I have the sudden and peculiar urge to quote Norman Mailer, trendsetter in the genre of new journalism and purveyor of innovative nonfiction – “Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you can gain it by winning small battles with honor”. Profound words, yes, and surely we can all assume that Mailer intends this to be understood in a purely metaphysical sense, but today, if you switch on the television and watch ‘Spartacus: Blood And Sand’, masculinity takes on a brand new meaning. As the TV series title reads, there is blood and lots of it. Invoking the contemporary filmic style of graphic novel special effects, the vehemently popular series filmed in Auckland, New Zealand, offers blood, guts, gore, sex and violence with a relative and historically accurate twist. The cast features familiar faces such as esteemed actor John Hannah and warrior veteran Lucy Lawless as well as faces that you may not be all too familiar with, but soon will.
Sydney-based NIDA graduate Ande Cunningham plays Duro, a German gladiator who serves Batiatus (played by Hannah) and who forms a strong alliance with Spartacus. It was a role that Cunningham felt required a bit of convincing to confidently play.
“They knew when I auditioned that I would fit on the show, but they didn’t quite know where. I went back a couple of times and as it turned out the character of Duro was for me. When I received the brief it read ‘German barbarian’ and I thought, this will be interesting. They put dreadlocks on me and let me keep my nose ring and then I became a German barbarian,” he laughs.
To acquaint himself with his inner barbarian, Ande and his fellow male cast members underwent an excruciatingly grueling boot-camp to adapt to the physical side of their characters; an experience that Ande won’t be forgetting in a while.
“When I first started, there was a lot of testosterone flying around and it became infectious. On the first day, about two hours in, I thought I was going to spew,” he reveals with upmost sincerity. “Bootcamp was the most hardcore thing I have ever done. I don’t go to the gym much but I surf, rock-climb and do yoga. I tore muscles in my biceps on the first day. I thought to myself ‘you can’t be such a wimp’ and I came back as hard as I could. especially loved the sword fight training.”
Sans fake tan, dreadlocks and the overly impressive Gladiator kilt and sandals, Ande plays in a band called Uncle Thief, a group that embraces a “psychedelic folk-rock blues” sound. He is also in the final stages of shooting a documentary that focuses on animal rights, cruelty and activism. “It’s about moral progression and how we treat our animals,” he explains.
Acting-wise, Ande is thoughtful about his future career prospects, “I’m open. I was lucky enough to find great representation after I filmed the show and now I am ready for anything; whatever sticks. I think we have a huge pool of talent in Australia, and we are starting to see some big changes despite it being really difficult in our industry. Films like ‘Animal Kingdon’, ‘Candy’ and ‘The Proposition’ are causing these changes. I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut, a marine biologist,” he adds as a final note. “But the beauty of being an actor is that you can be anything at the most exciting times.”
‘Spartacus’ airs Wednesday nights on Go!