The following is a transript of our interview with Sam Witwer at Dragon Con 2011. Huge thanks to Aaron Goins for writing this up for us!
You can listen to the audio version on episode 14 of the Star Wars Report podcast at about 14 minutes into the episode.
Riley: We are here with Mr. Sam Witwer aka Starkiller aka Davis Bloom. You were even a sparkly vampire yesterday.
Sam Witwer: Oh yeah. So I’m doing a bunch of pictures and stuff and Sam Huntington, my costar on Being Human, is getting glittered up by this lady, this woman, and there was a bunch of people over there and so they are calling me over. It’s my turn to get glittered up, and I really don’t want to you know. “No no no no,” and they are pulling me over and then I look and Carrie Fisher comes right up to me and starts glittering me up and I’m like “Oh ok.” Well I guess I can’t say no to Princess Leia, so I got heavily glittered. I was covered in it.
Riley: Something I’ve kind of wondered is, a lot of roles you take, say with Smallville Davis Bloom and your current role in Being Human and Starkiller, a lot of those are characters you can really relate to and like often but they kind of have this dark core to them. How do you get into character and how do you portray someone who might be considered pure evil. How do you maintain that likability?
Sam Witwer: I think you have to play them all as good guys. Davis Bloom was sold to me as a good guy when they offered me that part. I think you have to think of these people as people who all have good intentions but are dealing with various challenges. Starkiller for example was a good kid deep down but was a guy who worked for a terrible organization. He worked for Darth Vader and he did all these bad things. Vader raised him badly so he was confused I think that’s something we can all relate to in terms of a character and the challenges they face. We all want to be better than the way we are right? I think that’s it. The character always has to be reasonable to the actor that is playing them.
Bethany: I know I have many favorite characters and I can never pick which one is my absolute favorite, but do you have a favorite character to play?
Sam Witwer: Aiden. Being Human is an extreme challenge because I not only have to play this addict, this guy who is trying to recover from being an addict, but there’s also this vampire thing that makes it so that I have to reinvent the character at various times, periods in history. When they gave me the script he talked like a normal guy and I’m like great he talks like a normal guy, but then you have to ask yourself “why?,” because a guy that is 257 years old is not gonna talk the way that we do. He has so much more life experience. He’s so much more, um, so much more stuff to draw from and a command of the language that’s so much greater than ours. So then I reasoned, well he’s hiding. He’s learned to disguise himself based on the time that he lives in. Depending on what a 25 year old is like in 2011, that’s what he’ll give you, or in the 70’s or in the 50’s, that’s what he’ll give you. We get to go this season into the 30’s, so we get to see an entirely new version of the character. We get to keep adding layers and layers and layers to this guy which is really really fun. But then also from a pure fan perspective, I love Starkiller. I really love that guy. I think he’s cool.
Riley: He’s a very unique character and I think fit really well into that time period between Episode III and Episode IV, because it was a very dark period in the history of Star Wars.
Sam Witwer: The interesting thing about Starkiller, I always conceived of him as a photo negative of Luke Skywalker, right, and I think the reason that character caught on to people these days, back in the day in the 70’s we had Luke Sky walker who was this well-meaning bright eyed farm boy. He had a good upbringing and he goes off and he’s naïve and he has challenges, but he goes off and he goes on his hero’s journey. The thing with Starkiller is, this is a guy who was raised by a terrible terrible man. He works for this awful organization, he basically works for the Empire. Look, in the 70’s I wasn’t there. They were definitely cynical, they had things to deal with, but I don’t know that they had the media machine that we have these days where we just have this blanket of white noise that covers us, and we don’t know who to listen to. We don’t know who our friends are, who our enemies are, who’s lying to us, who’s telling us the truth. We just have this sickening feeling that we are being manipulated, and that’s Starkiller all over. So in a weird way Starkiller is Luke Skywalker for the 21st century. I think we all relate to this feeling of not knowing what we should be doing. If you really break down that character it’s brilliant. Hayden Blackman really nailed it.
Bethany: We were in your Smallville panel the other day and you mentioned that something you geek out about was Star Wars. I was wondering, why do you like Star Wars?
Sam Witwer: Why do I like Star Wars? Because it’s an amazing parable for not being a @#$% (Nerfherder). It’s like six movies, the theme of it is, don’t be a @#$%. But no, it really breaks down mythology but also morality in some very easy to work with terms, and I really enjoy that. If it didn’t have that heart to it I wouldn’t be interested in it.
Riley: Speaking of Star Wars, another project that you have done is Clone Wars where you voiced The Son. What were the differences between The Son and Starkiller in the way you approached the characters?
Sam Witwer: I was afraid that The Son was gonna sound too much like Starkiller so I said to Dave Filoni, “Yeah I don’t know man, I’m afraid, is it ok if he sounds like Starkiller? Cause it’s my voice. How should I do this?” And he goes, “You know, Starkiller had a connection to the Dark Side of the Force and you are basically playing the Dark Side of the Force as The Son. So it’s ok if a little bit of Starkiller is in there.” When he said that I was like well then if Starkiller’s connection to the Dark Side means we can hear a little bit of him in The Son, then we should also hear Darth Maul, we should also hear Darth Vader, we should also hear the Emperor.
Riley: All with very distinct voices by the way.
Sam Witwer: Oh absolutely, and never to do a full on impression of those characters, but to give a moment where it dips in, where he says (in The Son’s voice) “Anakin, join me and together we can end this destructive conflict” or whatever he says. It’s very Vaderesque. You dip into the Vader rhythm. (in The Son’s voice) “Join me.” There are moments when he dips into the Emperor. He says something like (in The Son’s voice) “How simple you make it light and dark as if there is one without the other”
Riley: Kind of has that Ian McDiarmid cadence there.
Sam Witwer: Exactly. And I did the Emperor for Force Unleashed so I was really happy to just dip into these different characters. Little Darth Maul moments and little things that weren’t necessarily in the fan’s faces. That was subtle enough that it would evoke these feelings from the other movies, you know.
Riley: I know you probably can’t answer this, so I won’t get you in trouble. I’ll phrase it this way. Would you like to return to Clone Wars, even if it’s not The Son, but return to do voiceover in The Clone Wars?
Sam Witwer: I’ve already returned to The Clone Wars to do voiceover.
Riley: Oh really?
Sam Witwer: I am currently, as we speak, working on episodes, many episodes for a character that I have not played… well… it’s… what can I say without getting fired?
Riley: We don’t want you to get in trouble or anything.
Sam Witwer: I’m told the announcement is gonna happen in a couple months.
Riley: Nice tease!
Sam Witwer: It’s an amazing character. It is an amazing, amazing character. I’ll put it to you this way. I was driving over to a buddy’s house and Dave Filoni calls me up, gets me on the phone, and he says, “Listen, so we want you to come back to work and we need you to play…” and he tells me the character’s name. And I almost had a car accident. And he says, “Can you do it?” And I’m like yes. And then I worried about later whether I could do it or not. But I was like yes, yes, I will do that. So it is a tremendous opportunity and I can’t wait for you guys to find out about it.
Bethany: Awesome. We are really looking forward to that. I’ve played piano since I was very small. You went to Julliard and you are a musician yourself.
Sam Witwer: Well I went to Julliard for drama.
Bethany: Ok, I was wondering why did you choose drama over music?
Sam Witwer: Well, I’m a little bit of a jack of all trades. I do everything a little bit good. For example I am not the best musician, or I am not the best this or the best that. Really as an actor you have to be able to pretend. At any one point you may be playing a musician so you have to pretend that you are an incredible musician, or you must pretend you’re this guy or pretend you’re this athlete. So if you can do everything a little bit well, that fits better for an actor. As a musician I am very second rate.
Bethany: I think I would probably disagree.
Sam Witwer: I don’t know. Check out The Crashtones on iTunes. The Crashtones is my band. I’m trying to kick out a second album.
Bethany: Hear that guys. Check it out!
Sam Witwer: Check it out!
Riley: Well Sam Witwer, thank you so much for coming on. Appreciate it!
Sam Witwer: Thanks a lot guys.