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Meet Peter Mensah & Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Stars Of Starz Network's "Spartacus: Vengeance" (Debuting January 2012)

by Tambay A. Obenson
December 22, 2011 6:17 PM
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Yes, I'm late on this, but I never bothered to watch the series; and I was only just reminded of it because of an ad that kept popping up on almost every Facebook page I clicked on today; so I thought, hmm, maybe the ad is trying to tell me something, so I clicked on it and remembered... oh yeah, there's a reason why I wanted to check out this series... because there are black people in its starring cast!

So I have to ask, how many of you watch Spartacus on the Starz network? 

Like I said, I've never watched an episode, but it was on my list... my list that just kept growing and growing... and growing.

Correct me if I'm wrong fans/followers of the series... there have been 2 seasons, correct? The first titled Spartacus: Blood And Sand, and the second, a prequel, titled Spartacus: Gods Of The Arena; or is the prequel considered a seperate show entirely? I ask that because what Starz is billing as season 2 of the series is Spartacus: Vengeance, which is set to debut on the network towards the end of January 2012.

One of those black people in the series' starring cast is Peter Mensah, who's been a constant throughout, appearing in Blood And Sand, as well as Gods Of The Arena, and will also appear in Vengeance next year.

He plays a character named Oenomaus, once known as Doctore, born a slave, rebelled, became a prominent gladiator and eventually a trainer of gladiators, including the title character, Spartacus; in the upcoming new season, as his character profile on the series' Starz webpage says, he'll no longer be a trainer but "a man now searching for his place in the world. Bereft of a wife and an occupation, he finds himself caught in the middle between his former loyalties to the Roman way of things and the rebellion against that way by the men he used to command. Oenomaus is a man with nothing left to lose; whose ferocious talent for fighting and teaching could potentially be a powerful gain for Spartacus’ cause."

Mensah, a Ghanaian-born Brit has actually been active since about 1995, appearing in both TV and film; although, from a scan of his IMDB page, I'd say his role in the Spartacus series just may be his meatiest and highest profile yet. Although I haven't seen all of his work.

The other black person in the series starring cast is a newcomer - Cynthia Addai-Robinson. She joins the series with Vengeance next month, playing a character named Naevia, described as "the former body slave to Lucretia who was banished from the ludus for engaging in a love affair with Crixus. She represents all that Crixus still lives for, driving him to fight alongside Spartacus in mutiny against Rome in the hopes of one day finding her. Crixus longs to see her still alive, to rescue her from exile and be reunited in love and freedom.

The character was originally played by South African actress Lesley-Ann Brandt in both the Blood and Sand & Gods of the Arena seasons of the show; but she was replaced by Addai-Robinson for the next season, for reasons I couldn't immediately determine. Though the fact that, according to her IMDB page, she stars in 3 upcoming indie feature-length films may have something to do with it. My guess is she moved on to focus on feature films, and maybe got some offers she couldn't refuse; also there apparently were some delays in production of Vengeance which may have interfered with her film production schedule.

Anyway, I have a feeling we'll be talking about her in 2012, because I see she's listed as star of at least one film by an indie black filmmaker I know :)

But Cynthia Addai-Robinson, a Ghanaian American, now has her chance to shine. Past credits for the theater graduate from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University include roles in Tina Mabry's acclaimed feature debut, Mississippi Damned, as well as in Colombiana, with Zoe Saldana (though I'm scratching my head trying to remember exactly wheee she appeared in that movie).

For those unfamiliar with the series, both Blood And Sand and Gods Of The Arena are on DVD, and VOD, so you've got some options there. 

And for a sample of what to expect, here are 2 video clips, both featuring Peter Mensah; the first a profile of his character; the second a fight scene from the show between him and Spartacus.

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  • OMUNYONYI | December 28, 2011 8:56 AMReply

    Cant wait to watch the Stars Of Starz Network's "Spartacus: the nxt Series"Vengeance".Come January 2012

  • Nappyheadjenkins | December 27, 2011 4:44 PMReply

    tambey you better watch that first season

  • misha | December 23, 2011 6:42 PMReply

    Laura, oh I know you were just reacting to the photo. That's why I mentioned that her hair doesn't actually look like that onscreen. :)

  • true | December 23, 2011 2:56 PMReply

    Wow, I guess it's the small things that bother people the most. Check out Cynthia Addai-Robinson's IMDB page, looks can be deceiving.

  • Jen | December 23, 2011 12:34 PMReply

    I think that the original Naevia, Lesley-Anne Brandt scored a part in an American tv pilot, the short-lived Memphis Beat, and left Spartacus. As you said, she hasn't been lacking for work, though. Good luck to her.

