For a guy who plays a Revolutionary War era vampire, Sam Witwer has it pretty good.
On the SyFy series Being Human, Witwer captivates our attention each week with his portrayal of tortured bad-boy Aiden Waite – and when he’s not playing a brooding bloodsucker, the actor is lending his voice to the iconic character of Darth Maul on the Carton Network’s animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Two popular television programs and two drastically different characters? While some might wonder how the actor does it, for Witwer, it’s all part of a days work.
In an exclusive interview, we caught up with actor to find out where Aiden is headed this season, what stories we should be excited for, and what’s in store for Darth Maul on Clone Wars.
So, I just want to congratulate you on being above ground because that’s got to be a really nice thing.
“Yeah, really nice.” [Laughs] “That’s got to be an accomplishment right there.”
Definitely, I mean, I don’t know if your character is necessarily happy about that, but…
“No, but…when is he ever happy?”
This is true.
I mean, you have sort of a lighter storyline than last season and I’m wondering if that’s been kind of refreshing for you? Or do you like playing the darker character stuff better?
“Oh, let me tell you, this season…it’s funny cause I’ve been telling everyone, ‘hey, yeah, this is a funnier season,’ and then I really realize ‘funnier’ is relative. There’s a lot of opportunity for humor. I mean, not to say that there was no opportunity before. There’s certainly funny banter between the roommates and stuff like that, but I’m really excited because episode 5 really marks the beginning of his story this year. It’s interesting how they structured the entire season and I completely agree with it. They set it up as very plot-heavy in the first few episodes; they set up a bunch of stuff. They put these characters in situations…and then for the rest of the season, they let those situations play out as the characters react to them. And what’s really cool about that is that they just put such a tremendous focus on the characters. I mean, after a while, we just kind of forget about the plot and the characters just end up doing things and having interesting behaviors and funny moments and unexpected stuff. So, it has been an extraordinarily heavy character season, although, you know, again…I keep saying this and, you know, you guys are going to have to trust me. But it really is.”
Well, I think it’s also good for us because as viewers and as audience members, we get to connect a little bit with the characters when they have those moments; it kind of shows us more of their personality. And even if we connected with them before, it gives us a little more of a connection with the stories that are happening.
“Oh, absolutely. And you know, it’s a really fun season.”
Kind of going off that, but without obviously giving too much away, are you excited about the kind of stories that you’re going to get to tell this season?
“Hugely excited. And what’s really fun about it is the fact that there’ll be such a great balance struck because you’re going to see some very dark things happen. You can’t have my character without dark things happening. I mean, he’s got the worst situation out of all of them. And you know, I don’t think that’s just my opinion; I think that’s legitimate fact. I mean, Josh is just some dude; Jordan’s a werewolf, but that only really happens once a month. Sally’s a person, and again, not to minimize the fact that these are all tough conditions, but my character’s dealing with things day in and day out [laughs] and this recovering heroin addict, or maybe he’s…I mean, one of the things we look at this year is that he’s kind of like a PTSD soldier back from a war.”
I like that a lot.
“Yeah, he’s sort of a PTSD soldier back from the war trying to re-acclimate back into civilian life and having a hell of a time with it. So, it’s been a really fun season to play. But really moreover because there’s just such a balance. He gets to be funnier than he’s ever been in other seasons, while at the same time, some of the stuff that is going to end up happening to him is some of the most traumatic stuff that’s happened to him. I give Anna [Fricke] really all the credit in the world; she really had a vision for this season and carried it out and brought us all along in a very collaborative capacity.”
What appeals to me about your character is that he has that tortured bad-boy part to him, but he’s also kind of stuck in that moral ‘I don’t like vampires; what do you do’ scenario that is just always a push and pull for him. I’m hoping that we’re going get to see that a lot more going forward.
“Oh, absolutely. It’s interesting because we don’t really…as you can see, there aren’t a lot of vampires around this season. Which I actually I think is a very good thing for the character because the show is, after all, called Being Human…and it has to be about what these people are like around the subject of their desire, which is humanity. Right? So, I mean, if you put Aidan among these human beings, he’s more dangerous because he’s around them. He’s sadder because he wants to be like them. And he’s more interesting because he lives this double life. And we get to see that; we get to really see that this season, him trying to balance these two worlds off each other. And in terms of his humanity, we’re going right to the center of it this season. And we end up telling a flashback story that I never really felt we’d have the courage to try to tackle. We tell it over the course of four episodes.”
Kind of going off that and knowing what’s coming up, is there a scene or moment that you’re kind of particularly proud of, or something that you know you really can’t wait for the audience to see?
