AUSXIP Interviews Lesley-Ann Brandt
Lesley-Ann Answers Fan Questions

20 May 2010

Recently fans were asked to submit their questions to Lesley-Ann (Naevia) Manu Bennett (Crixus), the super couple of Season 1, below are Lesley-Ann's responses. We hope to bring you Manu's interview soon. Many thanks to Lesley-Ann for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer the questions below.

How do you think Naevia feels about Domina before she fell in love with Crixus. Do you think she honestly cared about Domina at all since Domina has been raising her practically her whole life? Or is it just hate?

Well Lucy and I talked about this on set one day, "What was so special about Naevia that SHE was chosen to be the number 1 slave?" My back-story to Naevia was that her mother had been Lucretia's slave prior to her death and before passing, had taught her the ins and outs of serving her Domina. Naevia was very young when this role was bestowed on her and with her mother's knowledge, was the best pick of the bunch and probably the easiest choice. I don't believe Lucretia did any raising, but perhaps did keep an eye on her. Naevia is street-smart even though she had lived in the Ludus all her life and I always thought of the relationship as such: She was always a slave to Lucretia when it came down to it. A very good slave, but a slave nonetheless. But when it suited her, Lucretia did confide in and afford Naevia certain privileges that she would not so easily give to others. She certainly did trust Naevia and I also think cared for her on some level.

For Naevia, Lucretia was her Domina period. She was the perfect personal assistant to a women, who in Naevia's eyes, was dangerous, yet at times very loving and caring (with Batiatus). Naevia never hated Lucretia, she just knew her place, the card that life had dealt her and did her job. What she was aware of was the ferociousness of this women. The many faces of Lucretia's personality was displayed pretty much only in front of Naevia so in saying that, she did learn allot of Lucretia: the art of seduction, how and when to display her strength, relationships with men and even love at times. They took what they wanted from each other and over the years developed a very strange yet beautiful bond.

Why did Naevia fall in love with Crixus? By her own admission she does not 'favour the games' and has been around muscle bound, good-looking gladiators all her life. What does she see in him and what does she get from him that would make her take such great personal risks to be with him?

I believe she saw she the man in Crixus, not the Gladiator but the man. A man who revealed his, dreams, his wants and needs, his vulnerability, sensitivity, his ego and his love in way that only she could appreciate and perhaps understand. If you think about it, it would be pretty hard to express yourself as a Gladiator in that Ludus. You have to play up to that Alpha male persona just to survive. And for this reason, I really loved the Barca and Pietros relationship too because as with Naevia and Crixus, you saw a Gladiator juggle his two loves, the arena and the boy/girl who held his heart. Also, I was just so proud to be part of show that was exploring a gay relationship in the Ludus to begin with, but back to the question. Crixus is flawed man, but one born of good intentions. What I love is that neither Crixus or Naevia were perfect! Crixus's initial attempts to woo Naevia was met with a fierce "Are you nuts???? I totally hate what you do for a job!". Not quite the reaction a girl who is being told "Wow, I think you're pretty and I've been checking you out", should give, but I guess she was protecting herself and was caught off guard. And then Crixus's response is "Hold on girl, let me show you just how cool I am, killing a man takes skill, you have to find the right angle". Errr not quite what a guy should say when chatting up a girl, but that's what I love about them, they seemed to figure each other out and it's probably what Naevia loved most about Crixus. He's like the big St Bernard puppy that comes running into the house covered in mud, kinda messes things up bit, but you love him all the same because you know deep down he just wants to give you a big old kiss.

Did the two of you audition together at all before getting confirmed to the role? If you did, what scene(s) did you read together?

No, I had not met Manu when I auditioned and I believe he had already been cast. The very first time I met Manu was at the premier of a movie. I think I had just got the call that I would be playing Naevia the day before. We had the same NZ managers and were introduced to each other by them. It was an awkward "Hi, I'm Lesley-Ann, I'll be playing opposite you, pleasure to meet you", but in my mind it was "Hi, I'm Lesley-Ann, I'll be having pretend sex with you on screen and it's freaking me out right now!" But now Manu is just Manu, great guy, father, and actor.

