It’s hard to put my finger on it — the moment that I realized that Sam Witwer was really one of us — a nerd, a geek, a fan. Was it his hilarious Star Wars-centric voicemail greeting? The way he bemoaned his Being Human character’s use of vamp super speed or the way he passionately spoke to me about those who would deny Frank Darabont’s contribution to The Walking Dead? How about all of the above? Simply put, talking to Witwer was like talking to some guy you’re lined up next to while waiting to get into a Comic Con panel. The difference is he’s the guy who headlines those panels and he really doesn’t seem to be fazed by it.
In a wide-ranging, 2 part interview that touched on the above topics and The Clone Wars, The Muppets, the comic book superhero he wants to play, whether he would stay on Being Human if his castmates left, and the chances of him joining Darabont’s new series, L.A. Noir, Witwer came off as easygoing, affable and honest. A regular guy who doesn’t BS, an actor who is too excited by the work he does to come off as jaded.
Check out Part 1 today and look out for Part 2 tomorrow, only on NerdBastards.com.
I just watched the Clone Wars episode. It’s the first time that I actually watched the show. I’m gonna try to find time to actually go back now, which sucks because its like 4 seasons in and it’s at the end of the 4th season, isn’t it?
Sam Witwer: You know, it’s interesting, it’s partially serialized and partially not. You can definitely jump around the Star Wars universe to all these different characters, and they tell these one shot stories, sometimes stories that last 4 episodes, and then there are other stories that have to do with the greater continuity with what’s happening — so it’s something that’s pretty easy to catch up on, you pick up whats happening pretty quick. I assume you liked it if you’re talking about going back and checking it out.
Oh yeah, definitely. How do I put this? I thought it was more for kids originally, before I went into it, and now I see that there is definitely stuff that appeals to me and the animation is crazy good.
SW: It’s insane, right? You know, the thing is, the assumption that it was for kids comes from the fact that when it started, it was. You have to think of the Clone Wars kind of in the same way as you consider the original Star Wars trilogy, the first movie — it’s light, happy, there’s good guys there’s bad guys, and its optimistic. That’s sort of where the Clone Wars began, good guys and bad guys, it was kind of a very simple kids show, but every year there has been an effort to introduce some more adult content and age the series along with the generation of kids that are growing up with it. You know, so it’s actually becoming an older series as it goes on. And so now, with this Darth Maul stuff, were now officially in Empire Strikes Back territory as far as the life of the series goes, because Empire Strikes Back is darker and more adult, and that’s where the series is headed. And I kinda love that concept — what series decides to change itself slowly over time to appeal to a different audience? Only someone like George could do that.
Where is Darth Maul right now mentally, where has he been, and where is he going?
SW: Where is he? I will say that it is possible that people are going to see more elements of the Darth Maul that they thought they were going to get, you know, because when they met him this season, he’s not what you expected — he’s out of his mind, clearly part of that is our responsibility as story tellers, he’s been gone for 10 years.
It seems like that would be really fun to play also, look at Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys, playing fully insane seems to me like it would be a buffet for you.
SW: I’ll tell you, it’s really challenging, but we all felt, what I felt was that this is an opportunity to show the true nature of the dark side of the Force, because it’s not about having cool laser sword fights or throwing lightning or being able to do these flips — that’s not the dark side. The dark side is madness and despair and shame, and it’s just the worst, it’s awful. It’s agony, that’s at the center of it all. And so here was an opportunity to look at it completely untarnished, and look into the mouth of madness as it were. It’s a cool opportunity. Now coming from there, the character does evolve. With Savage and others, there is a motivation to put this character back together, and when that happens, that’s trouble for everyone.
If the live action show came to fruition, would you wanna do more Starkiller, or would you do something that’s a little more opposite of the dark side? Is there appeal in that?
SW: I wanna play a guy who is in the center, in the middle. I think that’s part of the appeal of the Starkiller character, he really has aspects of both and I would love to do that. That seems to be the biggest challenge. To play a straight up good guy would be great but, you know, to play a guy whose got some things that he’s struggling with — I think it would be even more interesting.