  • Andrea | December 22, 2011 11:31 PMReply

    Oh, and I remember Peter Mensa from "Hildago," think about it, you will remember him, too! He is a very striking figure of a man.

  • Andrea | December 22, 2011 11:28 PMReply

    [reposting my comment from your Facebook page, sorry if this is a duplicate] This show is my guilty pleasure! Heck, I don't even feel guilty about it anymore, to tell the truth, lol. It is over-the-top, full of gore, full of sex, full of scheming backstabbers of all sorts that make Machiavelli look like a preschooler, lol. Rome in all its infamy and brutality, and you can't take your eyes off of it. Yet there are moments that are so full of heartbreak and humanity. I would suggest that one watch the two previous seasons in order to get the full appreciation for the story, and it does have a great story! So ready for season 3!

  • Adam Scott Thompson | December 22, 2011 10:00 PMReply

    The star, Andy Whitfield, was undergoing treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma, so they created "Gods of the Arena" as a prequel mini-series to tide fans over. It was assumed Whitfield would recover to shoot season two, but he ultimately died (aged 39). The producers had already been seeking a replacement with his blessing. I'm sure the entire new season will be dedicated to him.

    It would take a little getting used to, but I could accept another Spartacus. The show is no "Rome" (HBO) but it tells a solid story and has plenty of that "300"/"Immortals" blood action people crave these days -- myself included.

    Footnote: Mensah was the Persian emissary who got kicked into the well by Loenidas (Gerard Butler) in "300" after he yelled "THIS IS SPARTA!!!"

  • misha | December 22, 2011 11:42 PM

    I meant to say that the writing AND acting is great. Can't leave the actors out because they're fantastic too!

  • misha | December 22, 2011 11:39 PM

    Adam, the show isn't trying to be "Rome" and that's one of the reasons I love it. It's more of a guilty pleasure, soapy show but the writing is great nonetheless. As Andrea said, it's full of heartbreak and humanity and that's what I love most about the show.

  • misha | December 22, 2011 9:15 PMReply

    Ya'll, I am in love with this show! Naevia and Oenomaus/Doctore are two of my favorites! Cannot wait for season 2!

    Tambay, yeah the prequel is considered a seperate show. Spartacus: Vengeance picks up where Blood and Sand left off. Hence, why it's being billed as season 2. Regarding Cynthia's appearance in Colombiana, I believe she plays Cataleya's mother and of course dies in the scene where her and Cataleya's father are shot.

    As for the sista's hair (lol)...well Cynthia is playing a character who had her long locks chopped off by her mistress once her love affair with Crixus was discovered. So I imagine sporting cornrows would create a bit of a continuity issue.

  • Key Shantel | December 22, 2011 6:59 PMReply

    I have never seen the show. I only know of it because the cutie who played Spartacus the first season, passed away earlier this year from cancer.

  • Laura | December 22, 2011 6:31 PMReply

    The brotha looks like a cross between Tony Todd and Seal. I'm glad that a sistah is in it. But I have one question. What's up with the sistah's hair? I don't think they had Dark N Lovely back in the day.

  • Laura | December 23, 2011 5:20 PM

    @Misha. I never saw the show. Just reacted to the photo. Giving it a closer look. It looks like those "half" wigs in which they put on the hairline so that your hair that grows from the hairline blend with the wig.

  • misha | December 23, 2011 3:20 PM

    Typo. Should read: with her hair looking less "refined."

    And looks like I should have said, copy and paste the link.

  • misha | December 23, 2011 3:12 PM

    Actually Laura, I would say that it looks more like a wig (which it is) that has been styled for the purpose of a cast photo. If you look at clips and images from this season, you will see a notable dfference. Click on the link below and scroll down a bit and you'll see an image of her with her looking less "refined." It looks more like the original Naevia's hair after it was chopped off.

  • Laura | December 23, 2011 2:34 PM

    @Mark. I live in a city in which I see just about every, and I mean, every permutation of African ancestry (I've known people from Chad, a good friend of mine is Vietnamese/African-American, grew up with a girl who mom is Haitian and father is Syrian, I've worked with people who are Jamaicans who parents are Black and Chinese, Trinidadians who parents are Black and South East Asian. And of course I know countless number of people who are the product of the good old non-exotic mixture of Black and White. I can go on). That being said. She look like as if she had a chemical process done to her hair. Her hair looks straight up relaxed. Also the contemporary looking hair cut does not help the matter. It looks totally out of place in a period piece.

    But no biggie. It's just that that visual jumped out at me when I saw the post.

  • Mark | December 23, 2011 12:12 PM

    You do realize that many black people of mixed ancestry do have straight hair?

  • Key Shantel | December 22, 2011 6:57 PM

    I was thinking the same thing. They could have had her in cornrows or something. geez.

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