Monday, January 14, 2013

Sam Witwer fresh, but undead, on Season 3 of 'Being Human'

Courtesy Syfy

Even though his vampire character has been buried alive for 15 months - growing a beard, getting hungry and probably developing an undead funk - the actor Sam Witwer is keeping it fresh.

Now in the third season of the supernatural drama Being Human, which premieres tonight on Syfy at 9 p.m., Witwer says he and his castmates Sam Huntington, Meaghan Rath and Kristen Hager are tackling the challenge of keeping their characters new while continuing to satisfy their growing fanbase.

Part of the approach is to give the characters of vampire Aidan (Witwer), ghost Sally (Rath) and vampires Josh and Nora (Huntington and Hager) a taste of what they've been wishing for: A chance at a normal, human life. But of course, the season promos have warned, be careful what you wish for.

But as an actor, Witwer says his work on Being Human is exactly what he's been looking for. Since the show premiered in 2011, he has been able to tackle a character that's dark but constantly evolving, while also getting to exercise his comedic chops and work with a cast he loves.

In a recent interview, Witwer - who is also a well-rounded nerd - spoke about these challenges and joys heading in Season 3, as well as looking forward to a season of flashbacks, potential romantic interactions with a fellow roomie and getting to chew scenery with Mark Pellegrino.

Read the interview ahead, but only after you check out the first four minutes of tonight's episode. And be forewarned, there be minor spoilers ahead pertaining to the first episode of Being Human, Season 3.

When we first see Aidan, he's been buried alive and the world around him has changed. And by the end of the first episode, his roommates nearly get their wish to be "human." Can you talk about your initial reaction when you found out that basically everything about the show is being upended in the first two episodes? And were you concerned the whole concept of the show - where everybody sort of does become human - might be too much of a Superman Dies type of gimmick that could irritate dedicated fans?

I was thrilled. I thought it was really fantastic. In fact the entire cast was really blown away with the move because you want to feel like things that happen leave an indelible mark on the characters and on the situations, so you want the show to evolve. Sagers, you bring up the Superman example; the example I would bring up would be Battlestar Galactica - that I think the best thing they did was that big shakeup going into Season 3, you know, I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it.

But I think [showrunner Anna Fricke] and her writers did a fantastic job in creating a season that allowed us to get really deep with our characters this year, this is definitely the character season where we really get to know the characters even better than we did before in a big way.

Aidan and Suren. Courtesy Syfy
With Suren [Aidan's ex vamp lover, played by Dichen Lachman] dead, is Aidan going to be a better roommate and friend to the other two?

It's like when the guy breaks up with the girlfriend that the friends don't, "like okay so you're going to like hang out with us again?"

You know, the answer is yes actually, it's - the answer is oddly yes I mean - the thing with the Suren relationship is that while there was love there and affection, and a lot of attempt at making it work, I looked at it like this is the bad relationship year for Aidan.

This is when, you know, it's like that girl you really want to date in high school and then you dated her at 25 and it just wasn't what you thought it was going to be and you just keep trying to make it work and it's, you know, it's fighting you every step of the way because you can't.

Sally and Aidan have a bit of a moment, so is it something that's going to develop over the season?

Sally and Aidan have been roommates for awhile now and because of certain things there's an unexpected level of interaction between the two that they didn't even know was necessarily possible, so it brought a lot of things into question ... they've never actually even asked themselves that question and I think it's that moment you're talking about is the first time that they go, "Oh, wait a second, is this something that could happen? Oh no, no, it couldn't be, it couldn't be." It's one of those moments - it's the first time either of them had even considered something like that.

As for, you know, will that develop? I'll say that we see a lot of really strange scenes with Sally and Aidan this year and ... these scenes that me and Meaghan Rath have shot are some of the funniest things that I've ever been involved in in terms of just some of the unpredictable elements.

Aidan doesn't like vampires very much so he's going to have a moral dilemma as to whether to try to end the plague and save vampires or just let his sort of race die out, so what's Aidan going to do?

You're dead on. You're tuning into what's going to be a big conflict for him because even if you dislike, you know, even if you profess to hate say, you know, I don't know, a group of people like frat boys, you don't necessarily want frat boys to be wiped off the face of the earth, you know.

The thing is is that Aidan does belong to this group of people, and so with their existence threatened, certainly his feelings of loyalty and belonging are challenged and so yes we get to see him make some choices that are sometimes questionable, sometimes dead on, sometimes dead wrong concerning that issue, but I can't tell you too much because it would definitely spoil it.

Can you give us any hints about how we'll see Bishop (Mark Pellegrino) this year?

I've been steadily pressuring Anna to bring him back and I have to give her credit that she stood her ground and she's been doing what's right for the series rather than ... you know what I mean, like I keep pushing because Mark is a close friend of mine and I also just love working with him.

I love those scenes; they're fantastic and he's such a great actor but Anna has been exercising restraint because ultimately you want it to be a dramatically satisfying thing that works within the logic of what we've laid out.

Which side of Aidan is your favorite part to play, is it the wild bad boy or is it the vampire struggling trying to be human?

