Breaking: Liam McIntyre Is the New Spartacus

After an exhaustive search, Starz has officially tapped Aussie actor Liam McIntyre (HBO’s The Pacific) to replace the ailing Andy Whitfield as the new star of Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

The news comes a week after TVLine reported that McIntyre was the odds-on favorite to score the plum role.

“Since no one can really replace Andy, we realized that we should instead find an actor who can truly lead Spartacus forward,” said Starz CEO Chris Albrecht in a statement. “It was important to us to have Andy endorse the idea of recasting this part, which he did in the same heroic manner that he’s dealt with his whole ordeal. And that, coupled with our fortune in finding a young actor with the gladiator credentials and the acting ability of Liam, makes it easier for us to keep this hit franchise going.”

In the release put out by Starz, the network referred to the “grueling and rigorous audition process” that McIntyre went through to claim the title role — and they’re not exaggerating. According to sources, McIntyre — whose slight build initially led execs to rule him out as Sparty — underwent two-plus months of boot camp to bulk up for the part.

In September, news broke that Whitfield was dropping out of Spartacus‘ second season to undergo treatment for a recurrence of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Starz debated whether to end the series or embark on the daunting task of recasting the lead. With Whitfield’s blessing in hand, the network ultimately decided the show must go on.

McIntyre assumes the role at the start of the show’s second season, which begins shooting later this spring.

In the meantime, fans can get their Sparty fix with Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, a six-part prequel debuting this Friday at 10 pm/ET.

Thoughts? Is McIntyre the right man for the job? Weigh in below!