Sci-Fi Storm

A talk with Being Human‘s Sam Witwer – vampires, Sith Lords, and asking to be killed off

by on Dec.12, 2012, under Television

I had the fortune of talking with Being Human‘s Sam Witwer, who plays the vampire Aidan, ahead of Being Human‘s Season 3 premiere next month on January 14th on Syfy. We talked about Being Human, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and how he originally turned down the audition for Being Human because it was for the role of a vampire…

Doc: The third season is coming up, in just about a month I think…

Sam: Yes, yes, January 14th…

Doc: …and obviously there are some interesting things happening with your character. When it was left at the end of the second season, you were kind of boxed up and buried alive…

Sam: Yeah, yeah, that sucks.

Doc: So how much time is going to pass between the end of the second season and the beginning of the third?

Sam: A year and a half.

Doc: And assuming that you actually do get dug up at the beginning of Season 3…

Sam: Yeah, they eventually wanted me to be on the show…

Doc: Obviously that sort of time passage, buried like that, is going to have repercussions for your character. From the preview shots, your appearance has changed – you grew a beard, you grew out your hair…are we going to see the level of repercussions of what has happened to him throughout the season, or will it be dealt with in a couple of episodes and then everything is back to normal?

Sam: We definitely see it throughout the season. Some of the big hurdles people will think he will get past in the first episode or the second episode…they stick with him in a way that I think is pretty engaging. He’s not quite on his game this season, he doesn’t quite know how to do what he used to do, in terms of being socially adept, or able to handle various situations. It’s definitely an extremely cool journey for him. But his particular story kind of warms up as the season goes on. So it’s not something people will see right away.

Doc: Last season your character tended to follow his own story most of the season…

Sam: He’s off on his own a lot.

Doc: Is that going to continue, or will it come back to the group working together again?

Sam: It’s very much group oriented this season, and I’m happy to say that as I happen to like hanging out with those people. It’s definitely one of the strength of the show and one of the strengths of the season that we get time to spend together as a group, so we get to get to see them involved with each other’s stories more.

Doc: It’s a great group of people that you work with. I’ve talked with Sam (Huntington) and Kristen (Hager) back in October, and Meagan (Rath) as well at dinner, and they all seem to be great, friendly people…

Sam: Very much so.

Doc: I understand you guys even hang out together?

Sam: Oh, we not only hang out on the sets there but we actually hang out on the weekends…we actually all like very much spending time together. It’s a really idea situation for a working environment to like who you are working with that much and to respect them that much. But that’s really the thing, the kind of gold we struck when we were cast, to love hanging out. Thankfully this season, they do exploit that. In fact, there are moments where things kind of go off the rails a little bit. There are scenes where everything is going as planned, the scene is progressing just fine, and then one of us just stars going off for a little bit. Meghan Rath starts sexually harassing me the way I do with her OFF camera, she decided to wait for the cameras to roll…there a lot of really fun stuff like that that happens.

Doc: Do they let you keep that on film?

Sam: Oh yeah! A lot of that makes it into the episode. The writers and Anna Fricke, our producers, like the fact that we’re friends and write to that. I’m happy to say that they utilize it.

Doc: I’ve seen a lot of TV shows where the cast really, really gets along, and it shows…it makes it more interesting.

Sam: Yes, absolutely it does.

Doc: Your particular character, being a vampire who is over 250 years old, obviously has a much greater potential for backstory, and we’ve seen some of that with the flashbacks. Will that continue as well?

