Todd Lasance Interview: Spartacus: War Of The Damned, a Caesar spin-off, boot camp & more…

James chatted to the actor behind Spartacus' Caesar, Todd Lasance, about his role, training, and reinventing the historical figure...

Following the conclusion of Spartacus: War of the Damned, James had the opportunity to chat with Todd Lasance about his role as Caesar in the final series.

Let’s start at the beginning then: How did you come to Spartacus, and how much were you aware of the show before you began work on it?

I came to the show pretty much normally – my agent sent through the test, I did my audition in Sydney, my tapes got sent to the production offices here in Los Angeles and within about three days they called to offer me the role, so that’s how it came about. I’d only seen a few episodes of the show before that, so I went and purchased the series straight away, but funnily enough I decided not to watch it because I didn’t want to be influenced by what I saw. Sometimes going into an established show you can be influenced by what previous characters are like, so I kind of avoided that, I wanted to have a unique approach to it.

I can see how that makes a lot of sense, because Caesar’s sort of an outside element in the show’s world anyway. In fact, the writers took some liberties by including him at all.

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Yeah, the writers took some liberties there for entertainment purposes. It’s not mentioned whether Spartacus and Caesar actually did cross swords, although it’s fun to speculate and imagine how that might have gone.

And while you’re speculating, Caesar’s not someone we normally see in this sort of subordinate position, so did you feel pressure trying to approach a more formative version of this historical figure?

Yeah, that was part of what made me nervous going into the role. Before I even opened my mouth there’s an expectation about what he looks like, and how he carries himself on screen, he has to have a certain essence or power before I’m even doing anything. For me, it was trying to reflect those images and that essence of one of arguably one of the greatest historical figures ever. So going into it, that was a source of pressure. I knew I was in good hands with the writers and production staff, but just for my own standards I wanted to create something different and have people love and hate him at the same time, and not be compared to previous Caesars. So yeah, it was a fair bit of pressure.

This version certainly ended up quite different, but what I like is that he still had the recognisable qualities. He managed to outsmart or fool Crassus quite a few times throughout the series, and in the finale he has a fantastic line accusing Crassus of planning for the future without ever taking the opportunities of the present. So he’s clearly got cunning and ambition, and I wondered if you imagined him as having a plan following the events of the series?

Yeah, that’s interesting because I’ve never been asked that but yeah, it played such a huge part of my developing his character. I had the luxury of knowing historically what he achieved and where he’d end up, so that was one of the biggest factors in my approach. Thinking for that someone to have achieved what he did, at such a young age, and then go on to be one of the greatest rulers in history – there were qualities I wanted to introduce in him. Yes, he was a great man, a noble man, but he was also capable of some atrocities. Things that would be seen as war crimes now. So as much as there’s this beautiful figure in people’s minds, he must have had this incredible dark side, and a hunger for power. Anyone who gets into the position he did doesn’t just fall into place, so I wanted to have those darker elements there, rather than portray him as a noble Roman man who just falls into politics. He achieved so much in his military career when he was so young, younger than I am, and seeing all of his achievements just blew my mind. So that all played a massive part in how I approached the character.

And by the end of the series, were you happy with how Caesar’s arc had gone?

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Oh, yeah, couldn’t have been happier. Obviously when I was cast I had no idea where he was going because they don’t release that in advance, but once I got to sit down and discuss his arc, I couldn’t have been happier with the depth of him, emotionally, spiritually, physically, with the combat, his relationship with Crassus and Tiberius, the face-off he has with Spartacus and the rebellion. For me, as an actor, it had everything I could’ve wanted.

Clearly the audience enjoyed his presence, because a lot of people were quickly speculating about the possibility of a Caesar spin-off. So obviously I have to ask whether there’s been any movement on that?

Oh, I wish I had more information I could give, but I’m sort of in the same boat as you guys! I don’t really know whether there’s anything that’ll come to fruition. There are talks… just whispers, even, but to be honest I don’t know any more than that. If it did come up, it’d definitely be something I’d look at. I know Steven S. DeKnight is working on another project right now, so it might be something they do with one of the other producers, or maybe he’ll come back to it further down the track.

I guess the benefit there is that if you came back to the character in a few years, he’ll be a bit older and wiser and maybe more towards becoming the Caesar we know.

Yeah, exactly. There’s so much you could write about, his journey is so rich, it’d be great to explore.

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Okay, so getting back to Spartacus, and the experience of working on it – how did you find doing the training?

It was something of a rude awakening. The boot camp itself is quite famous in the industry. For me, it was one of the most demanding aspects. I only did half of the boot camp because I was introduced in episode two, but it was just insane. Four hours a day, five days a week, strength training, endurance training, power-lifting, exercises based on the US military training, MMA training, sword training. Everything you can possibly imagine to destroy yourself, we did. And then when that finished, that’s when my individual training began. I wanted to focus on gaining muscle, so I was on a rigid diet, training hard every day. It was pretty gruelling.

And speaking of your introduction, you got to spend a lot of time with the rebellion in those early episodes, right in the mix in a way most antagonists haven’t been in this series. So how did you define your relationship there as opposed to with the military where Caesar would obviously be more at home?

I’ll tell you, I loved the wolf symbol we came up with. The idea of the wolf tracking its prey, taking down its enemies, an animal that hunts in packs and individually. I love the idea of Caesar being the wolf, stalking Spartacus. But there was also that rivalry with Crixus and Gannicus, because they’re such good fighters and Caesar was being projected as the ultimate weapon on the Roman Empire, so that had that clash of abilities. I loved that they dabbled in those elements. It’d be interesting to see who’d win in a fair, one-on-one fight. I mean, in Caesar’s mind, he’s invincible, so to any time he fought those other characters, that was him at his best. We loved those moments.

Okay, so to continue the fighting theme, if you were a gladiator, what would you have as your signature weapons?

Ooh! Good question! I’d probably go with a weird combination. I’d want a small axe and a sword, because dual-wielding is really powerful. And before that, I’d have a spear, something to throw just to get started.

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And dual-wielding’s good because it’s all attack, no defense, it makes a definite statement.

Yeah, exactly. It’s so powerful, although it’s certainly not as easy as Liam [Macintyre/Spartacus] and Dustin [Clare/Gannicus] make it look. They’re incredible fighters. I remember when I had to pick up two swords and fight, it was so difficult, just… ridiculous!

Right, so just a quick last question – have you got anything coming up that you wanted to mention?

Ah, actually not at the moment. Right now I’m in that weird period of coming off a big project, so I’m just auditioning and reading scripts, and not wanting to jump into the first thing that presents itself. I’m in no rush personally, I want make sure what I do next is something really good. If I wanted to narrow it down, I’m really interested in getting into film. That’s my goal at the moment, to find a good film script and do that kind of work.

Sounds like some of Caesar’s ambition has stayed with you, then?

Yeah, maybe!

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Todd Lasance, thank you very much!

Spartacus: War of the Damned and Spartacus: The Complete Collection come to DVD and Blu-ray on the 29th of April 2013.

Read our Spartacus: War of the Damned interview with Liam McIntyre, here.