Q & A with Being Human's Sam Witwer, Meaghan Rath and Sam Huntington

By , Contributor

Syfy

Being Human's Sam Huntington (Josh), Meaghan Rath (Sally) and Sam Witwer (Aidan)

Once upon a time there was a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost, and they all decided to live together. Unfortunately, as hard as they tried, it was and still is not all happily ever after. This is the premise of the hit BBC supernatural drama Being Human. Last year, Syfy launched its own version of the series starring Sam Witwer as vampire Aidan McCollin, Sam Huntington as werewolf Josh Radcliff, and Meaghan Rath as ghost Sally Malik.

The U.S. version proved equally as popular with TV audiences on this side of the Atlantic, so much so that Syfy commissioned a second season, which premiered this past Monday @ 9:00 p.m. EST/PST. This time around, our roomies are faced with new and even more dangerous challenges involving their supernatural lifestyles.

Aidan struggles with avoiding the violent lifestyle of his past as "Mother," the ruthless Vampire Queen (Deena Aziz), makes him an offer he cannot refuse and involving her disgraced Vampire Royal daughter Suren (Dichen Lachman).

Sally attempts to master some newfound spectral skills and, along the way, meets a group of new ghost friends that prove to her that while she may be dead, there is still plenty of “living’ left to do. Unfortunately, a dark force also threatens her existence in this world.

As for Josh, his animalistic alter ego takes on a brand new meaning after he discovers that he is responsible for turning his girlfriend Nora (Kristen Hager) into a werewolf.

While their TV counterparts may be struggling to cope with all sorts of issues, Being Human stars Sam Witwer, Sam Huntington and Meaghan Rath were nothing but relaxed and jovial last week when talking with me as well as other journalists about season two. The following is an edited version of our telephone Q & A (major spoilers have been excised). Enjoy!

 

Could you guys talk a little bit about what it’s been like to film season two and maybe touch upon how it’s different to play these characters in the second season.

Sam Huntington:  We love the show so much; I think I can speak for all of us when I say that, so we were all really, really excited to get back. The funny thing is that personally I expected it to feel a lot like just one giant bout of déjà vu, and to be honest, it just felt as though we never had the hiatus. It was all the same crew and a lot of the same cast, so it was as if we’d had a two day break and then just rolled into season two. It was bizarre, you know, but cool, too, because I felt like we were able to just pick up right where we left off.

Sam Witwer:  Sammy, Meaghan and I bonded, I think, all the way back during our first audition together, but we were so exhausted after the first season, that for months afterwards even the thought of doing season two would make me sleepy. So when we got back I guess I hadn’t expected to be as happy to see everyone as I was, and those feelings kind of carried me through the season. I wasn’t as exhausted this year, either. There was something about having a successful first season behind us along with that momentum as well as knowing our characters that was really positive this year.

Meaghan Rath:  I also think that script-wise it was a lot easier to fall back into it this year because we didn’t have to establish who our characters were and what their circumstances were. That’s reflected in the first episode. We just get right into the story immediately, which was really great.

SW:  Absolutely. In the first season there was so much heavy lifting on everyone’s part to establish these characters and try to make this all work.

SH: There was so much uncertainty in season one as well. Like with any television show, in your first season you’re kind of biting your fingernails for the whole time and thinking, “God I hope people like this and I hope people watch this.”

 

How has season two felt different as far as the stories you’re getting to tell?

SW:  It’s very, very different. If season one was about putting these people who are at risk into a safe environment, season two is all about what is that risk about? I think that’s inevitable with these people and their adversities and specific risks that they have in terms of being a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost, and what do those conditions mean. And basically what it means is that these characters are in trouble and we’re going to see a lot of that trouble this year. We’re going to see why they need so badly to have a sanctuary because things get a little bit darker in season two.

 

It seems this season like your characters are sort of tempted by the darker sides of their natures and put in situations where that comes out. How do you maintain sort of their humanity when playing those dark elements and what kind of (acting) challenges are there in doing that?

MR:  I think it’s important to keep in mind that these are real people and not to get sucked into the supernatural element of the whole thing. So for me it’s a lot about just keeping in mind what I would do in this kind of situation and what’s great about the show is that it really does involve doing just that as an actor. I think that’s where the humanity comes from; just being a good person and dealing with these challenges that question your morality and values.

SW: I think Meaghan is absolutely right with that. For example, in television we’ve kind of seen everything including vampires, werewolves and ghosts, and we’ve seen people get killed and all kinds of other crazy stuff. What we’re trying to do as three actors is bring as much humanity as possible to those events. If someone dies, we’re hopefully going to tell a story where you realize that that is an awful sacrifice or that something has happened that is incredibly terrible.

