From Smallville to Star Wars to Being Human, actor and lifelong geek Sam Witwer still can’t believe he’s getting paid to do this stuff.
At this point, actor Sam Witwer can almost anticipate the question he’ll be hit with during interviews: Are geeks underdogs? “Whenever I hear that,” he explains, “I’m, like, ‘No. We run the show. What are you talking about?’ That’s how it goes. It’s people with passions and interests who make interesting change in the world, so I’m certainly not afraid to confront and explore my geek side publicly.”
Which Witwer has done repeatedly, whether it’s playing Superman’s enemy, Doomsday, on Smallville, voicing Darth Maul on The Clone Wars, being motion-captured for the role of Starkiller in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed games, or starring as vampire Aidan on Syfy’s Being Human, which has just returned to the airwaves for its third season.
“It all started for me with Star Wars,” Witwer reflects. “Soon after, I was introduced to Star Trek and became fascinated by it. I really got into it when I saw Star Trek IV. What captivated me were the characters. I just thought they were ridiculously charismatic and fun to be around. At one point I was, like, ‘What else have they done?’ It turned out they had done quite a bit. So that was a really great discovery to make. Like I said, my geekiness has been tied up with Star Wars virtually since birth, but I’m into a lot of stuff. As long as it’s good, I’m interested.”
And Witwer’s more than happy to draw anyone he can to the nerd side, whether it’s him and writer-director Frank Darabont trying to educate each other about films they simply have to see (“Frank has never seen Vertigo! So I’m going to pick up the Blu-ray and we’re going to have a screening.”) or introducing the Star Wars saga to Grimm star David Giuntoli — who had somehow never seen the films — in the best order there is. “Seriously,” Witwer declares, teetering on the verge of giddiness, “you have to watch Episode IV, Episode V and then Episodes I through III before you watch Episode VI. It’s like the flashback sequences in Godfather II. It’s incredible.”
And it’s a moment like this one that drives home the strength of Witwer as a performer, because for someone who laughs as much as he does, to watch him transform into an angst-ridden bloodaholic on Being Human is fascinating. And it’s promising to become even more so this season.
The premise of the show — a vampire, werewolf and ghost are roommates — is fairly well known at this point, whether it be from the BBC original or Syfy’s take on the material. But this year, insofar as Aidan is concerned, things are going to become even more intense. “What I really like about it is that we get to explore different sides of Aidan’s personality in a big way,” Witwer says. “We know that he’s an addict; he will always be an addict as long as we do this show. That’s never going to go away. But we get to explore different sides of that. We get to explore the vampire ‘condition,’ also as it applies to the way he’s living his life. He’s been kind of like a mob enforcer for 200 years. He’s also a veteran of several wars, and there’s a little bit of exploration of, ‘You’ve been to war, pal. Do you think you can just go home and pick up your life where you left off? You’re trained to kill. You’re trained for violence and you think you can just switch it off? It’s not that simple.’ We don’t hit you over the head with it, but that element does exist with Aidan. You can see that these things that have happened to him have really done a number on him. He is not what you would call a sane individual. At the same time, there’s a heart there that’s worth fighting for when it comes to the character.
“In a weird way,” Witwer continues, “the focus is shifting when it comes to his condition. The blood addiction will always be there, and it’s not as simple as, ‘If Aidan can cure himself of that, he would be fine.’ Not at all. This guy has been a killer for 200 years and I dare say we understand exactly why by the end of the season.”
And just like that, Witwer snaps out of detailing Aidan’s plight and is back to being the geeky guy who has been given the opportunity to relive childhood passions. “If someone told me I would be adding to the Star Wars mythology when I was a kid, I would have felt they were lying,” he adds. “There was just no way. Superman mythology is something that was very important to me as a kid as well. What’s interesting is that I’ve done non-science-fiction projects, but it seems the ones that people lock into and remember me for and follow me for are these genre projects, which works for me. But the fact is, if I was doing a show about bank robbers, I would geek out with you about bank robbers. Truthfully, I’m very lucky to be involved with stuff that meant a great deal to me as a kid and still means a lot to me now.”