By Aaron Sagers
Around this time last year, Sam Witwer’s career was underground. No, seriously. His vampire character Aidan on “Being Human” was buried alive after trying to kill off vampire royalty. And Darth Maul, the resurrected Sith lord Witwer voices on Cartoon Network’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” was half a man, living in the bowels of a junk planet.
Fast forward a year and Witwer seems anything but underground. Instead, it would seem the actor is breaking through.
Wrapping up its third season, “Being Human” – Syfy’s supernatural series about a werewolf, ghost and vamp living together, adapted from the BBC show of the same name – has provided Witwer a chance to play a leading role alongside costars Sam Huntington and Meaghan Rath. Aidan’s arc has allowed Witwer to create and evolve a character dramatically while also giving him a chance to play a few comedic moments.
Meanwhile, on “The Clone Wars,” Witwer (and, of course, show writers and animators) performed massive character redemption by transforming Maul from a promising, but underused, Sith lackey in “The Phantom Menace,” to full-blown badass villain who slices, dices and manipulates his way to power.
In the world of “Star Wars,” Witwer says this makes him Darth Maul, meaning he pretty much enjoys first right of refusal when it comes to voicing the character – and even extends to him playing the baddie in a Brisk iced tea ad last year and in the “LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out” TV movie, released on DVD last week.
By extension, that especially makes Witwer the Galen Marek aka Starkiller, secret apprentice to Darth Vader, in the canon “The Force Unleashed” video game that bridged the prequels to the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Witwer originated the role, and was the face of Starkiller through mo-cap technology. Though “The Force Unleashed II” underperformed critically, the original was largely well-received and stoked interest in the galaxy far, far away before “The Clone Wars” hit its critically-acclaimed stride.
And let’s face it, right now is not a bad time to be associated with all things “Star Wars” -- as an actor or as a fan like Witwer.
Speaking of fans, Witwer has generated more than a few by turning in multi-episode runs in nerd-friendly shows. He was Crashdown in the rebooted “Battlestar Galactica” and Davis Bloome/Doomsday on “Smallville.” Then there was his turn as a cameo tank zombie in “The Walking Dead” pilot directed by Frank Darabont, with whom Witwer worked on “The Mist.” (The actor made big news last year when he broke the story with ParanormalPopCulture.com about his involvement with the show, as well as his public displeasure with AMC over Darabont’s firing.)
Listen to the buzz stirring around him, and Witwer is poised to either launch into film work in a big way or pick up a lightsaber (or blaster) in a galaxy far, far away. But is all well withing the “Being Human” and “Clone Wars” for the actor?
As of press time, Syfy has not announced a Season Four renewal for the show, and “Clone Wars” was effectively canceled in early March after the Season Five finale. Although new owners Disney promised Lucasfilm Animation would release unaired Season Six “bonus content” -- that would eventually appear somewhere -- fan sites are launching “SaveTheCloneWars” hashtags to keep the show alive or at least bring resolutions to dangling story arcs.
Witwer joined us by phone to talk about the chances of survival of “Being Human,” as well as whether we’ll see more “Clone Wars,” and what impact he thinks he has made on “Star Wars,” and if he might be asked to return to that galaxy.
MTV Geek: Let’s start with “Being Human.” We have two episodes of the season left, so where do you see Aidan’s journey right now?
Sam Witwer: It’s gotten to a point where you can afford to give him the stories that really used to belong to Josh and Sally, which I like very much. And what I mean by that is, for example, in the most recent episode that we had, Josh and Sally were dealing with the life and death stuff, and Aidan was in Romantic-Comedy-Land where he was on a date with this girl … I just love the fact that that’s where Aidan got to land this year in terms of some of the stuff that he’d dodged, because oftentimes, all of the great little funny character moments get to go to Sammy and Meaghan, and I’ve always been kind of a dramatic anchor.
Geek: What is the point where you say, ‘I’ve done everything I’ve needed to do with this and now it’s time to move on to another project?’
Witwer: I feel like that time will come. I don’t know, like a season or two from now, you know? My feeling is that four or five seasons would be ideal for this show in terms of these people dealing with the issues that we’ve been watching them deal with. I’m a big fan of that anyway; I’m a big fan of shows proceeding, doing great stuff, and then finishing on their own terms. As of yet, we have not come anywhere near running dry with this character … for example, the season finale this year, we’re going to learn something very, very important to him, something that is going to make a lot of things kick in.
Geek: What makes Season Three so different for you?
Witwer: Season Three of “Being Human” for me was so exciting, because I’m like, “You know, nothing’s perfect, but this is the best we’ve done; these were the best we’ve done.” Everything makes just a little bit more sense, everything is a little bit more airtight, we really switch in and out of the humor and the drama very, very seamlessly. It’s a fun season to have been involved in because we ironed out a lot of things behind the scenes that allowed us to make a better television show.
Geek: So far there hasn’t been a Season Four renewal announcement…
Witwer: They’re trying to work some stuff out … they’re trying to figure out to what degree our renewal will take place, meaning it could be a standard renewal, or it could be that along with some other stuff. As I understand it, the renewal’s coming. We want to do some cool stuff, and they’re trying to figure out whether they can make it work.
Geek: Is there a discussion about self-containing a season so if it ended on three, the fans would be somewhat satisfied? Or are you more interested in doing the cliffhanger finale?
Witwer: That’s an interesting thing, right? I mean, if things were to go to hell tomorrow, we could probably cut our last episode into something that would at least wrap up the season. It wouldn’t necessarily wrap up the characters in a way that the audience would find extraordinarily satisfying … But as it stands right now, we have some pretty huge cliffhangers …
Geek: Speaking of cliffhangers, we sort of left your Darth Maul storyline in “The Clone Wars” on a cliff. But as far as what we did see, has it been satisfying giving more depth to this character who ultimately didn’t do much in “The Phantom Menace.”
Witwer: Yes, very much so. I mean, that was something that we were building toward from when we first introduced him on the show. I mean, they filled me in on the whole story so that I could prepare for it and appropriately build up the arc … when we were shooting the stuff where Darth Maul’s in that cave and he has, you know, that spider thing going on, I knew where it was heading, and I knew the whole thing about Satine and all that stuff. So, you know, it was really satisfying to just go step-by-step and go like, “Okay, this episode we’re going see that he is now back to his old self, sort of, and he really, really wants to fight Obi-Wan. Okay, next episode, he already fought Obi-Wan. It wasn’t satisfying, so now he’s onto the next thing, and we’re going see that he’s a little bit strategic. Okay, the next episode, we’re going to give him a little bit of a sense of humor. We’re going to do this, we’re going to do that, and really build toward that piece of revenge that he wants on Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
Geek: The show is not returning to Cartoon Network, and we have only heard it is returning as “bonus content.” Have you been having talks about what it’s going to look like next with Disney at the helm?
Witwer: Not really, no. I’ve been asked this all over the place, you know, what’s coming up next. I mean, I understand that there are the episodes that they had completed. We’re going to see those. And that’s really cool, because there’s episodes that I’m very anxious to see as a fan. As for Darth Maul, the last Darth Maul that I recorded was the stuff that you guys saw. I knew what some of the plans were, but [“Clone Wars” Supervising Director] Dave Filoni could tell you more in terms of if there’s any opportunity to continue that. As for where Disney’s taking it, I actually am not totally in the loop. I mean, I have some friends at Lucasfilm, certainly. But I don’t really know what’s going on over there.
Geek: What can we really expect since the show is canceled?
Witwer: There’s stuff they already had complete, and thankfully some of the arcs that they have complete are really incredible “Star Wars” stories. And there’s stuff that people have actively wondered about that they’re going to get some really interesting answers and some more questions about. I’ve seen some of it, and it’s just brilliant.
Geek: Since you’re “in” now, how much do you know that you can’t say about “Star Wars?” When we really get down to brass tacks about the new episodes and the standalones, do you have this brain full of information that you just cannot share yet?
Witwer: Only in generalities, because the people that I know are very good at keeping their NDAs! So they were able to share their general thoughts. Nothing specific. So I’m kind of where everyone else is in terms of that. Have I talked to the people who know? Yes. Have I asked them questions? Absolutely. Did they tell me anything specific? Absolutely not … in terms of the general stuff, I certainly couldn’t say, because I am also under NDA, so even the little scraps of information that they’ve given me, which are, by the way, pretty much utterly useless, even those I couldn’t share.
MTV Geek Bonus Content:
SAM HUNTINGTON TALKS SAM WITWER:
(Witwer’s costar plays werewolf Josh on Syfy’s “Being Human” and had this to say about his fellow “Sam.”)
Samuel Witwer is a top notch individual. Over the past four years he's proven himself to be a noble, gentle, sensitive, honest, earnest, trustworthy, hilarious, smart, caring, strong, brave, beautiful, cumbersome/large, pale-skinned, weird/long-fingered, straight-haired, loud, quiet, sleepy, energetic, private, open, tall-ish, large-chested, small-waisted, driven, cereal-loving, team-playing, problem-solving, white, white, white man.
And weird/long fingered.
I'd take a bullet for Sam Witwer. It's as simple as that.
And that's where we'll leave it for now, MTV Geeks! Check tomorrow for Part Two of our interview with Sam Witwer where he talks more "Being Human," "Star Wars"...and beyond!
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