In Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Sam Witwer, the actor talks more about playing vampire Aidan on Syfy’s BEING HUMAN, plus Darth Maul on Cartoon Network’s STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS and more.
ASSIGNMENT X: How did you get into acting?
SAM WITWER: When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actor. I was like, “That’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to grow up, I’m going to be an actor, I’m going to live inL.A.” And then as I got a little bit older, I was like, “You know, that’s not realistic at all.”
AX: “I’m going to be an actor and I’m going to live in Vancouver.”
WITWER: [laughs] Exactly. That’s more realistic. No, I decided I was going to be a rock star. That was more somehow realistic to me. I actually got to a point where I was like, “Rock star or no, I kind of want to just hang out in the Chicago area and play with my band and just be that guy. It’ll be great.” [The band was] called Love Plumber. And so what ended up happening was, at the end of high school, my parents really were pushing for me to go to college, and my grades were very not-good, so they were concerned about that, and they said, “Well, he does school plays. He likes performing. So maybe we can try to get him into a college with a drama school at one of these colleges.” Now the reason for that is, it’s a strategy is getting people into college while being lenient with their transcripts – colleges are not as strict transcript-wise with their acting students. So I was auditioning for a bunch of colleges and in the meantime, my parents tossed this idea to go and audition for Juilliard at me. And I’m like, “Okay, fine.” And I really didn’t take it terribly seriously, because they only took twenty people a year and, “This doesn’t make any sense – I don’t even want to be an actor, why would I …?” So I went to the audition and actually I think I learned my Shakespeare monologue that morning, went to the audition, performed it, and then did another monologue, and then fell asleep in the waiting room, and then was woken up by them saying, “Oh, we’re calling back Sam Witwer.” I’m like, “What …?” [laughs] So I came back the next day and did more audition stuff and talked to the people and then, to my great shock, I was called out of class into the office – someone summoned me out of class, I was in high school – and I walk in and Juilliard’s on the phone, saying, “We want you to be part of Group Twenty- Nine at the Juilliard School of Drama.” So I was like, “Okay …” [laughs] I had no idea what any of this meant, because at that point, I was not intending to be an actor. So I was like, “Okay, I guess I’m going to Juilliard for drama. Okay, fine.” [laughs] So that’s how I got into it. Totally by accident.
AX: Have the things that you’ve learned in acting school proved useful in film and television?
WITWER: Absolutely useful. Entirely useful. Not all of them. The problem with the school at that point, as far as my own involvement in it is, I wanted to do film and television, and that wasn’t something that they promoted at the school. They really wanted everyone to be very theatre-oriented, and I didn’t really know how to deal with that. So they were teaching me all these theatre skills. Now, fast-forward and those theatre skills are ridiculously useful when, for example, I play Darth Maul in THE CLONE WARS. I mean, you have to have a sense of epic, of size, of weight of these huge plot points, and you have to play them bigger than life and you have to know how to do that. And the same thing with BEING HUMAN when, for example, the flashbacks this year, we tell a story that in four episodes, we tell a story that goes back further than we’ve ever gone, and Aidan has to talk differently and walk differently and do all these things, so theatre training came in ridiculously useful for those types of applications. So the cool thing is, just for your everyday work, it gives you an awareness of things. You’ve had people for years scrutinizing the way you walk and talk and everything about you [laughs], and so now you are actually completely aware of how these things are going and how you’re coming off. For the most part, yes, I’m using just my natural instinctive tools, who I am, the way I talk, whatever, but there’s an awareness there and an ability to change it and alter it if I need to.
AX: For viewers who aren’t caught up on CLONE WARS, can you explain how Darth Maul is part of the show? He seemed to have died in STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE.