There's a lot of sides to that guy so, you know, I'll tell you the thing that I have enjoyed the most in terms of developing is anytime that he gets to be a little bit funny - and that doesn't necessarily mean he's "ha, ha" funny - that sometimes means that he has a, you know, a response to something that Josh is doing that's humorous.

Or, you know, he gets annoyed at something that Sally says. I have some friends who make a really well thought-of comedy series and I've watched as through the years they've gotten so good at creating that series. It's called It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and I've watched his sense of humor has been just fine-tuned to just a needlepoint and he just knows how to do that right. Well, I, at one point, went to college with that guy and we were just - we were the two comedians of our class.

And everyone thought that both of us would go off and do comedy, and all I've been doing since then is just drama, learning how to make people cry or freak out or, you know, feel something serious. So the thing I enjoy most of Being Human is learning how to help bring in comedy into straight situations which ... And especially when you have someone like as brilliant as Sam Huntington shouldering the comedic burden and I sort of played a straight man when it starts out, it was a good way to wade into it. And then later, as the series progresses, I get my own little comedic moments that have nothing to do with anyone.

How does being buried for so long impact Aidan's state of mind?

Well it's crazy, I mean for one thing he doesn't - he's never been what you would term a sane individual; he's the guy who was a serial killer for 200 years and then you put him in the ground, and I suppose what we kind of decided is that eventually if you don't have any new blood, your body goes into kind of a shutdown mode but you're still somewhat conscious, you're just kind of dim.

And it sucks, it's really terrible and in terms of the long-term impact, I mean when he comes out he doesn't really know how to be the smooth Aidan that we met in Season 1. He doesn't really know how to talk to people. Even seeing his friends for the first time, it's very, very strange for him because he's been talking to them in his head for a year and a half but to actually speak with them or be able to touch them is a very, very strange think for him ... I don't think he's as socially adept this year as he was in the first two years.

Do you think in this season, or in future seasons, Aidan will be able to balance out the good and bad, human and vampiric, aspects of himself?

Well he's either going to balance himself out or he's going to die. I mean it's, you know, I think that if you see something like that, that's got to happen at the end of the season or the series. You know, he - I'm not convinced that he's going to have a happy ending - I think he may just be too far gone.

Having said that, he does a couple things this season that borderline perhaps on the heroic, which is awesome after all the reprehensible things that he did last year - but then one of the fun things is that we also deal with the consequences of some of the things that he did last year ... I mean the guy last year killed like 30 people, two of which were innocent human girls, so we definitely see some fallout from that.

...The vampire blood addiction has evolved. He's always going to be an addict ... but what's interesting is that there's a slightly different take that's happened this year a little bit in that he, at times, is almost like a traumatized war vet who's trying to return to society.

And one of the interesting things also is that Aidan has also literally been to war a few times and we get to explore a little bit of that and some flashbacks. The flashbacks we do this year are the most ambitious flashbacks that we've ever done, in fact I never - I actually never thought we would attempt the story that we told this year.

The roomies all together, courtesy Syfy
We touched earlier on the relationship between the characters Sally and Aidan changing this season, but what about with Josh? He's suddenly the odd man out because his curse is lifted, so does that lead to tension because he's human again?

There is definitely that tension this year, definitely because he's not afflicted, but at the same time, in a way that the show starts because they get a house together, and Aidan comes up with this idea and then he protects the house, that's evolved to where Aidan is - he doesn't really know what his place is there and Josh is the glue that brings everyone together.

I think that's the more accurate way to look at it because whether Josh is human, werewolf, whatever he is, his instinct will always be to have this family unit with everyone together under one roof.

Josh is really interesting in that he's really come a long way this year that I've seen in episodes where something happens, and if you had maybe just seen Season 1 and skipped to Season 3 you'd expect a much different reaction out of him, but Josh is really - he really comes into his own as a man this year.

And for him it really seems like a very purely - like very character-heavy season from Sam Huntington the actor which I just thought was great ... There's definitely a big, I mean, my god, when he steps up it really means something. I mean there's some climatic Josh stuff that I just thought was thrilling to see after, you know, again after seeing him come into his own, you know, it's really, really cool.

I know there's been a lot of shout outs to Aidan's 200-year life before he met up with the roommates in all these flashbacks, but has there been talk of standalone movies or Web series?

That's interesting because we - after the flashbacks this year - I'm fascinated because there is a real story that's being told if you line up all these flashback sequentially. For example we spend something like four episodes telling something like one flashback story this year. And we don't always go sequentially, we jump around sometimes to different points of that story; we'll start in one place and then the next episode you'll see what happened a few months before that.

...We generally tell this one coherent story and if you were to line up all of Aidan's flashbacks there - it all makes sense. There's a very interesting progression for this character in terms of how his attitude has changed and where he came from and how that goes. And I really can't wait for the next chapter of that because I think we're primed to tell something that I've been waiting to do for a long time.

And, you know, as for me, I mean would I love doing a Web series where it's just me and Mark Pellegrino having some crazy, weird adventure? Of course, you know, that would be insane, but I also think that we'll have the opportunity to do that throughout the life of the series as well.