Sam: Yes, definitely…we go back further than we’ve ever gone with the flashbacks this year, and tell a very, very important story to my character’s development. It’s a story I never thought we’d actually ever get to, one that I didn’t know in its entirety but I knew something like this had happened. So it’s a real pleasure to go back that far and to develop that story. And we spend four episodes in that particular time period. So it’s substantial. Definitely substantial. And definitely the most challenging group of flashbacks I’ve ever had to do. It required more of me. The character, every time we go to a different time period…when I got the role, I asked (producers) Jeremy Carver and Anna Fricke, I said, “Do you want…260 years old in his speech, or sound like a 25 year old guy?” And they said, “He sounds like a 25 year old guy.” So I said, “OK”, but then you have to have that make sense as an actor. It doesn’t make any sense that a 260 year old guy would sound like a 25 year old guy. So you surmise, “OK, well then this is a cover. This is him protecting himself and making sure no one knows he’s 260 years old. But that also requires that every time you do a flashback, he must fit with the period. He must talk the way that someone of that time would talk. And so the further you go back in the flashbacks, the more work that it is for me in terms of trying to figure out how to pull that off credibly, especially with the time I’m given, because I’m basically on set every day, and then when it comes to prepare for these things there is very little time. But it is fun given the challenge of reinventing the character through all these various stories, creating a guy who walks and talks differently. You start finally getting your money’s worth out of all that drama school training.

Doc: It’s like playing multiple characters, but not…it’s all really the same, you stretch yourself further.
Sam: Yes.

Doc: Do you get much say in what goes in to that backstory, or is it all left to the writers?

Sam: It’s really up to the writers. I certainly sounded off about certain issues. We have a very wonderfully collaborative relationship, the writers and the actors, and so certainly I was in there swimming with them trying to make those stories as good as they can be, but ultimately it’s them as to where it goes. We can make suggestions, but it’s the actor’s job to flesh things out, make them specific and … get the characters where the writers want them to be. We’re there to help them – we’re all there to help each other.
Doc: Back when the show started, interest in vampires was on the rise due to a certain franchise, but not with your typical vampire culture fans…what drew you to the role of a vampire?

Sam: What drew me to the role had nothing to do with the vampire thing, in fact the vampire thing caused me to turn down the audition at first, which would have been a terrible mistake, and it was a mistake a friend of mine didn’t allow me to make. A friend of mine named Laura Terry got a hold of me and insured that I got the audition back, because she said, “You know, you haven’t read the script,” and I’m like “Sure I have,” and she said, “No you didn’t, you didn’t read the script because you would be chomping at the bit to audition for this.” So I went back, read the script, and felt very, very foolish. The reason was that the story they principally wanted to tell with Being Human was the story of a guy who was a recovering drug addict, and the vampire thing was treated like heroin addiction. So that was very, very interesting. It’s not that I have anything particularly against the vampire thing; it’s just that there is so much of it, you know, “Why do we need another one?” Then I read the script, “Oh, here’s why…” A very cool story you could tell about a guy who’s battling addiction.

Doc: Right around that time, it seemed like vampires were starting to show up in everything. But this story was completely different. It wasn’t, “He’s a vampire, doing vampire things…”, he’s trying not to…like you said, treating it as a drug addiction, so it has real world story behind it.

Sam: That’s the idea. That’s the hope.

Doc: You’ve also had a lot to do recently in the Star Wars universe. You’ve started off several years ago with the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed where you’re the primary character in the game, and more recently with Star Wars: The Clone Wars doing the voice of the miraculously revived Darth Maul, and even with the Lego Star Wars spoof you also voiced Darth Maul in that as well. What was it like working for Star Wars, which is the ultimate sci-fi fan’s dream?

Sam: It’s every bit as cool as you’d think – it turns you into a bigger fan that you were before. I was already a huge Star Wars fan, and really knew my stuff, but just sort of working for these guys…it can be all consuming. It’s really, really fun. I dreamed of working on a Star Wars project since I was a kid. So to actually contribute to that mythology in my own small way is a tremendous privilege and an honor, and a great responsibility as well, because you don’t want to get it wrong. It’s a wonderful mythology. The Clone Wars have gotten so good at telling stories in that world, it’s fascinating. It’s really fascinating. Especially to be Darth Maul, to bring this really, really dark element to the show is challenging, to keep it within the confines of Star Wars, but at the same time make it psychologically messed up, interesting like that. And I’ll tell you, if people think they’ve seen dark, they haven’t yet. It gets horrifically dark in upcoming episodes this season. People will see why the first several episodes of this season, that there are lighter episodes, because they are trying to balance out some very, very dramatic stuff that happens when the dark comes.

