysterical battle cry of “we must protect our children!” ...

No, protect your own children. Turn off the TV, switch the channel, buy the TV lock so your children can't watch things you don't like when you're not around, don't rent the video, don't see that film at your local movie theatre. Do not make yourself the arbiter of what is art and as DeKnight said in so many words, make adults into children.

This show has grown on me exponentially - at the beginning I found it more than a bit rough; narrative and the stylized geysers of blood flow. However, the writing has grown stronger and stronger. I was devastated by the scene with Varro and Spartacus. It was as good as anything I've ever seen on Buffy or Angel in terms of being caught by surprise and thrown off an emotional cliff. Good Lord. Just brilliant television.
Every episode improved on the one before as the show really found it's voice, vision and tone. Can't stand the (probably very lengthy) wait for season 2.
I appreciate how contrary he was, mostly since they were all points that I felt really deserved it.

I'm curious though, so did those softcore titles he came up with actually exist or does he just play that game where people try to come up with the best movie title porn parody?

I vaguely remember hearing that because of the time it might take for season 2 while the lead actor gets treated for cancer or whatever it was (luckily it was early stage), they wanted to do a prequel mini-series?
I haven't been able to watch the show, not available here. However, I trust the kind of stories Steven tells and I'm certainly looking forward towards the DVD release.

There will be a release, right? If not, I might be a bit upset.
OneTeV, nope, they didn't censor a thing in Spartacus' first season (doubt they will for Season 2, either). Maybe you had read about some of the watchdog groups' reactions to the series, but none of their complaints had any effect on how Starz treated the series.

orangewaxlion, I think I read the same things you did about a prequel mini-series possibly being used to tide us over until Season 2, but nothing's been confirmed yet. If they do make a prequel mini, I hope it focuses on some of the other characters (Mira could use one, as she was introduced late into Season 1 and we don't know much about her yet, plus a number of the other gladiators, maybe some of the political figures as well). Maybe each character would get an episode. Either that, or a continuous story about life at Batiatus' house & ludus before Spartacus arrived. I'm not sure that I wanna see more of Spartacus' life in his Thracian village, before the Romans came along to screw everything up.

Madhatter, DVDs/blu-rays have been confirmed. No date yet.

Simon said:
"I was thinking about watching it but then I saw Charlie Brooker and co rip the piss out of it last week on 'You Have Been Watching'. It looked pretty bad from what I saw. But I may tune in on Bravo if nothing else is on.

Heh, I saw You Have Been Watching last week. I just re-watched, for the sport of counter-pointing.

First of all, the long Tarzan-hair of the lead character goes away after the second episode (aside from in a few flashbacks).

"And later we'll be...gasping at arguably the rudest and most violent TV show ever made"

"Gasping" ? Is it giving you the vapours ?

Yep, it's violent. Probably the most violent TV series ever made (maybe something animated from Japan could give it a run for its money, but at least as far as any Western-produced TV goes), but likely small potatoes when I think of some of the films I've seen.

Rudest ? Depends on how he means that. Is nudity, sex, and treachery rude, or just part of life ? I dunno how you get away with an honest portrayal of ancient Rome (pre- or post-Christian) without showing or at least alluding to all that. I saw a series about a guy who deeply loves his wife, patricians who aspire to politics and were willing to do whatever it took to climb the social ladder, and a misplaced sense of honour among a brotherhood of slaves whose lives weren't worth crap to their owners/masters (among a number of other subplots and appealing secondary characters). From that came plenty of drama, some beautifully-executed twists, and a showcase for some of the meatiest scene-chewery on TV (I mean that in the complimentary way).

Given that it hasn't aired in the UK yet (Bravo, this summer, according to the clips) and they only showed clips from the first episode, mostly (which every viewer seems to agree is the worst ep of the season--they also showed one or two quick shots from Episode 3 and 4 or 5, I think), it was a bit of an unfair look at what the show really is (the big battle/war scenes only happen within the first episode, after that it's a lot more claustrophobic/confined, once the title character has been captured and enslaved. And not every episode features a gladiator/arena battle, either). Doesn't sound like Charlie or the panel saw more than the first episode or two.

"Yes, this is every 14-year-old boy's favourite show, whether they know it yet or not"

And then they harp on it some more by continuing with the assumption that it's aimed at 13-year-old virgin boys.

Saying the show's just for teenaged boys is a cheap shot/attempted zinger. By making it out to be puerile horndog drivel aimed squarely at young men and men who haven't quite grown up, Brooker aims to make his audience feel that they'd have to be of a lower mental capacity to enjoy the series, should be ashamed to even attempt a look at it. I know, I know, his show is designed to make fun of everything/everyone (heh, I did enjoy some of the friendly Doctor Who slags and making fun of the chefs--though I'm behind how Jamie Oliver's attempting to get the UK and the US to eat better, he takes himself way too seriously).

