Being Human USA Interview: Sam Witwer On Playing Vampire Aidan
Sam Witwer – who plays the vampire Aidan in the US version of Being Human – is a bit of a geek, and he doesn’t mind admitting it. Hell, he seems to like positively flaunting it (as you’ll discover).
Which makes the fact that this interview happened at at time of great turmoil in the annals of geekery so much more bizarre. Because not only does SFX interview Witwer the day after the UK version of Being Human’s final ever episode, but literally during the course of the interview – in which we talk about him voicing for Darth Maul for Star Wars: The Clone Wars – news breaks that Disney has cancelled that show as well. Not that either of us know it at the time, but it’s the first thing somebody tells me in the office when I put the phone down; presumably Sam Witwer is being told the news too. Weird.
But that was later. Here’s how it started…
SFX: Yesterday saw the very last episode of our Being Human broadcast.
Sam Witwer: “Indeed and I hear it was great.”
It was a bit of a stunner, yeah. Did you realise that our Being Human was coming to an end?
“I didn’t know until someone told me earlier. Five seasons, I think that’s a good number. You know, I can only speak for myself, but if I were to have my way, about my own show, we would go five seasons as well and that would be it. That, I think, would be ideal, because you don’t want to overstay your welcome. You want to have the ideas to continue to be fresh and not have it become stale.”
But you get a lot more episodes in a season than we do; by the time you’ve done five years you would have done, how many hours?
“115 or something… Something like that. Yeah, we do 13 a season. I find 13 is just right. I think you don’t want to go much further than that if you want to maintain a quality factor.”
Did you ever check out the British version?
“Well, when we started doing our version the actors had made a deal. We decided that we were not going to watch the British version because the characters needed to be new; the characters needed to be who we created them to be. We didn’t want to unintentionally mimic anything that would effect the way we approach these characters.
“Now, once we had finished the first season I bought everyone the box-sets and we went to town, we went crazy. We really had a good time watching it. To be honest, I did see part of one episode before I signed on to my series and so I had a tremendous amount of respect for what it was that they were doing. But I didn’t become a fan until we had shot our first season, and we watched the whole of your series. I had a great, great time watching it. It was really, really fun. Not just fun to watch them tackle the same material, but seeing how the characters differed from ours.
“They are, in fact, different characters, and that is the driving force between the differences of the two series. You have characters that make different choices and so, while fans of the BBC show will be watching this season one and going, ‘Okay, but I know how this all turns out’, don’t be so sure. Because at key moments, different characters will make different choices and certain plot lines turnout a little bit different.
“We wanted to make sure that there were enough little twists in there to keep the BBC audience interested, while at the same time staying true to the blueprint of their show. And then past that when we get to season two, we go entirely in a different direction. There will always be some overlap, but for the most part of the series, do diverge and do their own thing.”
“Every time we do a flash back I have to reinvent the
character; he’s a very different guy depending on
what era you find him in.” Sam Witwer
When you first got cast as the vampire, did you think, “Wow, this is the jackpot, I’m a vampire – I am now instantly eight times sexier”?
“ [Laughs] You know it was actually the opposite, I opened the script and I read the word ‘vampire’ and my first reaction was, ‘Oh, like we need another one of these guys!’ So I turned down the audition.
And a friend of mine who’s very, very knowledgeable about what’s going on in town and what’s good and what’s not, she calls me up and goes, ‘Did you turn down the Being Human audition?’ I go, ‘Um, yeah…?’ And she goes, ‘Did you read the script?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeahhhh…’ And she goes, ‘I bet you didn’t listen, do me a favour – read the script. That’s your job as an actor to read scripts right now so why don’t you do your job!’
“And I’m like, ‘Okay, alright, fair enough.’ And when I started reading it I felt very, very foolish because it was so clearly wonderful and what got me about the vampire character was that this isn’t a vampire, this is a heroin addict that’s trying to go clean. That’s what they’re saying with this character. The vampire thing is being used as a metaphor for drug addiction.
“Then beyond that you have the fun of what it’s like to be 260 years old, why he does what he does and asking yourself really fun questions. So, for example, I’d ask the executive producers, ‘Do you want me to give you the sense, in his vocal patterns, that he’s 260 years old?’ And they said, no we just want you to talk like you do, talk like us, talk in a contemporary way. So you do that. They ask you to do it, you do it. But then you have to make it make sense.
“So you go to yourself, ‘So why is he talking this way if he’s 260 years old and he’s talking like he’s 25? Okay, it’s a cover,. He doesn’t want anybody to know he’s a vampire so he must blend into the world that he lives in.
“But then at the same time, if that’s true, every time we do a flash back I have to reinvent the character. He has to walk different, he has to talk different, he has to do everything differently and he’ll have a bunch of different opinions – all to blend in with the time he’s in. So that has proven to be one of the more fun things about the show. That he’s a very different guy depending on what era you find him in.
“If you line up all the flashbacks sequentially, they tell a very interesting story. About this guy and his progression and what’s happened to him and how he’s evolved, so it’s really fun.”
Next page for the taste of blood and much Star Wars geekiness…