WITWER: I almost don’t want to spoil it for you. When CLONE WARS started, I saw the movie and I saw the show, and I thought, “It’s great that they’re doing an animated show for kids,” but it wasn’t for me. “Yeah, it’s kind of fun, but fine.” And I really wasn’t paying that much attention. It wasn’t until there was this one scene – I happened to put an episode on, and there was a scene where they tortured a Jedi to death. And I was like, “Whoa, wait a second.” I was shocked, I was really just knocked off my pins. And I started watching and realized, “Oh, my God, it’s got these adult elements. And oh, wait a second, the characters are really rather charming, and they have that 1970s/early ‘80s sense of humor that the original trilogy had, and what’s going on? What’s going on with this show?” And as I watched, every season got more mature than the last. And that’s been on purpose. They’ve been aging the show with the audience that is growing up watching it. Now they’re doing storylines that are ridiculously sophisticated, both in their writing and in their cinematography and their content.
So the Darth Maul is something that George [Lucas] wanted to do. And basically, [in REVENGE OF THE SITH], Darth Vader was cut into pieces and burned and lying at the side of a volcano. He’s dead, he’s gone, he’s wasted. But somehow he survived. And it’s the same type of thing with Darth Maul. He got cut in half and knocked down a chute. Well, we’ve seen people fall down bottomless chasms. What happens? Well, they get sucked into garbage chutes. And where did that garbage go? And we tell this story about this guy who has been crawling through the garbage for ten years and is quite mad by the time that we see him. I almost don’t want to tell you any more than that, but the really fun aspect of it is that we learn more about the Dark Side of the Force than we ever knew, because George [Lucas] is providing all the stories. I mean, hey, there are times when they do these experimental episodes [laughs] and they’re not for everyone. And then there are times when they do these stories that inform upon, hell, even the original trilogy, in all new ways. It’s really fun. I will tell you that the storyline revolves around some pretty damn good actors, like Clancy Brown and Jon Favreau and Katee Sackhoff. A whole bunch of us work to bring these stories to life. By the time that arc ends, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it is the darkest that STAR WARS has ever gone – not just THE CLONE WARS, but the franchise in general. There’s some stuff that happens that is possibly darker than anything that STAR WARS has done in thirty years.
AX: Are Darth Maul’s madness and Aidan’s madness – because Aidan has gone through periods of being pretty unhinged – comparable to play, or are they different types of madness?
WITWER: Very different types. Darth Maul is more of a Shakespearean or a Greek myth type of madness. What we endeavor to do with Darth Maul, and this is what me and George and Dave Filoni all decided upon, was that we were going to show the audience for the first time, this is what the Dark Side of the Force looks like. Which is a bold thing to do, to say, “The Dark Side of the Force has been around as a concept since 1977. We’re going to show you what it looks like. We’re going to show you what is happening to Darth Vader underneath the mask, where no one can see, in his private moments.” And that’s what we did with Darth Maul. We turned him into Gollum meets Colonel Kurtz, and the story after that has all been about him putting himself together both mentally and physically and regaining what it is that he lost. And by this point in the story, he’s quite further along in that process [laughs]. He’s putting together armies and starting to take over star systems, and it’s pretty bad. And all the while, he has his clan brother Savage Opress, played by Clancy Brown, next to him as his enforcer, his muscle.
AX: Do you guys record together or do you record your parts individually?
WITWER: We record together when at all possible. When I’m shooting BEING HUMAN, I have to do it from out of town, but Dave Filoni, the [CLONE WARS] show runner, knows the performances are always better when the actors can hear each other.
AX: It says on your IMDB that you were on ANGEL. Did you play a vampire at that point?
WITWER: I played a guy who got messed up and I wore this big piece of pizza on my face [laughs].
AX: You were part of a cult worshipping a goddess played by Gina Torres?
WITWER: You got it.
AX: And you were on DARK ANGEL …
WITWER: Which was also my first guest star ever. It was not a vampire, but it was one of those mutant super-soldier-type guys, but he was a military transfusion unit. And they played him off like somewhat of a vampire, that type of thing. The thing was, he wasn’t actually drinking blood, he was donating blood left and right. He knew martial arts, all that stuff.
AX: So he didn’t have the hunger that you’re playing in BEING HUMAN?