"And you can't so much as trot down a stairwell without spotting some casual sodomy"

Hah ! Nice misrepresentation of the reality of the show there. There's one scene of butt-sex in the entire first season and it's merely there to introduce two characters' relationship/make apparent that man-on-man sex was no big deal during that time period, in that region. It's extremely brief. The fact that I've mentioned "butt-sex" will already have turned off a few members here and god knows how many lurkers, despite the fact that the series features far more hetero or simply not-designed-to-be-sexy sex (there's always a lot of half-nudity on display for those that want the eye-candy though. Won't lie, I enjoyed all the beef and T&A, it's not often you get it combined so comfortably with your well-written entertainment).

The disclaimer they show must either have only been shown on Starz in the States or what will be shown at the beginning of each episode on Bravo in the UK. It wasn't shown on TMN in Canada, so I never saw any claim that this was trying to be as historically accurate as possible (and DeKnight addresses that aspect in his interview well enough).

The sequence where You Have Been Watching edits all the laughter/humiliation from Episode 2 down into a 30 second clip is also pretty misleading. Of course there's humiliation in that first ludus/training episode, the new recruits/new slaves are treated worse than what the worst freshman hazing rituals are reported to be like in colleges. Also, they're living in a prior time period where life was sometimes valued differently, depending on what station in life you had been born into. They're also faced with death often enough that they're gonna develop a pretty grim sense of humor, same as police, firemen, coroners, and many other professionals that deal with dead people and violence do in the modern day (like that one recruit not making it through his qualifying test).

Anyway, I know I don't need to hard-sell you, Simon, and a lot of others here. Just that, since it was a show I enjoyed and that I don't think deserves the lazy, reactionary criticism it's received (yes, the first episode or two make it look like a poor man's 300 crossed with Gladiator, but it's far different and, IMO, much better than both of those films/stories), thought it worth a few minutes to stick up for it.

Season 2 looks like it's gonna be a much different animal compared to Season 1. Don't see enough of that in shows, where the set-up/setting/direction changes drastically between seasons. Hope they pull it off.
Well, I'm sold, Kris. :) I just never got around to seeing any more after the first episode, but I've now put it in my Neflix queue.
I've just read that Andy Whitfield has cancer and as such the second season will be delayed as a result, which is devastating for many, many reasons.
As with all the comments above this show has blown me away, if you're squeamish I'd understand if the soft porn and gratuitous violence put you off.
But the machiavellian plot twists and character progression are among some of the best I've seen.
Excellent Television.
I also dismissed the show after watching the first 3 episodes, but then I heard that the show got progressively better with an awesome and satisfying season finale.
So I watched the remaining episodes last Sunday. And the show DELIVERED! The finale got quite some cheers from me. So satisfying and makes me excited for season 2.

Blu-ray purchase day one!
By jupiter's c***, this show had one of the most satifying season finales I've seen. I'm a wuss with violence, but with the aid of a trusty pillow and the use of the comic-booky fake blood splatter, it wasn't so bad. The story was well crafted and acted and I can't wait for the second season. Well wishes to Mr. Whitfield.
The interesting thing about the bloody violence in Spartacus is that for the most part when the violence is hitting home in some character sense, it's frequently much less overstated and hyperbolic. So there's violence, and there's violence. And I don't think that's an accident.
This is one of my favorite shows. Kudos to DeKnight and co.!
So I know a few days ago, I hadn't seen any episodes and was sort of ho-hum about this series, even though I loved the Steven DeKnight thing linked here.

But I gotta say that I've been watching the episodes, just got through with episode six and am totally blown away by it. I did not see any of that stuff coming.

This series seriously kicks some Machiavellian ass, y'all.

It's definitely worth watching.
"I come from the Joss Whedon camp, having worked on Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse, and fully share his love and fascination for killing strong women..."

Fixed. :P
Yes, that Wash and Book sure were strong women.
And Doyle and Wesley and whichever other strong male main characters I might be missing that died in his shows.

Joss' (and DeKnight'S) character-killing shows no gender discrimination. The main character ladies didn't fare so well on Angel, but it was mainly women left standing on Buffy (which, to be fair, post-Season 4, always had a predominantly female main cast, so the odds were in that outcome's favor), and no female main characters died in Serenity. Dollhouse was gender-equal for main character kills as well, but that was kinda overshadowed by a significant portion of the world's population dying.

Also, as far as DeKnight's track record goes, as of Spartacus, he's killed off far more males.

menomegirl, good to hear you gave it a go. What have you thought of the story post-Episode 6 ?
The Spartacus finale was So. Very. Satisfying.

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