Crixus and Naevia are such fan favorites. Much of it has to do with the incredible chemistry between the two of you. How do you explain it? Did the producers just luck out with the on screen chemistry between the two of you or is it something two very good actors can cultivate when there is real-life respect and affection not necessarily romantic)?

I think chemistry is there or it isn't. I didn't really see that chemistry we had until I watched some of the footage back one day because to me Manu is just Manu! We worked really hard to make our scenes honest and we were also aware that Manu was going inbetween two worlds. He may have just finished a fight scene and was then getting cleaned up to film a scene with me. You can imagine the adrenaline he still had after fighting in the arena. But that was not who Crixus was when he was with Naevia, he was softer, gentle and I had to figure out in my mind how Naevia brought that out in him. I think it was a combination of luck and hard work on our part. We are so committed to the Naevia and Crixus story.

Do you think the audience will learn the back-story and circumstances of how both came to be at the Ludus?

Yes! Both Manu and I have signed on to do a 6 episode prequel to the first season so watch out.

Your characters came together absent the hope of a physical relationship. Do you think you can have a fulfilling relationship without sex?

I think initially you can go without the physical stuff, but sex/loving making is just another part of getting to know each other or perhaps show how much you love each other. For Naevia and Crixus they did not have the luxury of long walks on the beach holding hands. They had very few stolen moments and making love was a way to express their feelings for one another. Also, there was so much built up passion between these two. During their love scene in ep 10. It was important for me that Naevia be looking at Crixus straight in the eye at some point and for it to be slow and sensual, basically the complete opposite to what he did with Lucretia. Look we're human beings, we have physical needs and wants at the end of the day and let's face it people, sex is fun too!

Do you see a happy ending at all for these characters?

Well historically Spartacus and Crixus both die. I'm not sure how it will play out for fictional characters like Naevia, but let's just say I think everyone will die at some stage.

How do you feel about the fans reaction to your on-screen relationship? Was it expected? Were you surprised?

The reaction to our story has been amazing! There are some seriously "die hard" Naevia and Crixus fans and we both really appreciate all your support and kind words. On paper I think our story was interesting because your see this relationship develop right from the beginning, which is the one difference with the Spartacus and Sura story. And when we started filming, both Manu and I said to each other one day "I think we've got something here". Am I surprised? Yes and eternally grateful to every one supporting not just our story but the show and everyone involved. We are but a piece of the puzzle, but to the Naevia and Crixus shippers....Thank you!xxx

If you could swap character with anyone one on the show, who would it be and why?

Ooooh, good question! As Katrina said in one of her blogs, a show is only as good as its villains, so I'm going to swop teams and say Ashur. The character is soooooo complex! He started off being hated by the audience and by the end had people hating what he did, but loving it at the same time. Ok, using Naevia as a pawn was kinda messed up Ashur!!! But you have to appreciate his ability to manipulate, bend and twist situations to further his personal agenda which he believes right and just. And in the end, you even got to see his heart, a broken man wanting to join the brotherhood. It would be interesting to see what Ashur was like before his injury. Was he always this way? I like the idea of being a bad girl, I think it would be fun to be a little evil.....just a little.

Will we ever see your character again?

The million dollar question. Yes, Naevia is back and reunited with Crixus in season 2 and both Manu and I are thrilled!!! How and when cannot be revealed because we don't really know to be honest, but we are happy that we get to further build on this wonderful love story. Also secretly, I'd quite like Naevia to get her hair back. The "I need a mental day off work" look is doing nothing for her mojo! I'm thinking, a little bob with some highlights or something.

What is your skin care regimen?

