Don't expect to see the short and severe Caesar haircut on Spartacus' version of Julius Caesar when you first meet him.
When the notorious Roman makes his debut on the Starz drama Friday at 9/8c, he appears much younger and shaggier than we've seen him depicted before. That's because producers decided to check in on him decades before he became the lover of Cleopatra and the elder statesman fated for assassination. "We went through about six or seven different wigs to get to the actual, proper wig that they wanted," Todd Lasance, who portrays Caesar, tells TVGuide.com. "It's nice to actually transform yourself and become a new character, visually. I actually really enjoyed the wigs. And all of my mates and girlfriend loved it."
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Not everybody initially embraced Caesar's rejuvenated look though. "I've read a lot of things online ... There's been a small outcry of, 'You guys suck. Your casting is terrible. This guy looks nothing like Caesar. Caesar is old and bald!'" executive producer Steven DeKnight says. "But that's Caesar later in his life, like 30 years later. In this time period Caesar, historically, is right around 29."
On Friday's episode, Lasance's Caesar is an unshorn bruiser returning victorious from foreign battle and poised to team up with Marcus Crassus (Samuel Merrells) to take down Spartacus (Liam McIntyre). Doesn't sound familiar? The Spartacus writers saw fit to fill in the blanks of Caesar's youth, but not before consulting with historical experts. "[We asked,] 'How much would we destroy history by having Caesar as part of this war against Spartacus?'" DeKnight says. "We were all very surprised when they told us that we wouldn't be destroying history at all. In fact, this was the one small part of history that very little was known about Caesar ... It was probable that Caesar was part of this campaign against Spartacus and more than likely served under Crassus.
"That said, everything in the show with Caesar is fictional," he continues. "Although we do frame it with actual events from his past and we make very sly references to what's coming in the future for Caesar."
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Beyond the different 'do, this Caesar will exhibit other characteristics that haven't been seen in Caesar before. "He appears to not conform and stick directly to what would be a traditional Roman way," Lasance says. "He kind of flies his own flag to a degree. So the rogue element was certainly interesting.
"He's a definite physical threat as well," Lasance adds. "He needed to be an opponent that was worthy of fighting and could potentially take down the rebels. So, they introduce a few one-on-ones between the higher-ranking rebels as well to show off his fighting ability ... And at such an early age, he was commanding legions. I'm 27, and to think two or three years prior, Caesar was commanding legions of men and at the front line of the battlefield. He obviously held an extremely large amount of respect with the military. And ultimately, that's how he gained so much power and became emperor."
Spartacus will also speculate about the early relationship between Crassus and Caesar "before they joined together with Pompey and overthrew the Republic," says DeKnight. "They appear to be very close but [in] the letters that they sent back and forth, they really traded barbs. One of the most famous ones was when Crassus came to Caesar's aid and paid the ransom when Caesar was kidnapped by the pirates. But Crassus didn't actually rush to pay it, and Caesar sent basically a rather irate note: Thanks for the payment. What the f--- took so long?"
This rather combative interaction is strengthened by mutual respect and fondness. "In my mind, I think Crassus feels like Caesar is kind of like a son to him ... the son you wish you had, which causes problems with his real son" DeKnight explains. And Caesar and Crassus' son Tiberius (Christian Antidormi), I played it as much as I could like two brothers each vying for their father's approval. And it causes a very interesting dynamic and spins into a hell of a great story."
Check out this video about the Romans and see that story in action on Spartacus: War of the Damned, airing Fridays at 9/8c on Starz: