Andy Whitfield Was an 'Inspiration to All of Us,' Says Network Exec

09/12/2011 at 09:55 AM EDT

Spartacus Blood and Sand's Andy Whitfield Dies: Starz Tribute
Andy Whitfield
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Andy Whitfield was as brave off screen as he was on it, says the president and CEO of Starz, which is mourning its lost star, who died of cancer on Sunday.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield," Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht says in a statement about the Welsh-born actor, who was 39. "We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in Spartacus and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life."

"Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace," the statement continues.

Albrecht adds: "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans."

Whitfield, who lived in Australia, played the lead role during the first season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand. He withdrew from the second season when he had a recurrence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the blood cancer that would eventually take his life.

Whitfield's wife Vashti said in a statement that the "beautiful young warrior" died on a "sunny Sydney morning" in the "arms of his loving wife."

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