Jai Courtney opened up to ET about his late co-star and close friend, Andy Whitfield, who died from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011. Whitfield’s journey with cancer is documented in the powerful new film, Be Here Now, in theaters April 8.
“Andy was a very special friend -- and his family, I consider an extension of my own,” Courtney told ET. “To see this film finally go the distance and be having a release is such a triumph.”
Courtney and Whitfield met during the first season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which aired in the beginning of 2010. During their time together, Andy became a brother figure for Courtney.
“He became kind of a mentor, kind of a hero to me in a way,” Courtney said. “Not only in what he was achieving within the world of our profession, but just in the way he lived his life. We became fast friends, and I just looked up to him so much.”
Whitfield was diagnosed shortly before the second season started filming. Jai remembers receiving the news from Andy.
“It's a weird thing to hear, someone so young and so healthy -- certainly on the surface -- so close to you,” he recalled. “It was a strange thing to kind of digest, but at that time, we weren't really considering the worst.”
The documentary follows Whitfield’s heartbreaking battle and ultimate passing. But what viewers will certainly take away from the film, is the late actor’s unwavering positivity until the very end.
“He was often cast as this very strong, handsome, stoic type -- but Andy was a cheeky prick and a very very funny dude,” Courtney remembered with a laugh. “He inspired people every day and engaged with people every day in a way that was really quite magnetic and hard to sort of dispute or deny. He really did have the power to sort of change lives.”
Courtney has remained close with Whitfield’s wife, Vashti, and is the godfather of their two children, Jesse and Indigo.
“Vashti and I… we are family,” Courtney said. “The kids are gorgeous. They’re growing up. Jesse’s nearly eleven, Indy’s eight. They’re like a little pride of lions. They’re amazing.”
Courtney even let Whitfield’s daughter draft the tattoo on his arm. Watch the video below to find out more.
Be Here Now is in theaters April 8.