WITWER: No, it was everyone around him who was hungry. He was doing just fine. It was this whole thing where he was kind of a charlatan and lying to a bunch of kids and trying to seduce them. What a dick, right? [laughs]
AX: When you play Aidan’s blood hunger, do you parallel that with addiction, do you deal with it like actual hunger, do you play it like it’s some third thing?
WITWER: I play it like heroin addiction, with maybe a little bit of sex addiction depending, but yeah.
AX: Have you played addicts before this?
WITWER: You know, I don’t think I have, actually. I’ve played some colorful characters, but I don’t know that any of them were hardcore drug addicts.
AX: Obviously, you’re very busy with BEING HUMAN and CLONE WARS – do you have any other projects on hiatus coming or that have been shot that should be known about?
WITWER: Up for a couple roles, but they’re not worth mentioning unless I get them. And then another thing I’m developing with something with Glenn Howerton from IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA. We are developing an animated series and we’re working on that. We have the pilot – we’ve gotten some interest and we are now putting some more efforts into that. Basically, someone went to Glenn, they said, “Do you have any animated projects?” He pitched something that me and him and another friend named Patrick Callahan all created in college together. And then Glenn said, “Write it.” So we did.
AX: What’s it called?
WITWER: I’m not going to answer just yet, but it’s very funny. And it’s something that hasn’t been done at all. That’s the good news. If I would tell you the title, you’d say, “Oh, it’s one of those.” That’s not what we’re doing, though. It sounds like that’s what we’re doing, but it’s not what we’re doing. And that’s I think why we’re getting the interest we are, because frankly the pilot script is very strong and it describes this concept that we’ve come up with very well.
AX: And do you know if there will be a fourth season of BEING HUMAN?
WITWER: We never know until they announce that. That’s the TV thing. You air your episodes, you hope they perform [in the ratings] – which so far, we’re doing – and then you hope for the best and then they either announce a next season or not. But it’s interesting – it’s so fascinating how TV is changing, because you look at THE FOLLOWING, and their campaign has been, “Hey, set your DVR.” That’s mind-blowing. It’s the first time that a television show has been advertised to “Set your DVR.” Because everyone’s always been trying to get these live viewers. And now we have a major company stepping forward and saying, “Eh, f*** it. Set your DVRs.” Because that’s the way people watch TV these days, and they’re embracing that. On BEING HUMAN, we get the live viewers [ratings], and we’re like, “Oh, I guess we dipped,” and then we get the DVR numbers and they were basically two times what we expected. We’re like, “Oh! We did great!” [laughs] We’re like, “Okay, this is awesome!” And these are the “plus-three numbers,” the people that watch [the episode] in the first three days [after it airs]. It turns out, a crap-load of people watched it in the first three days. So the business is changing, the business models are changing and the studios are trying to keep up and trying to figure out how to make decisions based off those. But the good news is, so far we’re doing great.
AX: What would you most like people to know about BEING HUMAN right now.
WITWER: That it’s our best season by far. We’re very happy to say that, too. You never really know how these gigs are going to go when you sign on – when we got those scripts this year, we got a lot of them very early, so we could know where those performances were going, so we could plot those out – and boy, was I impressed with what Anna Fricke and her writers did with the show. Because she is solo [as show runner] this year [her writing partner/fellow executive producer/husband Jeremy Carver is show-running SUPERNATURAL] and from the word “go,” she stakes her claim in this show and takes it in a direction that I’ve just been dying to go in, which is really that ultra-grounded, happens-in-the-real world direction. And she’s really good at writing that, I’ll tell you. She really is. And her writers are beyond talented. So we’re just thrilled. Everything went extraordinarily well this year.
Related Link: TV Review – BEING HUMAN – Season 2 – “Dream Reaper”
Related Link: TV Review – BEING HUMAN – Season 2 – “Addicted to Love”
Related Link: TV Review – BEING HUMAN – Season 2 – “All Out of Blood”
Related Link: Complete BEING HUMAN – Season 1 reviews
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Exclusive Interview: Sam Witwer on BEING HUMAN and STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS – Part 2