It's so funny because I've had 2 people ask me this, this week. I have 3 secrets really, but they are pretty low maintenance. Firstly, SUNBLOCK, SUNBLOCK AND MORE SUNBLOCK. I dip my head in a bucket of it and look like a mime every morning! NZ and Australia have really intense rays and very low ozone protection so sunblock in summer is a must. However, I wear it everyday, even in winter. Currently, I'm using this product called Skin Intelligence. It's lightweight, non greasy and has very high UVA/UVB protection and is about $90NZ. My actual skincare is Environ. I discovered this through a friend of mine and was unaware that it is actually a South African product. It's basically very high doses of Vitamin A and C and you start off on the lowest number and work your way up. In this range, I use a cleanser, toner, moisturiser and eye gel.

The products are pretty reasonably priced too. Lastly, and this is something I just recently discovered in the last year, is a supplement called Genecol. It's a collagen supplement I started taking because of an injury to my knee that required ACL reconstruction a few years ago. I've been pain free ever since, but one of the other benefits is that my hair, skin and nails have improved so much. You can use this product for back pain, if you have lots of sports injuries, you workout or if you just want better skin and you buy it on line at

My father is the distributer in Australasia for the product and was introduced to it because of his own sports injuries. I don't really like to push products unless I've used it myself and seen results, (I'll take 10% of all sales Dad! :). So my regime is nothing crazy really.

What's your workout regimen?

I love working out, I'm a bit of a gym bunny really but in particular, I like boot camp stuff. I'm the girl who needs to be pushed, yelled at and if I'm working out with another partner, I get super competitive just ask Katrina Law! I love doing classes at my gym, early morning runs and I'm starting to do Pilates this year! And Katrina is dragging me to yoga. I know its good for my body I just need to be patient with it. I'm the girl who needs to look like a drowned rat to feel like she's really done something active. What you eat is also really important so in season 2, the Craft services table and myself are not on speaking terms.


Since Naevia is basically an outcast now, how would you feel if had to become a gladiatrix to survive? Although rare, history tells us that female gladiators did exist, mainly fighting animals. Would you enjoy the opportunity to take up sword and become a killing machine?

Hell yes!! I would love it if Naevia joined the revolt and fight alongside her man. There is a physical strength to her that has not been explored and I for one, would love to get stuck into some gladiator training and fight scenes. She has every reason to become a fighter because now, she has nothing to lose. She lost her home, was separated from the love of her life, heck, even lost her hair! I would often mess around swords on set and would talk to the stunt boys about their training and how the wires worked. I loved doing that scene with Lucy where she beats up Naevia because I had to learn how to fall and bang my head into a table and make it look believable. Here's what I learnt about stunts, you have to commit to it or you will get hurt. So I say "Bring it on Steven DeKnight!"

What is the significance of the tattoo on your back shoulder?

It means more to me now than it ever has. I had a love of butterflies as a child. My grandfather, who lost his battle with cancer during season 1, would help me catch them and save them from the chameleons that lived in my tree house. When I was about 10yrs old, I was asked to do a paper mâché piece in my art class. It could be anything, but had to encompass our dreams, people who influence our lives and what makes us happy.

I chose to do a butterfly and used images, words, and right in the middle, a picture of my Pa. My piece was entered in a local exhibition and I was awarded an art prize. He was one of my best friends, the best grandfather you could ask for so I was happy that the tattoo was not covered in the show.

Are there personal traits that you have that are similar to your respective characters? Would you change anything about Naevia?

Ok, I'm like one of he worst people when my partner is sick because I can do the Florence Nightingale thing for all of about 2 seconds before I'm like "Man up and just accept your fate're sick, get over it!" I am getting better though!!!! I think it's because I just go into my cave when I'm sick and I don't want to bother anyone. I'm extremely caring when it comes to children and my godson, but big grown hairy men...I need to work on that. Naevia on the other hand was very, very, very good at this. I got asked this a while back, "Didn't you wish Naevia would just stand up to Lucretia or tell Crixus off?" I think there's a part of you in every character you play as an actor, but you really can't wish for your character to be different or to be more like you if they display characteristics you don't like or agree with personally. That is self serving and does not serve the story.

