By Aaron Sagers
Geek: Because you have played in the “Star Wars” sandbox enough, if a role comes up in the new episodes, do you have to pursue it and fight for it, or is it more like, “Hey, we know you’re over there, we’ll come to you”?
Witwer: It is a very good question. With Disney in the picture, I don’t really know how it all works. I mean, in the past, the “Force Unleashed” thing led directly to “The Clone Wars” thing, and then you know, fast forward, I’m Darth Maul and Brisk Iced Tea wants Darth Maul in their iced tea ads, so they have to hire me. I don’t really know how that goes from then on. If I’m to assume that things work the way that they’ve always worked, then yeah, I’m still Darth Maul. And they go to me for stuff, and that’s really how they operate. But you know, in terms of how that translates to the films, I mean, look, there are a couple people in that building that are in the room and would like to see me get my shot. So, you know, we’ll see. But I mean, I’d have to audition just like anyone else … I imagine there will be parts I’m right for, and parts that I’m not so right for. So who really knows? All I know is I’d certainly be grateful for the opportunity to show what I can do … I feel like I would do an okay job in that audition room if someone invited me in there.
Geek: There have been some dark days during “Star Wars” where the excitement, especially after the prequels, faded. Then it seemed to build anew. Do you think these projects you’ve been involved with — “The Force Unleashed,” and then “The Clone Wars” after that — stoked Disney’s interest in making more?
Witwer: (laughs) You want my honest answer to that? Abso-f*&king-lutely, yes. Yes. All the people that were involved in those projects were a part of that. And I mean, Jesus Christ, the way that it happened, and I defy anyone who says that we’re wrong about this… “Force Unleashed” and “The Clone Wars” movie came out at the same time [in 2008], and “Clone Wars” … it was put in an arena that it wasn’t ready to be put in. It was put in theaters as a method of announcing itself, and as a method of getting kids to be aware of this new “Star Wars,” right? But what no one told the theatergoers is that this was a bunch of episodes strung together into a theatrical presentation. This wasn’t something that they spent theatrical presentation budget or theatrical presentation time on. This was the beginning of the TV show. George really liked it, was enthusiastic about it, and wanted to show it to people. He wanted to announce the show. But it was stuff that was made on a TV budget with a TV schedule. It should’ve been told to the public so they could’ve set their expectations correctly, you know what I mean?
So “Clone Wars” didn’t necessarily get started out as strong as it could’ve, right? That’s where “Force Unleashed” comes in. “Force Unleashed” came out and made a hell of an impression on people…
Every other interview that I’ve had, someone’s asked me about “Force Unleashed.” And you know, like you said, it came out in ’08! So clearly we made an impact, and you know, I’ve seen enough kids and adults dressed as my character to realize that people like that character … “Force Unleashed” came out, we bought time for “The Clone Wars.” “Clone Wars,” in that time, got better and better and better, and then by the time that people were coming down off the whole “Force Unleashed” thing, “Clone Wars” was delivering its own sophisticated storytelling that was interesting our demographic.
In terms of the fan base, I’m glad you brought that up, because frankly, “Force Unleashed” bought time for that to happen. And so, it’s hilarious, because no one has ever asked me that question, and me and people who were there on the ground floor have talked about this.
Geek: Do you think there is more to do with Starkiller in a standalone movie, video game or in some other project?
Witwer: I think that the most appropriate place for him to continue would be in video games. If Disney looks at what franchises have been successful for LucasArts, they’re going to see “Force Unleashed” up there because that was one of the most successful “Star Wars” games they’ve ever done. The trick is if they’re going to do a third, first of all, it’s got to be after they’ve gotten past the Episode VII hump. It’s just, you know what I mean? You really have to put all of your muscle behind that project. So I don’t think you’re going to see a “Force Unleashed” before Episode VII comes out, and then after that, who knows what the company’s priorities are going to be?
They should definitely finish that story because it has a cliffhanger where Darth Vader gets captured. And I think, you know, any “Star Wars” fan knows (laughs) that it’s a terrible idea … That needs to be finished up in a really cool way, and it very well could be. Like I said, financially, that series really performed. The one thing I would like to say is that if you’re going to do it, you got to give enough time to make a game of proper length. While “Force Unleashed II” played better than the first one, and had a really cool story, it wasn’t long enough. And that (laughs)…the people I would throw under the bus for that is no longer with the company, compliments of people like George Lucas.
