Annie Barrett
September 11, 2011 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Andy Whitfield, who starred in the first season of Starz’ Spartacus: Blood and Sand, has died of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Sydney, Australia. Spartacus was the Wales native’s first big break; most of his previous work was in Australian television.

Whitfield was diagnosed 18 months ago while preparing for the second season of Spartacus. Starz announced in January that Liam McIntyre, another Australian actor, would take over the role.

In a statement, Whitfield’s wife Vashti called her husband a “beautiful young warrior” who died on a “sunny Sydney morning” in her arms.

“No words to express the depth of such a loss. You will be deeply missed, my brother,” said Spartacus creator Steven DeKnight on Twitter.

In statements on Sunday night, Lucy Lawless and Starz paid tribute to Andy Whitfield.

Read more:

Liam McIntyre is the new ‘Spartacus’

Starz decides to move forward with season 2 despite loss of Andy Whitfield

Andy Whitfield bows out of ‘Spartacus’ to resume cancer treatment

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