Exclusive interview with Ellen Hollman

May, 2013 | Ellen Hollman earned herself a place in the hearts of "Spartacus" fans by portraying the Germanic warrior Saxa. In our interview Ellen talks about preparing for this strong, physical role, working with her castmates and how the "Spartacus" cast and crew keep the memory of Andy Whitfield alive.

Note: © myFanbase 2013 - The interview is exclusive to myFanbase and may not be published on other websites or the like. You may share the first two questions if you link back to this site. Translations other than English and German may be posted with full credit including the writer's name and link to this site.

Foto: Ellen Hollman - Copyright: JSquared Photography
Ellen Hollman
© JSquared Photography

1. Saxa is an exceptionally strong female character who made a great impact on the viewers. Had you ever expected such a huge response and what will stay with you from the experience of playing her for the rest your life?

It's a rare honor and privilege to be able to have such a strong, physical role to play as a woman. It's heartwarming to see such a favorable response from the audience as I gave my absolute all to Saxa. I can promise you that a piece of that sassy, Germanic warrior will always be with me.

2. Saxa is such a fierce warrior who easily takes on any Roman soldier. Did you do a lot of research about if there really were female warrios like her in the Servile War?

I assumed that for a female fighter to be accepted by her fellow male counterparts she would have to be just as (if not more) rude, brash, violent and skilled on the battlefield. Saxa may not be glamorous at times but you believe every moment she has a weapon in her hand. As for research, there have been remains of a female Gladiator that was discovered in Trier, Germany. Apparently they fought bearing midriff and portrayed their victories by raising one arm high above their heads. Sound familiar? I found this out after shooting "Vengeance", it was sheer coincidence that my character happened to have the same physicality as the ancient female Gladiators. Perhaps it's in my blood after all?

3. You probably also joined Gladiator Boot Camp? What did that involve, especially for the ladies?

Same as everyone else, I attended Gladiator Bootcamp for four weeks, 8 hours and day and held my own next to the boys, that's for sure. There's a great youtube clip "War of the Damned Gladiator Bootcamp" that gives you details of the torture!

4. Saxa speaks German most of the time and as we Germans know ourselves it isn't an easy language to speak with "Umlaut" or different pronunciations of "ch" and stuff. Did you have a vocal coach or could Dan Feuerriegel help out with that?

HA! Few people realize this, but I was the only one on set who could actually speak and understand German. It's my family's heritage and I learned it in school growing up. If anything, Dan would run his dialogue by me and I'd do my best to help with pronunciation. I love him to bits but I don't think he even knew what he was saying half the time!

5. Saxa is in a lot of scenes with Gannicus. Between us girls, how much Gannicus is in Dustin Clare and what was he like to work with?

Dustin has a wonderfully playful personality. He never takes himself too seriously and is the first to pull a prank on set. We had such a great chemisty and I couldn't have asked for a better costar. However, when it comes to being off set, he's a very private, introverted person who would rather be surfing waves than on a red carpet. Unlike his crowd loving alter ego Gannicus, Dusty despises the limelight. A rare quality in such a talented and handsome actor.

6. Were there moments when you read the new script and thought "Am I really gonna do that?" and then found the challenge especially rewarding?

Anything that had to do with having a female love interest was a new experience for me. Don't get me wrong, women are beautiful and intriguing creatures but have I ever grabbed a lady's cleavage and made out with them on the spot? Nope. That all changed after this season, I can tell you that, ha!

7. How did you approach the explicit love scenes? Was there a certain procedure, closed set, special meetings or something like that?

Any love scene was a closed set and there's absolutely nothing romantic about it. Everyone makes sure they're on the right page so you can't just take the liberty and put your hands anywhere you want. It's about respecting and honoring the other persons restrictions.

8. There are stunning closeup fighting scenes with dialog and also incredible jumps in which the actor's face is clearly visible. Did you really do those stunts yourself?

Every second on screen was me entirely. I chose my specialty to be reverse grip double daggers and trained tirelessly off season. They weren't able to find a double with my same ability so I offered to do it all myself. It took a hell of a lot of blood, sweat and tears but it's a pretty awesome feeling knowing It was all me.

9. A beautiful and very special thing about the cast and crew of "Spartacus" is how much they keep the memory of Andy Whitfield alive. You joined the cast in "Vengeance", was it like he somehow always remained a part of the process?

Though I never had the privelege of meeting Andy, his memory was very much kept alive by cast and crew. I almost felt like I did know him with the countless stories and photographs everyone would share. I think he would have been proud of how everyone keeps his legacy alive.

10. A little while ago some of the Spartacus cast volunteered at an event of Visual Impact Now, the non-profit organization that you founded. What did that involve and how did you come up with the idea of Visual Impact Now?

During the writers strike in 2008, I decided to start a non-profit orgaization dedicated to providing in-need LA students with visual acuity's, eye exams and glasses. I've always had horrible vision myself and understand its effects on behavior and your ability to learn in school. I've had some amazing people help my organization come flourish including fellow Spartacus cast. You can check out our heartwarming clinic video at visualimpactnow.com.

11. What is next for you? Any new projects you can talk about?

I have a film coming out called True Love, an intense psychological thriller that I shot in Milan Italy. It's a whole different side of me than the audience isn't used to seeing. Sorry to say Im not slaying Romans in this one.

12. myFanbase is an online magazine about U.S. television shows. Do you have one or more favorite show(s)?

Aside from "Spartacus", I LOVE "Modern Family" and "Breaking Bad" hands down.

Thank you, Ellen, we wish you all the best for your future projects!

Nicole Oebel - myFanbase