AUSXIP Interviews Viva Bianca
"Ilithyia, The Bandit Princess"
by MaryD

20 May 2010

We are delighted to bring you an interview with the supremely talented Australian actress Viva Bianca. Viva stars in Spartacus Blood and Sand as Ilithyia, wife to the Roman Legate, daughter of Senator Albinius and all round bad girl. We learn about Viva's early introduction to acting, her acting role model, working in theatre. We also delve into what makes Ilithyia tick, what it's like working on Spartacus, her fellow castmates, why Viva describes Ilithyia as "The Bandit Princess" and lots more! This is a very extensive and fascinating interview.

Q. What turned you on to acting?

I can’t remember a time when I ever wasn’t an actor. It’s always been a part of me. But I do remember when my dad took my brother and I to the cinema on a school night to see Mike Leigh’s ‘Secrets and Lies’. Brenda Blethyn’s performance transformed my whole understanding of acting. She was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. I decided then I wanted to be a serious dramatic actress.

Q. Who is your acting role model and why?

I very much admire Cate Blanchett. The way she negotiates herself as a world-class film and theatre actress, as well as an artistic director of arguable Australia’s leading theatre company, as well as having an active public political voice. Oh yeah, not to mention she’s a mother of three!

Q. What genres do you enjoy more...Drama, Comedy, Sci-Fi, Period Pieces, Modern Day, Fantasy?

I’ve tended to work more in drama, but I love clever, unusual comedies as well. I hope to work in a variety of genres throughout my life.
Q. You've worked in film, television, and theatre. Is there one that you enjoy more than another, or do you just enjoy the variety?

I think we actors are all at the core adrenalin junkies. It’s the variety, the change that keeps us ticking.

Q. When actors talk about working on stage compared to film or television. It's normally about the differences of what it gives them or teaches them. What are your thoughts about stage work? What does being in front of a theatre audience give you or taught you?

Theatre is almost a different craft. It is so immediate and raw and yet at the same time so incredibly technical. In theatre the audience is 50% of the performance and that ‘live’ aspect can be intoxicating. In film and TV you stop and start a lot, allowing the perfection of moment to moment. In theatre, you flow through and experience a continuity of drama and story.

Q. Most actors are multi-talented...singers, musicians, performers...Do you have any hidden talents?

Hmmm… I’ll let you know when mine surfaces.

Q. When you first started to pursue acting full time you must have had career expectations (dreams) ... how have those expectations lived up to the reality so far? And how have those expectations changed as your career has grown, then and now?

In some ways I’ve lived up to my expectations. But I’m continually dreaming up new ones.

Q. Are there any actors dead or alive that you would love to work with and, If so, why?

I would love to work with Daniel day Lewis. He is the maestro. Stanley Kubrik (although not an actor) has always been one of my favourite directors. I would have loved to have worked with him before he died.

Q. If you were given a dream project to work on what would it be?

Trust me there’s too many to list! But to name one, a film directed by Sofia Coppola shot in the South of France or Tuscany or somewhere fabulous.

Q. Do you watch Dailies? If do you use them? If not...why?

Not very often.

Q. What's your favourite TV show that you would love to have a part on?

Spartacus of course!

Q. What was the audition process like for Spartacus?

Gruelling. They starved me for seven days straight. I’m kidding! I did a few auditions from Australia. With Aussie casting agent Faith Martin. I thought I’d completely botched my first audition, because I’d prepared the scene with a US accent and then when I got there I was told to do a British accent. I walked away thinking… ‘well I’ll put that one down to bad luck..’

Q. What was it about Ilithyia that attracted you to the role?

I get tripped up when I answer this question because people think she’s a bad ass. Ilithyia's turn to the ‘dark side’ isn’t til episode 9. Before that I always saw her as a naughty little princess but far from evil. In fact, in episode 1 we use to call her ‘the bandit princess’. A playful, cheeky and often ignorant young woman, with more power than she can swallow. The unpredictable, abundant energy of Ilithyia that leapt off the page when reading the first few episodes of Spartacus, was intoxicating. And who doesn’t want to play a bandit princess?

Q. Was the character of Ilithyia fleshed out when you started filming or did she evolve as the series progressed? If she evolved, how much input did you have in the evolution of the character?

The character definitely evolved. I don’t know how much input I had. I think the writers were just as intoxicated as I was.

Q. There is a love/hate relationship with Lucretia, how do you see the relationship?

Their relationship is too complex for words. The power so subtly shifts between them like the tides of a river. I still haven’t decided what that Judas Kiss thing is all about. But it sure was fun doing it!

