Spartacus: War of the Damned premieres on January 25 with actress Ellen Hollman in the role of Spartacus rebel Saxa for the final season on Starz.
Although Ellen Hollman trained hard for months to play Saxa in Spartacus: Vengeance, Hollman hit the gym and Gladiator Boot Camp even harder for the final Spartacus season called War of the Damned.
After Saxa formed a close allied bond with Dustin Clare’s Gannicus last season, the former slave takes her relationship with the Spartacus General to whole new level. In fact, as Ellen Hollman told The Deadbolt ahead of War of the Damned, everything goes to a whole new level in the final season of the popular Starz series.
What can fans expect from Saxa in War of the Damned?
When we recently caught up with Ellen Hollman for an exclusive chat, the double-dagger wielding Spartacus beauty talked about the evolution of Saxa, her relationship with Gannicus, training for the season, and her favorite moment in War of the Damned.
THE DEADBOLT: So, what’s it like to go from a slave to true warrior rebel this season?
ELLEN HOLLMAN: Well, Saxa doesn’t quite look at herself as a slave, more like a prisoner of war. My biggest challenge was going from the feral, feisty rebel to a full-on warrior goddess, and making that transformation happen in less than a year’s time.
My god, it’s been an absolute honor and privilege. Hopefully the double-dagger skills I have will allow me to survive on the streets of L.A. when I’m trying to get my next job.
THE DEADBOLT: With so many characters killed off last season, does it feel like a new show?
HOLLMAN: It feels like the next level, the next chapter. Our new cast is absolutely captivating. With the combined talent, it’s a whole new level. It’s not a new show but everyone brings their A-game and it’s more impressive than ever.
THE DEADBOLT: Since War of the Damned jumps ahead this season, how has Saxa changed when we first catch up with her?
HOLLMAN: Well, Saxa is a woman with few words. Because of the language barrier, she has to communicate in a more straightforward and poignant fashion. You actually get some English out of her this season, which is new.
She can be rather crude and brash. But when she does speak, it’s quite insightful. She’s always aware of her environment and nothing gets past her. She’s solid in who she is as a warrior and as a woman.
THE DEADBOLT: Obviously she gets closer to Gannicus this season. In what ways does their relationship change?
HOLLMAN: Their relationship has progressed. I’ve actually compared it to a 70s BC version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. It’s evolved from a wine fueled, debaucherous relationship to one that does have deeper qualities. I can even throw in the word “love” in there. They’re each others’ equal. They challenge each other on and off the battlefield.
THE DEADBOLT: How has your fight training and choreography changed from last season.
HOLLMAN: I had to kick it up a notch because I’m one of the big kids on the playground this season. Off-season I was training with Ron Balicki and Diana Lee Inosanto and went into the Gladiator Boot Camp. While shooting, it was with one of our head coordinators. It was just around-the-clock.
It was around-the-clock knife and dagger and MMA training because I was the only one without a double. So I had to make sure I knew what I was doing and make it believable to the audience that I’ve been doing it my whole life when it’s just something I’ve picked up in the last couple of years.
It was a challenge, because the last thing you want to see is another pretty face up there trying to be a warrior and she can’t even swing properly. In order to have the audience believe that Saxa was a warrior before she becomes a warrior, I had to work around-the-clock. You can’t be afraid to get hurt because it’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when.”
THE DEADBOLT: What’s your favorite kill this season?
HOLLMAN: Oh, man! Unfortunately I can’t reveal my favorite kill because that would be revealing a huge plot-line. But I think I can do it anyway. My favorite moment was throwing a 220 pound Roman over my head. You don’t get to do that everyday.
THE DEADBOLT: Since it’s the final season, what’s your take on how the series ends?
HOLLMAN: Combined with our new, captivating cast, it’s bigger, better and bloodier than ever. You know, everyone knows how it ends because it’s War of the Damned. But everyone knows when, they just don’t know how. Allowing that to just unravel over ten episodes will just absolutely blow your mind.
THE DEADBOLT: What was it like shooting your final scene?
HOLLMAN: It was bittersweet. Because we work fourteen hour a day, five days a week, seven months straight, you’re literally running on fumes. Everyone gives it their all. You don’t have anything to give except your final breath. It was surreal. I really feel that I was able to bring Saxa alive on-screen. Because of that, her impression will resonate for many years to come.
Spartacus: War of the Damned premieres Friday, January 25 AT 9pm on Starz.
What do you want to see the most this season in the Spartacus: War of the Damned?