Slight spoiler alert
Spartacus nation swells weekly with the layers of story the writers have heaped on top of each other for Starz original series, "Spartacus" Blood and Sand."No castmember is more complex, vexing or as unpredictable as Ilithyia, played to the hilt by Aussie flaxen-haired beauty, Viva Bianca.
It is our seemingly vapid and oblivious Ilithyia whose actions will greatly color the rest of season one, as she continues her house guest crashing ways on Lucretia, her frenemy and facilitator of all potential gladiator trysts.
Ilithyia plays the typical blond role well, but make no mistake, she is clever, cunning and has ice water flowing in her patrician veins.
Viva Bianca plays the young Roman noblewoman Ilithyia in “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” set in the brutal Roman gladiator era. The spoiled, selfish daughter of Senator Albinius is also the loyal wife of Legatus Claudius Glaber. She may be trolling for male flesh, but her heart belongs 100% to her "gone on Roman business" Glabby.
This past week was tough for our Spartacus (Andy Whitfield). Duplicity is the modus operandi of Batiatus' (John Hannah) ludus. Who to trust, who to fear, all these things now will weigh heavily on Spartacus as his wife has died in his arms, and Batiatus continues to manipulate him to his end.
But there is a thorn in Batiatus' side as well, as he and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) continue to entertain the never departing guest, our fair Ilithyia.
There's a price to pay for her valuable friendship. Ilithyia will exact that pound of flesh.
As Batiatus and Lucretia continue their social climbing, entertaining the Magistrate and the Roman snooty snoots along with Ilithyia, their ludus serves as the hippest hot spot in all of Capua, replete with glistening male flesh that does the bidding of their Roman overlords.
Ilithyia engages in a subtle power struggle with Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), whilst admiring the attributes of the gladiators, yet harbors deep-seated ill-will towards Spartacus.
Monsters and Critics was fortunate to catch up with Viva Bianca and chat about all things Spartacus.
Viva, it seems you are having a ball playing the evil spoiled daughter of Senator Albinius, the ultimate house guest who never leaves. Please tell me, will you be a thorn in Batiatus and Spartacus' side for a long long time?
Viva: Put it this way, when Ilithyia wants something she lets nothing get in her way. It's funny though, now that the show's on TV, hearing so many people refer to her as 'evil'...
I never intentionally played her as that. I suppose whoever you play good or bad, they become like your precious baby and you forgive them unconditionally no matter what they do. It's weird, I know...
Your character is acutely aware of Spartacus rising star despite his hatred of her husband. There's a fine line between love and hate. Spartacus looks pretty good in his skimpy outfits in the ludus. Will Ilithyia go slumming?
Viva: Ooohhh... juicy question. A lot of people seem interested in the tension between Spartacus and Ilithyia.
Without giving too much away, despite Ilithyia's fickleness and appetite for 'forbidden fruit', she is alarmingly loyal to her husband. So Glaber's hatred for Spartacus runs very deep in Ilithyia too.
Your character's "friend" Lucretia operates under the "keep your enemies closer" ethos. Does your character Ilithyia sense that, do you think, or is your character so swept up in her lofty patrician station that she doesn't see past her nose when it comes to the social machinations of the Capuan games and nightlife?
Viva: Do you know what? Ilithyia is so incredibly unpredictable, there is no one answer to that.
Just when you think she is completely naive and oblivious, she'll cut you with a razor knife. That's what makes her such a match for Lucretia, and what makes her so fun for me to play. I don't think she's stupid at all...
What is the real reason, in you estimation, that Ilithyia is in this subtle power struggle with Lucretia, a woman she feels is truly beneath her company?
Viva: It's true, Ilithyia is of such nobility that it is virtually impossible for her to see Lucretia as an equal.
But Lucretia has something to offer Ilithyia that no one else ever has - access to the Gladiators. In those days, men who were so brutal, so physical and downright "animalistic" were like a foreign yet powerfully alluring species to a woman of Ilithyia's stature.
So there's very good reason for Ilityhia to keep visiting Lucretia.
But what I think makes their relationship so interesting is that there is a part of both Ilithyia and Lucretia that actually wants to be "friends." Neither of them seem to have much other female company other than their slaves - who in that world meant nothing - and so there are glimpses of humanity between them underneath the politics at play.
Viva, tell me about Australia, growing up there as a child of film composer Cezary Skubiszewski, which Aussie actors inspired you to pursue this as a career? Did your parents push you in that direction?
Viva: I grew up in the countryside of Victoria, playing in paddocks in gumboots and riding my pony. We moved to Melbourne for my dad's career.
Both of my parents are artists. My dad is a film composer and my mum is a painter, so choosing to be an actor was of more than welcomed. In fact, I don't think I ever "chose" to be an actor, I can't remember ever not being one.
Growing up, I was always putting on plays with my cousins and making all the parents buy tickets and sit patiently through our performance.
There are so many great Aussie actors. Cate Blanchett, Abbie Cornish and Heath Ledger have been inspirations to me.
Would you want to locate and work from the States or have a dual residency the way Nicole Kidman seems to have managed?
Viva: Hmmm. Not sure yet. I'm just seeing where the journey takes me at this stage. Australia will of course always be home.
Which is your favorite medium, stage, film or TV?
Viva: I'm greedy - I love them all.
You're naked quite a bit, but tell me about the costumes you wear, how is that process done, the fittings, the looks, and the hair and makeup, can you tell us about the costumer department and makeup and hair, the teams and what they put you through in preparation for each episode? Does it take a village to dress Ilithyia and Lucretia?
Viva: Yes it practically does! We'd have fittings after fittings, and we'd have to allow nearly 3 1/2 hours each day for me to get properly made-up and dressed before I even stepped foot on set.
But I never minded. The costumes, the hair, the makeup were all part of the fun and they somehow brought me closer to Ilithyia.
Barbara Darragh is the costume designer on the show and she is evidently a genius. Every fitting I'd say "This one is my favorite!"
Then the following week, Barbara would surprise me with an even more glamorous, exotic gown and I'd say, "No this is my favorite." That kept happening again and again. I credit a large part of the creation of 'Ilithyia' to Barbara and Jane O'Kane and Deb Watson (Hair and Makeup.)
Okay, we broached the naked bit. I have seen through episode 110. You are pretty naked in these future episodes. Is it all you or are you employing a body double? And what is it like acting sans clothing, more stressful or no big deal?
Viva: It's pretty nerve racking, I don't think that ever goes. But these scenes are always dealt with very sensitively on set and you only ever end up being exposed for a few seconds at a time before the director calls "cut!" and someone wraps a robe around you.
Sometimes these scenes are the funniest to shoot because it's hard to take yourself or the person acting opposite you seriously and the whole thing becomes very absurd. We had some bad laughing episodes!
The only other savior to any kind of nudity is the story. When it is story driven, when there is a reason for it and it makes sense in the world you are creating, then you can commit to it.
Starz’ Spartacus: Blood and Sand Breaks Over 1 Million Viewers
According to M&C's site friend TV by the Numbers' reporter Robert Seidman:
The premiere airing of Friday’s episode (106) of Spartacus: Blood and Sand averaged 1.08 million, the first time the show has gone over a million. It again had a .4 rating with adults 18-49, though it had about 80,000 more adult 18-49 viewers than the previous week (550K vs. 471K).
That's thanks to Spartacus nation (card carrying member here) tuning in in epic numbers. Wait till you see episode 107 this coming Friday!
Spartacus: Blood and Sand airs Fridays, only on Starz