Interview with the Vampire: Being Human’s Sam Witwer On the Show’s Most Ambitious Season To Date
Monday night TV need never be boring again. Being Human is back on Syfy with its most ambitious season to date.
We sat down with Sam Witwer this week to discuss what’s in store for his character Aidan this coming season. In addition to the vampire apocalypse, Josh and Sally’s humanity and Aidan’s struggle to survive, Sam spoke about why he almost turned down the role of Aidan, and scooped us with details on an upcoming four part story he thought was so ambitious that it could never be attempted on the show.
This season kicked off with Aidan buried alive and looking almost unrecognizable after over a year underground. I ask Sam if he had to do anything special in order to achieve that ‘buried alive’ look.
‘What I did was I called up [executive producer and writer] Anna Frike and I said I’m growing a beard and I’m losing a bunch of weight!” he laughs. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to grow a Santa Claus beard in that time, but I knew I could deliver a sense of him being under there for a while. Everyone on the set ended up loving it,” he says. “We all wished that maybe we could have kept it around longer – or some version of it. Actually the hair guy on the show keeps saying ‘Hey, let’s change Aidan’s hair this year.’ The argument I make is that we change it all the time in the flashbacks. Maybe we need to keep Aidan’s hair the same in modern-day so that we have something to go back to.”
One of the areas in which Being Human excels is the manner in which storylines are advanced at an exciting and often breakneck pace. In just two episodes Mother, and the possibility of Aidan’s revenge, have been swept away in the wake of new information on a Vampire apocalypse. The world into which Aidan has emerged has changed. With the Vampire community almost wiped out and Werewolves on the rise, I ask if this new vista will be a big theme in episodes to come.
“Well I want to address the first thing that you said about the show moving very fast and it certainly is! ” he agrees. “What’s interesting is that this is our most character-heavy season. It’s funny. I’ve heard that reaction from more than a few people and I tend to forget. That’s right! We threw a whole bunch of new stuff at people early on. But I’ve seen the whole season. On the whole, I’m aware of the fact that this season takes its time with character development, and in a very cool way.
“You will have a chance to catch your breath in these new environments,” he promises. “We’re not going to keep throwing plot points at you. It does eventually start becoming entirely about the people which is my favorite thing about this season. It’s more tense than the other seasons. It’s funnier. It’s got higher stakes. For my money, it’s everything that the show does, only it’s the best we’ve ever done it. And I’m really happy about that,” he reflects.
“When you’re on a show you’re really hoping that you can bring something new to it. You’re hoping that everyone else can bring something interesting. It’s really satisfying to realize that this is the show that I saw in my head when I read that first script two or three years ago. This is it. We got there!” he laughs.
“You’re going to see all kinds of interesting things happening between Vampires and Werewolves,” he says, returning to the question. “You’re going to see Aidan around human beings. You’re not necessarily going to see him around a lot of vampires. That’s actually another thing I like. I think the character is more effective and interesting when he’s around human beings. The guest-stars that I interact with this season are, by-and-large, people, which is really fun.”
I comment that Aidan is in a strange place this season. Josh is human. Sally is human – with some unfortunate side-effects that we’ve seen so far. Is he feeling a little isolated right now?
“Yes, absolutely he’s feeling isolated,” says Sam. “Apart from Nora, he’s the only creature in the house. He doesn’t actually know Nora that well. They’re not very close. From the beginning of the season – apart from a few moments – we’re really seeing Aidan from the outside. We’re seeing him through the eyes of others, especially in the next two episodes. But as the season progresses, we return to his point of view – around episode five or six. And then by the end of the season, it’s all about his point of view. So, you’re going to see that isolation from the outside looking in, and then we’re going to start getting into it, which is really fun.”
I return to a scene from the end of episode 2 “[Dead] Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” in which Aidan tells Henry in no uncertain terms that he’s not going to live the way he lived before he went underground. Things have changed for Aidan. What is his state of mind right now?
“He can lay in that coffin for as long as he wants and try to figure out what it is that he’s going to do,” says Sam. “And certainly, he fantasizes about revenge for a good deal of that time. But once he gets out, he finds out the object of his revenge is dead,” he laughs. “There’s no revenge. She’s gone. And anyone who could tell him more on that is dead too. So he is in this wasteland. But the cool thing about that wasteland (and it will be interesting to see if the audience gets it by the time the season is over) is that for him it’s the apocalypse – but the world goes on and doesn’t even take notice. He’s walking around on crowded streets and no one knows an entire society has fallen.”
