‘Spartacus’ Star Andy Whitfield Loses Lymphoma Battle, Dies at 39

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Andy Whitfield, left, poses with John Hannah at the "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" New York premiere January 2010.

Welsh actor Andy Whitfield passed away yesterday, at the age of 39, after being diagnosed with cancer last year.

He died in Sydney, Australia where he resided with his wife, Vashti, and their two children. Best known for playing the lead role on the hit show Spartacus, Whitfield took what was supposed to be a temporary leave of absence from the Starz show after its hit debut last year. He discovered the cancer in a routine check-up March of last year and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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Australian actor Liam McIntyre replaced Whitfield for the second season, while waiting for the star to recover. Meanwhile, the second season of Spartacus is slated to debut January of next year.

Starz president Chris Albrecht issued a statement, saying that:

We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield. We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in ‘Spartacus’ and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life. Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans.

VIDEO: Spartacus: There Will Be Blood. And Naughty Bits.

Erica Ho is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.