May 15, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Te Arawa man sets small screen alight

3 min read

We’ve just heard that Te Arawa toa, Manu Bennett, is appearing in Spartacus, a fast paced action show currently screening on TV in the States. In this interview, Manu talks about his heritage, what the show is and getting stabbed in the chest (OUCH!!). Read more here:

SparatcusManu Bennett can act, dance and play classical piano.

He can also wield a trident and subdue an opponent in nasty ways not seen since the heyday of the Roman Coliseum.

Bennett portrays Crixus – the powerful gladiator who hates the titular warrior of Starzs Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Fridays at 10 p.m.).

Its a demanding role, and the 40-year-old Maori has the scars to prove it.

There is never a fight scene where someone doesnt get a sword across the knuckles, Bennett said in a telephone interview from New Zealand, where the show is produced.

Ive hit Andy (Whitfield, who plays Spartacus) a couple of times, and hes gotten me back. I already have a couple of scars from the show where the sword blade found home – notably a cut across my right pec.

The wound came as Bennett was shooting a scene with one newcomer.

This one actor was involved in his first fight scene and decided the best way to thrust his sword was straight through my chest, he said. I only just managed to slip sideways, but the blade cut through my pectoral muscle, leaving a nasty gash. I just said, What the heck? and kept on filming.

Other than perhaps the UFC, Spartacus is easily the most physical show on television, the hulking actor said. At the end of every day on the set, Bennett returns home exhausted.

He has a growing list of credits, including The Marine with John Cena and the thriller 30 Days of Night. But Spartacus seemed tailor-made for the chiseled actor.

My manager rang me saying in her thick German accent, I have zee purrrfect role for you, Manu! he said. My Maori name means bird, and I was coincidentally walking through the bird aviary at the Sydney Zoo with my 2-year-old daughter, Huia, asleep in the pram when the producers rang and said I had the role of Crixus.

To prepare for the physical nature of the show, the cast and stunt crew took part in a grueling, three-week gladiator boot camp, training to the point of nausea every day from 8 a.m. to noon.

The most rewarding part of playing Crixus is that hes a warrior, Bennett said.

In my family we have a tiaha – a Maori spear – that belonged to my great-great-grandfather Hemana Pokia, which he used in battles defending his tribal land. I often think of him and chant his name prior to filming my fight scenes.

The show, which was renewed for a second season before the first episode even aired, is a graphic depiction of life in ancient Rome. Combat, political intrigue and sexual betrayals keep things unpredictable.

Then there are the much-discussed scenes in which Bennett lets it all hang out.

We are trying to be real to the time – a pre-Christian era where the body held purpose only to survival, he said of the need to bare all on-screen. I have no concerns about committing myself to this show and its cause of bringing consciousness back to the time of barbarianism. I am Maori, and we are only several generations departed from similar times.

At this point in the series, Crixus remains wary of Spartacus and is prepared to kill him if it means advancing his own agenda. But historically, Crixus assisted Spartacus in his rebellion against Rome. Will there be an alliance between the two?

All Ive been told by the producers is that our relationship will hinge on great and unfortunate things, Bennett said, using an oft-repeated phrase from the show.

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