Andy Witfield

When the promotional trailer for the new series Spartacus: Blood and Sand was released during San Diego Comic Con, many viewers were surprised by the amount of, well, blood — and naked flesh.

Along with plenty of slow-motion spurting arteries, there are some quick — and some not-so-quick — flashes of nearly ever inch of the cast, including Andy Witfield (as the titular gladiator) and Xena: Warrior Princess and Battlestar Galactica vet Lucy Lawless.

“(The network) wanted to do something that’s groundbreaking and boundary-pushing,” explains series executive producer Rob Tapert, who put the show together along with fellow executive producer Sam Raimi (himself no stranger to buckets of blood) and writer Stephen S. DeKnight, who cut his teeth writing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

Tapert acknowledges that comparisons to Zack Snyder’s groundbreaking swords-and-sandals epic 300 are unavoidable. “We’ve used some of the same techniques,” he says, adding, “We won’t be the last imitator.”

And while the name and the title character are familiar, Tapert insists this new venture is a vast departure from the 1960 Kirk Douglas classic. “We took very little from the original,” he says. “The original Spartacus stands alone.”

As TV tends to do, the series narrows the scope of the story, focusing in on Spartacus’ introduction to the world of gladiators. But Tapert insist the backstory is more than simply an excuse to get to the raunchier material.

“If you’re going to have sex and you’re going to have violence, you better have the substance that supports that so it’s not gratuitous,” he says. “The action is stylized, but the drama is real.” It premieres on The Movie Network and Movie Central Jan. 25

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