Who was your guy when you first found Star Wars?
SW: My favorite character is Luke Skywalker; it’s his growth. Talk about characters who struggle with things, well, that guy struggled with a lot and he starts as a naïve kid and goes through hell and then comes out on the other side as a man who can make his own decisions, who does what he feels is right, not necessarily what anyone is telling him to do. That includes what the Emperor is telling him to do, what Darth Vader is telling him to do, but also Obi Wan and Yoda, he disregards their advice and finds a solution to the overall problem of the story that no one expected. Obi Wan is saying to him, “Hey, there’s this Vader guy and you’ve gotta kill him. Okay, all right, well, you tell me he’s your dad? Well, you’ve still gotta kill him.” Meanwhile, Luke is saying, “What if we don’t, there’s an option here, maybe we can bring him back,” and Obi Wan is like, “Nope, no way, that’s not gonna work. Kill him, you must. If you don’t kill him, we’re all screwed.” And Luke disregards that. It’s a really great story for that character; that’s the saga right there, it comes down to that guy’s decision.
You’re one of us–do you have a lightsaber?
SW: Lucasfilm has provided me with many forms of lightsabers, and some really talented fans have made me a Starkiller lightsaber, so that’s pretty cool.
What’s the crown jewel of the collection?
SW: I think I really like… I bought this replica Darth Vader helmet after the Force Unleashed, because I thought that that was, I don’t know, appropriate to have him sort of looming over me in my office.
That beats the crap out of the crown jewel of my collection. I have a life-sized Gonzo. I’m more…
SW: Thats awes… are you kidding? Dude, that’s awesome!
Dude, I’m more hardcore than that, but that’s like the crown jewel. It’s one of those Master Replica things.
SW: I didn’t know they made a Gonzo. That’s awesome. I’ve been looking to get more into the Muppets, I obviously watched a lot of them when I was a kid, but I don’t really remember very much, and I just bought the disc sets. Well dude, congratulations, the crown jewel of your collection is not lame.
I appreciate that, I’d still like a Vader helmet or a lightsaber…
Let me ask you: with regard to Mr. Darabont, your admiration is clear — is there a chance you might be able to find some time to pop up as a guest star on LA Noir?
SW: Well, I don’t think there’s any harm in saying that he wrote a part for me, but I can’t, I’m not available, can’t do it. Which is tough. I was reading script pages when he was writing it, when he was in the middle of writing it, when it wasn’t done, and I remember just being like, “Dammit, I’d really love to be involved in this but I cannot.” I cannot join the show, I have my own show.
I suppose yeah, there is a chance that I could show up as a guest. I’ve certainly told him the limits of what my guest starring abilities are every year, which is a certain number of episodes I can do on another show, so he’s aware of that, but it comes down to: does it serve the story? Is there a part that he could come up with that needs to be in that story that he thinks I’d be good for?
It’s like the whole good problem to have thing, I have a phantom resume which are things that people have asked me to do but I couldn’t do because I was unavailable, and LA Noir is at the top of that last in terms of projects that I could have been involved in.
Do you feel like some people maybe tried to diminish his contribution to Walking Dead after he was gone, maybe in an effort to win the divorce?
SW: They can say whatever they want about him not having a very profound impact on the series, but if you like the production design, if you like the design of the zombies, and if you like the cast and dozens of other things, none of those things would have been there if it weren’t for Frank. Very simple, that’s objective, that is objective truth right there; it has nothing to do with opinion. That’s simply the truth. People like Greg Nicotero, or Greg Melton, or the cast, none of these people worked for what they normally worked for in terms of cost, they all took pay cuts because they love Frank. Some of them went to fucking high school with Frank, so no, there were a lot of favors called in, tons of favors, Frank’s favors, that were called in to create that show and to create it for much cheaper than you’d get it anywhere else. So no, sorry, if you think that those things are minimal contributions, then yes, Frank Darabont’s contribution to The Walking Dead was minimal.
Check out Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Sam Witwer as we talk about his dream superhero role, whether he would stay on Being Human if his castmates left, and some genuine hints on where the show is going as it nears the end of it’s second season.