Doc: So we will see Darth Maul more this season?

Sam: Yes, we will see him again. We’ll see quite a bit of him in fact.

Doc: You also had a role in another popular franchise, Battlestar Galactica, at least early on. But I heard that didn’t quite work out the way you had hoped.

Sam: Well, yeah. It was an interesting thing. They were adding another series regular to the show. And when I arrived there, I think they had to ask the really hard question, like, do we really need another regular on the show. We’ve have like twelve other characters that we’ve established that we need to get screen time to. And they were established in the miniseries so they already had a leg up. So, my character, it was hard to find a place for him, and when I was calling the producers on that, they certainly saw what I was talking about. They didn’t hold it against me, like waving a flag or blowing a whistle on this. The good news though is that eventually when it came time to talk about the second season, I went to (producer) David Eick and went, “Listen, man, you’re paying me series regular money to hang out and not do particularly a lot. Why don’t you save your money, and add some explosions with that money, and give my character a proper death? Like a really kind of cool, shocking demise?” And so they went in that direction. And thankfully they also corroborated that story on the Battlestar Blu-ray, in the commentary for “33”, so I don’t just get to walk around like an idiot trying to convince people that I asked to be killed off Battlestar Galactica. They did me the kindness of paying me some complements while at the same time expressing that I was telling the truth. Because ultimately, dude, I wanted to just make an impression on that show, make a little bit of a splash, create something a little bit cool that they could use for an episode. My original intention was to come on and do, like, an episode. So to be on there for as long as I was, and then ultimately in the second season get to have a storyline that centered around my character that lasted for three episodes – that was a tremendous privilege for a show that is that good. I was very lucky to be involved with them, and I watched the show all the way through its completion – I was a huge fan.

Doc: I understand that you’re a musician; it’s kind of your other love. You have a band, called the Crashtones. You had a [asin=B000FSMK7S]CD out several years ago[/asin]. I listened to a bit of it…very…I don’t want to use the word “strange”…a different mix of music styles as I went through the tracks. How would you describe the music?

Sam: Oh, man, I think you just did it. Very much a mix of different styles, all kind of vying for attention from each other and that’s really what I’m intending to do, something unusual with lots of different styles, all mixed together.

Doc: Any chance of more music in the future?

Sam: Certainly. Really, it’s all about time. Because a lot of my time is taken up with Being Human, and trying to make things happen for various projects, and trying to get some stuff off the ground. When can I find time to put finishing touches on this album I’ve had half-completed on my hard drive for a long time. That’s really what I’m working on, freeing up the time and just hammering it out. I really just need to write a bunch a lyrics and I’ll be ready to mix a second album. What it used to be is this was my way of being creative, that no one could stop me from doing it. When you’re an actor, you have to audition. You “ask permission” to do your job. The thing with the music situation for me is I didn’t have to audition. No one could tell me I could or couldn’t do it, so I did it, and did it on my own, and had fun with it. Nowadays it’s something I’m trying to get back to, while I’ve been so fortunate to be working happily for the past several years.

Doc: Any other projects coming up?

Sam: Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff going on. Who knows what’s going to see the light of day. I’m working on developing something with my buddy Glenn Howerton from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), we have a comedic idea we’re trying to push, and there’s a couple other things, but it’s nothing I can speak of yet, but I’m definitely busy.

Doc: Anything else?

Sam: I can tell you that Season 3 I think is our best stuff for our show by a long shot. I think it is very much the show that I was hoping to be involved in.

Doc: Thanks for talking with us…

Sam: Thanks for being patient!

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