Q. Spartacus is a huge period piece. How have you found yourself dealing the costuming, hair, and make-up? Once it is all done and you walk on set, do you find it transforming or easier to get into character?

The costuming, hair and makeup are most of the fun. Another good thing about playing the bandit princess is that you get adorned with pretty fabrics, jewels and long blonde curls. At first it was like a childhood dream come true playing dress-ups in gowns and necklaces (see, told you I am a dreamer). By the end, it was like putting on a school uniform.

Yes, the costume, hair and makeup can be transforming. Particularly when entering such a foreign world, and also when playing a character that is quite different to me.

Q. Have you found anything to be rather challenging?

Every day had its challenges, but that’s why I loved this job – we weren’t exactly playing hospital drama.

Q. How much of yourself have you put into Ilithyia? Is there anything you've learned/taken from the character?

Yes I’ve learned to be a cunning bia**ch… And also not to be afraid of cleavage! No, I think I’m quite different to Ilithyia (thank goodness!), but then again she must be there somewhere inside me, otherwise I couldn’t have played her.

Q. Of all the things that have happened to Ilithyia in Spartacus, what moments stand out for you and why?

Well, the masked sex scene with Spartacus in episode nine was a milestone. Need I say more…?

Q. Did the fan reaction to Ilithyia surprise you in any way?

Yeah it did a bit. But I don’t really engage much with the online fan stuff. From what I’m told Ilithyia is the girl you love to hate. She is by nature provocative, so I suppose it’s no surprise she’s provoked the audience. I guess I find the reactions quite funny – she really cooked up a storm!

Q. Ilithyia is such bad girl; Does she have any redeemable qualities that are well hidden?

Hmmm… she wears pastels well…?

Q. Many fans have speculated that Ilithyia obsession with trying to kill Spartacus is based on the fact that she is attracted to him. How do you see her love/hate relationship with Spartacus?

Yes probably. But then again, who wouldn’t be?

Q. In a recent interview you described Ilithyia as a "sweet charming girl" Was that the intention to have Ilithyia, the charming girl, under the spell of Lucretia?

Yes maybe I shouldn’t have used those words exactly. What I mean is that I never intended to play her as the villain that she is now perceived to be. At the beginning, I think Ilithyia has no evil intent, she’s simply a spoilt indulgent, decadent girl with a taste for mischief. Eventually she becomes corrupted and as I said earlier, enters ‘the dark side’. Also, I think her ‘badness’, for want of a better word, comes from her actions (ie seducing the young boy to kill Varro) not from the way I played her (yes, I’m passing all responsibility onto the writers). I think as an actor its important not to judge your character, however villainous, so as not to play a cardboard caricature, but rather a real human. No one ever sees themselves as ‘bad’.

Q. You have been working with some very talented actors, producers and directors on Spartacus, what have you learned from them?

Yes too many talented actors, writers, directors and producers to list. I would often pinch myself. I was lucky to spend day after day on set with Lucy and John. And Andy is the most professional, gracious and generous leading man you could imagine.

Q. We've heard allot about the nudity and the violence of Spartacus but, in your opinion, what do most interviewers / reviewers overlook about the series?

There’s a wonderful dramatic integrity to this show that far overshadows the sex and violence. Also, the sex in the show mostly only exposes the corrupt and immoral behaviour of the Romans. It’s pretty dark really.

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

Spartacus. I love heroes.

Q. Will we ever see your Ilithyia in Season 2?

One can only hope that ‘sealing the fucking doors!’ and escaping into the night in a purple dress was good for something!

Q. You are currently filming a new Australian movie called "X" set on the mean streets of Sydney's red light district of King's Cross. What can you tell us about your role as Holly in this movie?

My new movie is a contemporary, urban story about two prostitutes – one is a high-end escort, about to leave everything behind her and move to Paris, and the other is a teenage runaway experiencing her first night on the street. I play the escort.

Q. What's next for Viva Bianca?

Well, I’m currently producing a theatre show in Sydney, and I’m about to venture on a ten-day silent meditation retreat in the Blue Mountains. The rest is up to dreaming.

Photo Credits:

▪ Photos of Viva for this interview are courtesy of Sally Flegg
▪ Photos of Holly from the movie X are courtesy of CirceFilms
▪ Photos of Ilithya from Spartacus Blood and Sand are courtesy of Starz Entertainment.

Important Links

Official Spartacus Blood and Sand Site
AUSXIP Viva Bianca News & Multimedia
AUSXIP Spartacus Blood and Sand