“A lot of the stuff from the very last episode is the stuff that I’m really looking forward to having the audience experience. As I said in the beginning of the season, we’re establishing Nora as a main character, so she gets a lot of screen time and she needs it because you have to do it early on. We have a lot of Josh stuff; we have a lot of Sally stuff being set up and by the end of the season, we get very Aiden-heavy. So, you know, some of my big moments are in that last episode.”
Moving to Clone Wars – you know, what I love about it is that it has the kid aspect in terms of animation, but it’s really more of an adult show and it goes into more of that territory where the story is concerned. So, how kind of fun is it to play that, especially since you are a fan of Star Wars?
“As you said, it’s not just a kids show. It started like that, but it has really gotten super-sophisticated. And as a Star Wars fan, to grow up with all these theories about how to tell a story and about how you might fare if you’re put in a driver’s seat of a Star Wars character…I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to get a chance to try out my own theories on the vast array of Star Wars characters I’ve played, most recently Darth Maul. I mean, it’s been so much fun. And totally stressful because it’s a fan base that’s very near and dear to my heart and I’m part of this fan base and I certainly don’t want to let them down.”
Do you find yourself bringing anything specific to the role? And obviously, you’ve been doing this for a while, but I mean, initially, did you bring anything? And do you continue to kind of find out things about the character that lets you build on some of the theories that you personally had as a fan?
“Oh, absolutely, yes. The reason I really love Star Wars is the mythology. It’s the mythic stuff; it’s the stuff that’s more akin to Oedipus and Odysseus and Greek myth and all that stuff. That’s the stuff that I really enjoy and that I feel is the most important thing to bring to these characters. Because of all the characters that I’ve played, the major ones at least have had a very definite connection to the Force. Like, if you go back to the Force Unleashed game, you know, just something an actor can do to really help the Force along is like, ‘Ok, yeah, so my character is sort of Han Solo-ish with a little bit of Luke Skywalker in there, but he’s also kind of got a dark side. He’s really like this different mish-mash of different Star Wars characters.’ I mean, the thing I find so important about the Clone Wars is that, ‘Look, there’s a Star Wars for the kids that are growing up now;’ these are the first Star Wars that they’ve ever known. This is Star Wars for them. I’ve met so many kids who have never seen a Star Wars movie but they’re huge Star Wars fans. That’s kind of important! We’re introducing them to the world of this movie that’s in the AFI Top 100 films, we better start getting them to think even on the subconscious level about these issues. So we are somewhat ambitious in terms of the types of stories we want to tell and the things we want to say with this fun animated series we’re doing.”
Right. Well, I think that’s great because like you said, a lot of kids are tuning into the show for the first time…but I think for a lot of the older people that are tuning in, you know, they’ll tune in cause they are fans of the movies; they’re fans of George Lucas… and they’re kind of looking at this as, ‘Ok. Here’s an off-shoot of something I enjoy.’ So when they see all this ambitious stuff and when they see all the effort that you put into it, I think it really resonates with the audience because contrary to what other people may think, even if it’s just a voice-over, I do think that the performers care about these characters and they care about how they portray them.
“Yes. You can absolutely feel when someone cares about a job they’re doing. You can feel it, in the same way that you can feel when someone doesn’t think that the job they’re doing is very cool and we’ve all been there. We’ve all shown up to a movie and you see that one actor or two actors in something that you care a great deal about, and you can tell they don’t. You can tell it was just a job to them. And that, I think, is disturbing and I also think it’s unprofessional. I promised myself a long time ago that I’d never take a job where, I mean…even if I don’t love it, sure, I’ll take a job that I don’t love, if it works for me business-wise. But I will never allow anyone to know that I didn’t love it. I’m never going to. It’s just a terrible thing to do to a fan base. Because there are a lot of people who would be lucky to have that job. As actors, you seriously can put a lot of work in and it can make a real difference to your performance.”
So, can you kind of give us a preview of what we might be expecting from Darth Maul or what’s coming up for Clone Wars in general?
“Well, you know, in the next four episodes, he will not appear. [Laughs] They won’t even tell me really what happens in the next four episodes; all I know is that something goes down with Ahsoka Tano. You know, they keep saying it’s every bit as intense as what we saw in the Darth Maul arc. So I’m as excited to see it as you guys are. And as for Darth Maul, he has told me some stuff and it’s really, really cool. So, I’m very much looking forward to the next phase of that character’s story.”
Being Human airs Mondays at 9/8c on Syfy.