Whitfield was born in Amlwch, Anglesey, Wales. He studied construction at Sheffield Hallam University, England and worked in Lidcombe, New South Wales, Australia as an engineer before settling in Sydney in 1999. He appeared in several Australian television series, such as Opening Up, All Saints, The Strip, Packed To The Rafters, and McLeod's Daughters.
Whitfield gained his first prominent role in the Australian supernatural film Gabriel. He also starred in the 2010 television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which was filmed in New Zealand. He portrays a version of the historical Spartacus, although in this retelling he is a conscripted soldier condemned to death who defeats all four of his executioners and is thereby recycled as a gladiator. The actual Spartacus, like this fictional version, was destined to lead a rebellion against the Romans (the Third Servile War). Whitfield also appeared in the Australian thriller The Clinic starring opposite Tabrett Bethell (of Legend of the Seeker fame) which was shot in Deniliquin.
In March 2010, Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and began undergoing treatment immediately in New Zealand. This delayed production of season two of Spartacus: Vengeance. While waiting for Whitfield's treatment and expected recovery, the network produced a six-part prequel, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, with only a brief uncredited voiceover from the actor. The prequel mini-series premiered on January 21, 2011. Although declared cancer-free in June 2010, a routine medical in September 2010 revealed a relapse and Whitfield was compelled to abandon the role. Starz then had Australian actor Liam McIntyre recast as Whitfield's successor. His battle with the disease and eventual acceptance of his coming death was documented in the film Be Here Now.
Whitfield died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Sydney, Australia, on September 11, 2011, 18 months after his initial cancer diagnosis.
Andy Whitfield and his works provide examples of:
- Died During Production: He died before completing the entire Spartacus series, specifically prior to filming the second season.
- Guttural Growler: Famously in Spartacus.
- In Memoriam: Spartacus honored him during its second season premiere and Grand Finale.
- Protagonist Title: Gabriel and Spartacus.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The Spartacus series higher-ups were forced to write a Prequel mini-season before producing the actual second season to give him time to recover. He did recover, but the illness resurfaced shortly which forced the recasting of the title character.
- Reality Subtext: Due to him portraying a formidable gladiator who opposes tyranny on-screen, and then trying to fight Cancer in Real Life shortly after, fans and his co-stars in Spartcaus dub him as badass.
- Short-Lived, Big Impact: Despite only appearing in the inaugural season note of Spartacus, he is considered the star of the show by pretty much everyone, co-stars and audiences of the show alike, and his strong and critically-acclaimed performance in said season guaranteed the show to complete its run even after his demise. Even his successor humbly stated that he hated the fact that he had to replace him.(His In Memoriam in the show after its 2nd Season premiere) A champion on screen, a legend in our hearts.
- Star-Making Role: Spartacus gave him international recognition.