Real Life

My wonderful life with Spartacus: Vashti Bland opens up about late husband Andy Whitfield

Vashti opens up about her soulmate and hero
Vashti Bland, Andy Whitfield

When Vashti Bland first laid eyes on Spartacus actor Andy Whitfield, as both were en route to Indonesia for a holiday with a mutual mate in the early ‘90s, she could never have known the epic journey they would embark upon together.

However, their friendship wouldn’t develop into anything more until five years later, when they were living down the road from each other in London. One day, Vashti happened to see the good-looking, skinny Welshman with the piercing baby blues walking down the street.

“I spotted him immediately,” recalls Vashti, 43. “This beautiful man walking down the road in a sea of suits. It was one of those weird moments,” she says.

Fast forward six months, and the pair had settled in Sydney, where Vashti worked for a design company and Andy as an engineer, then went on to have son Jesse, now 10, and daughter Indigo, eight.

Left: Vashti and Andy. Right: The couple with their children, Indigo and Jesse.

Andy was later talent-scouted on Bondi Beach, when he was in his mid-30s. After much encouragement from Vashti, her “shy, soft” partner went on to embrace his acting potential, bagging the lead role in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which was shot in New Zealand.

It was while filming the swords-and-sandals television epic that he discovered he had a rare form of cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Andy immediately began chemotherapy in Auckland, where the family had set up a new home and Jesse was attending school, and filmed the treatment for the new doco Be Here Now.

The movie features both Andy and Vashti speaking, laughing and crying throughout. Sadly, it falls to just Vashti to tell their story to Woman’s Day. Andy tragically lost his battle with cancer in 2011 at just 39, leaving his family, thousands of fans and the largely Kiwi cast and crew of Spartacus heartbroken.

Watch the trailer for Be Here Now – story continues below

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Touching tribute

An unconventional love story, Be Here Now saw Andy and his partner followed around for the final 18 months of their lives together, but Vashti has no regrets. She insists, “When you’re trying to get through treatment, the camera makes no difference. If anything, it gives it more purpose because you’re doing it for a greater cause than yourself.”

Now back living in Australia, gutsy, globetrotting Vashti juggles her career as a life coach with writing her blog MaybeMcQueen (named for acting legend Steve McQueen, who Andy always dreamed of playing) and being mum to Jesse and Indigo.

While the family have quickly settled back into Sydney life, Vashti loved her time in the States promoting the movie and has plans to move the children there some day.

She explains, “The children growing up in Australia and New Zealand was very important to us both, but this next phase is equally important – to experience a very diverse culture and travel the world.

“It’s about seeing being a widow as an opportunity rather than loss. And using the word of the film, mine and Andy’s philosophy, which is how to embrace whatever life throws at you.”

Andy in character as Spartacus.

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