Interview: Sam Witwer - SciFiNow - The World's Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Magazine

Interview: Sam Witwer

We chat to the Star Wars and Being Human US star.

What is it about The Force Unleashed II project that you find so engaging? You seem to have an enthusiasm for it that actors rarely do with a videogame.

Well, aside from it being Star Wars and I’ve been a Star Wars fan since birth, it has a really strong story and I love the character to death. I really love that character, so they got me. The thing is, with The Force Unleashed, I take this as seriously – if not more so – than any gig I’ve ever done. I actually should be in Montreal right now getting ready to go back to work, but I wanted to make sure I had a day to come out and support this wonderful project and these great people. It’s simply because they’ve done a great job and it’s a great character, I really enjoy playing him.

Is it more or less challenging to do this role than something that’s live action?

Different challenges. The main challenge isn’t so much shooting the cutscenes, the cinematic sequences – you shoot that the way you’d shoot any movie or anything else in live action. You’re working with other actors, and hopefully the script is good – in this case it is – but the big challenge is making sure your performance in the gameplay sequences fit the context. All too often you have situations where, you know, there’s laser beams, bullets and explosions and you hear and actor go, “we have to get behind some cover.” And you’re like, come on, man! Louder! More intensity! And it may just be that they didn’t tell him the context. They didn’t tell him he was in a warzone or something like that, and so we make sure we get our hands on the game so we know specifically what we’re dealing with before we go in and record these bigger sequences.

Did you get the impression that this was written more with you in mind, given that it’s a more intimate story about the character, rather than the broader scope of the galaxy?

Yes, well Haden [Blackman, executive producer and writer] did a wonderful job of writing him for me in the first one, because I did an audition for them that was 45 minutes of acting. With a normal audition you do ten minutes, tops – this was 45 minutes, and it was because I said to them, ‘well, I’m a Star Wars fan, and you’re saying Darth Vader raised the guy and trained him? I can think of 50 different ways to do that.’ And they said, “Great! Show us every one.” And so I came up with different versions of the character and Haden Blackman built those characteristics into the character – so, when I read the script, I recognised different things that I had perhaps brought to the audition, but he built them into the character: the sensitivity, the aggression, the vulnerabilities and the fact Starkiller’s vocal patterns change when he’s talking to Darth Vader, as opposed to Juno Eclipse or General Kohta or Proxy, for that matter, his best friend. So, the second game, the big difference there was we had a tremendous amount of anxiety building this character – because, I’m a Star Wars fan, and I don’t want to do my fellow fans wrong. And, you know, they’re very vocal when they’re not happy, and coming back to this, the fun of it was the fans had already embraced this guy. So now it’s like, we know the character, we know where we left him off – the fans seem to like him, so now let’s take some risks with him. Let’s have some fun. And by fun, I mean, let’s beat the hell out of him. So we did.

When did it strike you that fans had embraced the character? The game didn’t get an amazing reception from critics…

The fans gave it an amazing reception. I have not run into anyone who’s a Star Wars fan and did not appreciate that character, which is really fantastic. I once bumped into a kid in a GameStop – he gave us some crap about the game. So I asked, “How did you play it, did you lightsabre your way through?” And he goes, “Yeah,” so I said, “You gotta use the force powers, kid.” His play style wasn’t necessarily compatible with the game, so there have been little criticisms here and there, but mostly, the response I’ve gotten is overwhelmingly positive – and this is from industry professionals that I’ve admired. I got great joy out of hearing the story that Simon Pegg found out his wife was pregnant while playing the Kashyyyk level of The Force Unleashed. That was an incredible moment! I’ve been scouring the boards, too, so that’s how I know they genuinely like this guy – which is a bad move, I don’t recommend it to anyone who’s in the industry. It’s gone really well for this guy in terms of the Star Wars fanbase.

Have you ever been approached about playing the character in live action?

I have not been approached to do that, no.

But I imagine it’s something you would love to do…

Yes. If they gave me five bucks and a candy bar I’d do it. Hell, they could leave out the five bucks – just give me the candy bar. I would take that in a second, I really would.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is out now on 360, PS3, Wii, DS and PC. To read Sam Witwer’s thoughts on the Syfy remake of Being Human, click here.