'Spartacus' prequel adds Temuera Morrison

Starz's "Spartacus" prequel started filming this week after filling two key roles in its cast.

Temuera Morrison ("Star Wars: Episode II") and Jeffrey Thomas will play key roles in the six-episode "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena," which is scheduled to premiere in January.

The prequel -- which came about in part because "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" star Andy Whitfield had to undergo cancer treatment (he's recovered and feels "10 years younger" -- will tell the story of the gladiator training academy before Spartacus arrives there. Morrison is playing Doctore, the predecessor to Peter Mensah's Oenomaus as the gladiators' trainer. Thomas ("Hercules," "Legend of the Seeker") is playing the senior Batiatus, the father of John Hannah's character in "Blood and Sand."

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