“That speech you’re talking about, I made a very definite choice that those would be the only lines he spoke in the entire episode where he doesn’t stammer or stutter his way through what it is that he’s saying. He’s fairly put together. Keep in mind he hasn’t spoken to anyone in a year and a half. I thought it would feel right for the audience if that one moment of clarity he has comes at the end of that episode, and he says ‘You know, here’s what I’ve figured out. I figured out that even if I had gotten my revenge, it wouldn’t have done me any good. I’ve done a bunch of bad things and I’ve completely missed the point. I don’t have any answers, but I’m asking the right questions.’ So that’s what Aidan is doing. He’s finally asking the right questions. He tells Henry that they can find a way – but he really doesn’t have any ideas about what that way could be. He does know what he doesn’t want to do, and that’s a very positive move for the character because this guy killed about 30 people last season. All of that is weighing heavily on his mind and if you don’t believe me just wait a few episodes!” he laughs. “We start going back into the consequences of everything that he did.”
The big question for Aidan and Henry now of course, is how are they both going to avoid starving to death?
“Here’s one thing to keep in mind about Aidan,” he hints. “He’s been through the most dramatic drying out process imaginable. First season he’s this big drug addict. Second season he get right back into it, and then he has a year and a half of drying out. So Aidan is now more sensitive to blood. He doesn’t need as much to survive but if he gets a little bit it affects him a lot more. His tolerance is crap, if you will,” he adds with a laugh. “Henry is used to the live stuff, so he’s not going to have the kind of resilience that Aidan has.”
When I comment that the season ahead sounds intriguing, he comments “Aidan’s story is just warming up. I love hearing that people are enjoying it, but I just want to say ‘Oh guys, it gets SO much better! It’s a really wonderful thing that Anna Fricke did. She really carved up the season in an effective way to give all of the characters their maximum effectiveness. Early on we spend some time with Nora. Sally needs a lot of setup because she’s in a completely different situation now. Josh is trying to react to those two and Aidan is kind of on the outside. So Aidan’s story is set up kind of slowly at first, but then once we set it off it’s like a freight train. It arrives at a really interesting location by the end of the season.”
“Actually, part of this journey is that we tell this flashback story over four episodes. They are the most ambitious flashbacks we have ever attempted. We’re telling a story I was aware of, but I never thought we would attempt it on the show. It just seemed too ambitious to me. I really can’t wait for the audience to see it.”
If season two could be summed up as ‘dark and sad in places’ how would Sam describe season three?
“Best thing we’ve ever done,” he answers definitively. “It’s easily all of our favorite. Yes, season two did get dark. I like dark. I think it’s cool but you need to balance it out with some humor. That’s not to say that the humor becomes kitschy or campy, but more that we undercut the drama with the humor. Another thing I love about this season is that it’s more concerned about how you pay rent, or how do you get along when your friend’s girlfriend moves into your house? This season is more concerned about that than with giant wars with Werewolves and Vampires. It’s definitely concerned with those things as well but I’ve always said that Being Human works the best when you can take the words Vampire, Werewolf and Ghost out of the equation and it still works. And never has that been more true than this season.”
We saw a little moment of attraction between Aidan and Sally (Meaghan Rath) already this season. I ask Sam if it was that just a blip or was it a hint of romance to come between these two?
He laughs. “Well it’s either a blip or it’s a hint,” he says coyly. “It’s one or the other, isn’t it? I can’t tell you too much because that would be a major spoiler. But I will say this. There’s a great love between those two. Because of circumstances they never considered each other an option. Then suddenly you have Sally, and she’s a person, and you can touch her and she’s right there. Plus, she’s now way more experienced as a person. When she started out, she was kind of a little girl, and now she’s a woman. So yes, there was a moment of ‘Oh my God. Wait a second. Could there be something here?’ Definitely.
“I had to ask,” I comment.
He laughs. “You never know. You never know.”
Sam also took the time to answer some questions sent in over Twitter last week.
Abbey: If Aidan had a second chance at one of his past relationships, either with Rebecca or with Suren, which would he go for and why?
Sam Witwer: Oh man. I think Aidan would have have loved to have seen what could have happened with Rebecca if he hadn’t killed her! That’s what made that relationship so dangerous and harmful. It was that very unfortunate event. Aidan felt very responsible. He knew it was his fault. The writers and I have talked about it and we thought it would be fun to do a flashback to before the events of season one. Josh and Aidan and Rebecca were buddies. They hung out. Then of course, Aidan and Rebecca started having feelings for each other … and then he killed her,” he laughs. “So it’s a really unfortunate thing. It would have been wonderful to see some of that before Rebecca’s death.”
Joe: Is Sam hoping to work with any other Jimmy Olsons?
Sam Witwer: [Laughing] I think I got ’em all by now. Funny enough, Aaron Ashmore auditioned for the role of Josh. I was sitting there looking at these two guys and thinking ‘Oh so they’re going for a Jimmy Olson type I guess.’ Aaron is a fantastic actor. And tell Joe he’s got a hell of a sense of humor.
Claire: Are we going to see Mother again, or is she really dead?
Sam Witwer: Oh she’s gone. She’s dead. There are aspects of her storyline that come back. I won’t tell you when, but the interesting twist that they wanted to do was that Aidan was coming out looking for revenge, but she’s gone and he has to deal with it.
Catch Sam Witwer as Aidan in Being Human, Mondays on Syfy, and follow him on Twitter @SamWitwer