Paul Chi
February 03, 2012 02:30 PM

Prepare to swoon!

Australian newcomer Liam McIntyre is causing quite a stir with his brooding, shirtless, breakout performance as rebel gladiator Spartacus in the new season of Starz’s drama Spartacus: Vengeance, airing Fridays at 10 p.m.

The actor, 29, replaces the late Andy Whitfield – who died of non-Hodgkin s lymphoma last year.

Enjoying a bittersweet welcome as Rome s newest hottie, McIntyre chats with PEOPLE. Here are five things to know about the charming hero.

1. He’ll always be grateful to Andy Whitfield
McIntyre received Whitfield’s blessing to take over the Spartacus role before passing away last September.

“I wouldn’t have the role of my life without him,” says McIntyre. “He did such an amazing job. I owe Andy the respect to do this job as the best as I can.”

2. He’s chivalrous
The self-described “dork” is a true gentleman. “I’m polite. It’s always ladies first: door opening and not eating before them,” says McIntyre. “My mum would always frown at me and go, ‘That’s not how we do things in this household,’ if I did it wrong.”

His honorable qualities have paid off in the romance department. He’s dating Aussie singer-actress Erin Hasan. “She’s exceptional,” he says. “We recently celebrated our 1-year anniversary and it feels like forever in a good way.”

3. He’s a sexy phone operator – just not that kind!
Before acting full time, McIntyre worked for a Village Cinema in Australia coordinating what movies played on their screens. His other responsibilities included assisting moviegoers by using his alluring baritone voice.

“I’m still the voice message service for my old cinema,” he says proudly. “I would use my deepest, darkest, steamiest, sexiest, voice to say things like, to speak to a booking officer push one, to speak to someone about parties and events push two. It was the job of my dreams if I was never going to become an actor.”

4. He’s a trampoline champ
While studying abroad in Ireland for a business degree during the early 2000’s, he discovered trampolining, a competitive Olympic sport during which gymnasts perform acrobatic flips while bouncing on a trampoline.

“Me and somersaults go way back!” he says. “I won the third prize while traveling around Europe competing. As crazy as it sounds, it’s pretty awesome.”

5. He has a sweet tooth
To get his 6-pack gladiator physique, he relies on three-hour gym sessions and a diet of mostly only chicken, vegetables and protein shakes. But the treat he misses the most?

“Chocolate mousse! I don’t even want to mention it because I’ll start craving it,” he says with a laugh. “I’ll get cheat days, but for Christmas I cheated too much. I had delicious turkey, mashed potatoes, garlic bread and everything that makes a great Aussie Christmas. Now I’m back thrashing myself!”

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