The actor talks about being on a show with a healthy reputation for pushing the envelope
SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND, has been a hit on the Starz network. The show has gained a degree of notoriety for its explicit use of sex and violence. Recent attention has been brought to the show since the announcement of leading man Andy Whitfield’s diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But perhaps lost in the glare of it’s in-your-face attitude and off camera developments is the story of the supporting cast members. Take Viva Bianca, for example, who plays the scheming Ilithyia. iF Magazine had the opportunity to talk with Bianca. Here’s what she had to say.
iF MAGAZINE: What drew you to the role of Ilithyia?
VIVA BIANCA: I originally read her on the page and I thought, “This character is gorgeous.” She is so juicy and delicious in every way. The first episode… and that’s all I was given to begin with was a few scenes from the first episode, and I thought that there are so many ways to go with this. But I didn’t think I was right for it. I thought I was so far from this character that I wouldn’t even have a chance. I was just sending in an audition for the sake of it. It turns out that the similarities worked together.
iF: In what way are you like Ilithyia? In what ways are different?
BIANCA: That is a hard question. My character is far more snakelike than me, I would like to think! She’s also cuter than me! I think I’m probably a little more down to earth.
iF: Do you have any of her drive or ambition?
BIANCA: Well, like I said, I think I’m very level headed and grounded, but I think I can be really playful and enjoy the kind of mischief in life that my character Ilithyia does. So I was able to tap into that. And obviously she is a very sensual woman and I hope to think that I too am sensual and strong minded yet soft at times too.
iF: Talking about your playful nature, do you clown around on the set? Its sounds like you have a very funny cast.
BIANCA: We have a hilarious cast, actually. I did a lot of my work with Lucy Lawless and John Hannah. My character’s story just tended to go along with theirs. And we had this thing where, almost every day before they would call action, John Hannah would say something that would make us all piss ourselves laughing. It was like, “Please stop doing that John! I’ve got to get focused! I’m actually doing a serious scene!” It was hilarious, but I suppose it would also ease the tension that often we were dealing with these story lines and these characters.
iF: Can you tell us about Ilithyia?
BIANCA: There are so many characters on this show that are either on his (Spartacus’) side or are not, and I’m one of his antagonists, I suppose you would call me. I’m one of the aristocratic noble Romans and I actually loath Spartacus.
iF: Some people would say that there is a certain tension, a certain, shall we say, tension and chemistry between Ilithyia and Spartacus.
BIANCA: Well in defense of my character, I’m not sure about that! Although I have considered it because there is that close relationship between love and hate, isn’t there. Or between passion and fury. I think there may be some kind of spark that is lit in Ilithyia by Spartacus.
iF: SPARTACUS has been known to be rather graphic at times. Is this the type of shop that you would watch on a regular basis, or would you be inclined to watch something else because of its strong sexual nature?
BIANCA: Well at first I may not. However, you only have to scratch the surface and below you find amazing drama and character complexity. That’s what’s kept me excited and passionate about the show. Every fortnight we’d be given a script that had such interesting twists and turns.
iF: Many of the shots were done on screen. Do you find it difficult to act with nothing to really play off of?
BIANCA: At first I actually did find that challenging because you’re often looking at a green screen and you’re not really looking into real life events in front of your eyes. But when then kicks into play is your imagination, which is actually, I suppose, a part of an actor inherently.