Geek: I thought the first game was strong, but the second game was a little bit disappointing for that reason …
Witwer: Well, the people who were making the decisions, not only didn’t really like video games, but didn’t understand them. And they really didn’t like the content being produced at the company, to be honest. And again, I can say this now because that was years ago, you know? These people are no longer making decisions, thank god. But yeah, it was a corporate decision. They really didn’t understand video games, how they were made, who plays them, all that stuff.
Geek: At the end of the day, that sucks because Sam Witwer’s name is attached to that.
Witwer: You’re really hitting on something there, because ultimately, yeah, I’m not there, I’m not creating this, I’m not creating that, but when I’m doing press for it, what I’m talking about is what I hope it will be. You know what I mean? Because no one really knows what it’s going to be until it’s released, until you have it finished … So yeah, it is being put into a difficult situation when the product falls short, and it’s not long enough. It puts you a little bit in the hot seat.
Geek: In “The Empire Strikes Out” LEGO movie, you get to play a little of the comedic side you’re missing in “Being Human,” right?
Witwer: You wouldn’t think of it this way sometimes, but Aidan is actually a pretty funny character. It’s something that I certainly didn’t have much experience with up until “Being Human.” I mean, like, when I was in college with everyone, when I was in conservatory training to be an actor, everyone thought that I was going to go and just try to join “SNL” because all I’d do was be ridiculous the whole time. The teachers would give me some assignment to create some dramatic scene, and I would show up and do a big comedic sketch, get my classmates to laugh at me, basically. That’s all I ever did. And then as soon as I get out in the world, and I’m starting to get hired, all I’m doing is really intense dramatic roles …
So then when I get hired for “Being Human,” they’re expecting me to be funny, but the good news is, well, the good and bad news is like, “Yeah, we want you to be funny, but we don’t want you to be ridiculous. Your character has to be the sort of cool and collected guy. You need to play it totally straight, not like it’s a sitcom, and it’s got to be funny.” And, you know, it took a little while to really get the hang of how that goes. But it’s one of the coolest things about “Being Human”: They never really ask you to do anything that’s easy.
They’re always asking you to do really difficult stuff. So then, by the time you get over to “The Empire Strikes Out,” that is easier for me, because it’s being ridiculous … I guess I just kind of decided, because there’s this brotherly rivalry between Darth Maul and Darth Vader, that it just felt right to play Darth Maul as kind of like Keanu Reeves. Kind of like Ted from “Bill & Ted.” So you’re going to hear a little bit of that in Darth Maul.
Geek: What about other projects? Are you looking at movie scripts?
Witwer: In terms of movie stuff, the scripts have not really caught my attention. I’m trying to get an animated show off the ground with Glenn Howerton from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” So we have a script for that, and we’re working with an animation company to put together a promotional piece that we’ll use to try to sell it to whoever we hope will pay us to do it … But you know, waiting for scripts is tricky because not a lot of people are writing really, really great scripts. Beyond that, even if the script is great, there’s no guarantee that it’s all going to come together, because there’s so many things that are entirely out of your control that have to work out for a movie to be anywhere near good.
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MEAGHAN RATH ON SAM WITWER:
(Rath plays ghost/pseudo-zombie Sally on Syfy’s Being Human, and had this to say about her costar)
Samuel Stewart Witwer in a nutshell: A grown-up muscle-baby, specialist in areas such as film, fanboy literature, Frank Darabont and Schwarzenegger. He’s a master of performing arts in all its various forms.
Strengths include: intense dedication, rigorous work ethic, immense sensitivity. Loyalty and generosity rank highly with this species.??Weaknesses include: large-eyed woman, candy, ooey-gooey chocolate cake, prone to sunburns.
Physical traits: Sculpted by the hands of Zeus himself, high cheek-boned with broodish gaze, hair thick and black as night, expression often one of “Oh, were you going to sit here?”
Demeanor: Ranges greatly between well-adjustment to burst of extreme energy and explosive sexuality bordering on assault.
Assessment: A dangerous, loose cannon of an ally who will fight by your side, fall asleep beside you, and lick the plate you made for him.