EW: I’ve always been amazed by the scale of this show, but this final battle scene was on a whole other level. The closest thing would be the arena collapsing. But this is just out-of-control. Tell me: was it daunting?
DeKNIGHT: Oh, yeah. I remember finishing the first draft of the script — the first draft was actually about 15 pages longer than the final draft. There’s an entire middle act of action that we cut out where Spartacus sets up this trap where they draw one of the legions of Crassus in and then the legion thinks they’re attacking Spartacus’ rag-tag village, but everyone has left and the place has been drenched in oil and they set it on fire and basically burn the legion. And originally that’s where Lugo dies, in the same way. But the script was way too long. We wanted to keep it in, but my feeling was it just kind of delayed what the episode was really about, so we had to snip that out and Lugo got to live a little while longer. But I remember handing in the draft of the script and my first thought was, “Well we’ll never be able to shoot this. I mean it’s just way too big for a TV schedule and a TV budget.” We had a lot of talks.
There were several different versions of that final battle, all with basically the same elements. But we finally got it down to a point where it was only just impossible to shoot and Rick Jacobson, the director, just did a phenomenal job. I think it’s the best work of his career. He really spearheaded it and somehow by cook with a little bit of crook, we got it all on the screen. I looked at it, quite frankly, and I’m shocked at the scale we were able to achieve, considering the amount of time we had to shoot it. I think it’s really unlike anything that’s ever been seen on television.
EW: That was a really nice touch with the final credits showing all the characters from the entire run of the show. Where did that idea come from?
DeKNIGHT: That was [exec producer] Rob Tapert’s idea, and I thought that was absolutely brilliant. He really, really wanted to give a nod to everybody who had had a speaking part on Spartacus and we also wanted to find a way to pay tribute to Andy in those final moments. And I’ve always loved the end credits on this show and I thought that was just the perfect way to go out.
EW: Finally, take me through your general thoughts as this journey of Spartacus the show comes to an end.
DeKNIGHT: When it was sold to Starz, it was very much sold as an R-rated action series, and as we started working on it, we started to layer in the bigger elements of love and romance and betrayal and intrigue and I think those storylines really became as important if not more important than the action. And it was just a joy to see it develop. By about episode four in the first season I think we finally really settled on what the show was and what it looked like and the action style, the directing style, the writing style. And from that point on, it was pure joy to work on.
We received an incredible amount of latitude from Starz, especially in that first season where they let us do pretty much whatever we wanted because they had this amazing trust in us. A lot of people out there who don’t watch this show think it’s that soft-core, really violent trashy gladiator show, but we always were shooting for something more. We were always shooting for a deeper emotional story. And I’m very proud of that story we’ve told and I could not be prouder of the finale. Ending a series is always a monumental task and many a greater man than I have stumbled ending a series but in this case I just think it just all came together beautifully.
To hear our finale discussion with Spartacus himself, Liam McIntyre, click on the video player below. And you can follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.