For example, would Lesley-Ann want hit Crixus over the head and go "Hellooooo!!!! Buddy you better get your priorities in check"....Hell yes! And at times, Naevia and I had fights in my trailer where I was like "Listen, he is taking you for granted, running around the Ludus, talking about being Champion and what not when you've just nursed him back to health!!! Then I would realise that I've been up since 4am and really, I've just had too many coffees. Naevia on the other hand takes a more diplomatic approached because that's her nature, she is calm throughout the storm. She has an underlying strength to her and she knows how to let him know how she feels, in her own way. The relationship between them works because they are polar opposites, one reacts almost immediately to information (Crixus) and one prefers to digest the information before making her move. They balance each other out and only she is able to bring out that side of him. She is very much her own women too, she existed without him for number of years and learnt to grow that layer of skin one needs to survive inside the Ludus and let's face it, working for Lucretia. She hears and sees everything and is more knowledgeable of the outside world than she lets on. So for me, I draw on those aspects of Naevia's personality, to get my head around the character.

America and the world seemed to have fallen in love with you, is it a bit overwhelming?

The fan response has been amazing! It can be pretty overwhelming getting emails from people you've never met, saying how much they love you and your's very humbling. Thing is, I'm just a girl from Cape Town South Africa who has lived in NZ for the last few years so this is all pretty new to me. As an actor, you dream of being afforded the opportunity and privilege of working on a show like Spartacus. And having that show debut on US television and with a network like Starz is huge. Sometimes, a part of you doesn't want to stop to appreciate it for fear it might end, but the fans with all their lovely posts, emails and letters make me feel like it's OK to every now and then. To have been welcomed into American homes and those around the world, they way I have been is a huge blessing and I am eternally grateful.

Both of you have musical talents. Might we look forward to a Lesley-Ann/Manu collaboration for a Crixus/Naevia soundtrack?

Mmmmm, perhaps a rendition of "I'm a Survivor?" Manu, you can do the backup dancing, I'll bring the heels! I would like to do my vocal lessons this year. I sing all the time. My family is very musical. In fact, my favourite thing to do is to take a drive alone and put on some good music. I do look a bit nuts I'm sure because I really get into the songs.

Is there a personal code that you live by everyday? Some people live by the phrase: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. What about you?

"Carpe Diem". There is nothing I can't achieve in this life without my health, love from my family and friends and belief in myself.

The most infamous Crixus quote is when he tells Naevia upon first meeting her that it's not easy to cut off a man's head because you have to find the right angle. Way to make a first impression! Lesley-Ann: Would you ever have fallen for a pick up line like that or would your response have been different than Naevia's?

Depends on who he killed, the lady who stole my park this morning? Sure, I'd go have drink!

Since you auditioned for the role of Sura originally, are you now happy as it turned out, with landing the role of Naevia instead?

It really is funny how things work out. I believe that a role is either yours or it's not. You were meant to have it or you weren't. I adore my character and my storyline and I think the audience is in for a real treat in season 2! Sura was not my role, but auditioning for the part sparked some interest in me for the role of Naevia so Sura will always have a special place in my heart. Quietly too and just between you me and the thousands of viewers who will read this, (and Erin, I love you girl), but Sura died, I don't want to die!! Steven DeKnight is an equal opportunity killer! Weather you're gay, Spartacus's best friend, the greatest villain on the show (Batiatus) or a good little slave girl who just does her job, he will "Kill them All!" So fingers crossed! :)

Photo Credits:

Photos of Naevia are courtesy of Starz Entertainment.

Interesting Links

- Official Lesley-Ann Brandt Fan Site
- Karen Kay Management
- Official Spartacus Blood and Sand Site
- AUSXIP Spartacus Blood and Sand

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