It’s all about these three characters’ reactions, and their eyes are the eyes through which the audience watches the show. So we’re really trying to keep our reactions to all the supernatural stuff very grounded. As far as the darker elements, the messed up thing is that our characters initially react with horror and shame at all this awful stuff. However, as time goes on, you might see them kind of get used to it and that hopefully will be a very sad thing to watch.

SH:  I think you just kind of hit the nail on the head, Sam. A lot of times on the show I think our characters are almost seeing these horrible things happen for the first time, so they’re almost like the audience. Hopefully that’s what audiences can kind of grasp onto and that also helps as an actor in forming what you do. I mean, you’re thinking, “What if this person was killed? What would the emotional ramifications of that mean to me? How would it affect me and every aspect of my life?” That’s all cool because it sets the show apart. We don’t just roll over these issues, but actually tackle them.

 

Sam (Witwer), I wanted to ask what did you do or what did you experience growing up in the Chicago area that prepared you to now “live” the life of an undead vampire?

SW: I ate a lot of Chicago pizza (he laughs). I also hid out in my basement with my band, so I didn’t see a lot of light. Everyone wonders why the hell I’m so pale. Well, it’s because I’ve been training myself to be this pale.

SH:  You literally can’t get a tan now, right?

SW: No, I can’t. I think I’ve lost the ability. Actually I am telling a little bit of the truth in that I was a night person and so were my friends. If we didn’t have to get up for school or something, we wouldn’t wake up till noon or one in the afternoon, and we all knew not to call each other before noon. That was not cool. So there, that’s my vampire training right there.

 

As actors and as the characters you portray, you have really good and believable chemistry. From season one to season two, how are you guys interacting differently as actors on-set? Do you trust each other more? Do you seek out advice from one another about how to deal with a scene? Do you feel more comfortable to push back? How has your chemistry kind of changed as actors this sophomore year?

SW: We really like hanging out together, we really do, and this year all three of our characters get split up a little bit and go off on their own little journeys. For us actors, that just made us appreciate all the more whenever we had a scene together. I think there are one or two scenes with the three of us in every episode, but I think our favorite episode to shoot was one that’s coming up where we’re in every scene together. That was kind of like, “Oh this is the way to do the show. Who needs other actors?”

SH:  To be honest, we were comfortable with each other instantly on-set. Our relationship in that regard hasn’t changed.  I feel like we  pretty much learned who each other was by not even halfway through the first season, and our friendships have continued to grow from there. We have so much trust and faith in one another and we know that when we’re doing a scene with one another, it’s going to work and there’s going to be this shorthand with each other. It’s also going to be fun, loose and natural.

When I have a question or a concern or if I'm struggling with a piece of motivation, I always ask Sam or Meaghan what they think.  I respect, love and trust them so much, and as truly lame as that sounds (he jokes), I feel very fortunate to have that relationship with them.

 

SW: Something I think is really cool about our relationship is that both Sammy and Meaghan can do a whole bunch of (acting) stuff that I can’t. I mean, there’s not a lot of overlap in terms of personality and ability, so we all have our own turf to play with, but at the same time I love watching an episode and seeing what they’re doing. It’s like, “Wow, look at all the stuff that they’re bringing that I frankly don’t know how to do.” I love watching them and then “stealing” from them when I can.

MR:  think the best thing about it is that the trust level has gone up so much. These two guys are the people I trust most on-set and you always feel like in scenes that you’re in good hands. You’re never questioning the direction that a scene is supposed to go in because it just always works every time we’re together. We're just able to feed off each other in a way that I’ve never experienced before.

 

Was there anything that was specifically challenging acting-wise for you this year, and that you could talk about?

SH:  Something else that’s cool about the job is that you’re challenged every day you go to set. You’re always challenged by this wonderful material that makes you really, really think, and forces you to basically become a better actor. I had several moments this year where I got to places emotionally that I’d never gotten to before on a set. Those are some of the moments that are big and that I’m really excited about.

MR:  For me, every single day I felt like I was being pushed by the writers as well as the creators insofar as what they had planned for me and my character. So often when I’m reading a new script I’ll look at a scene and wonder, ‘How am I going to do this?” That’s where you really grow as an actor, when you’re scared, and there was definitely a lot of that this season.

SH: Also, it’s like you don’t want to let them (the producers/writers) down. They’ve given you this material and you want to do it justice.

SW:  The real (acting) challenge I think this year was the fact that we’ve lived with these characters for a season now, so what new sides of them can we show? I talked last year about the fact that we had the tremendous luxury of not really doing a pilot, but rather just going in and knowing that we had 13 episodes. So we could be leisurely about when we were going to show certain sides of the character.

When you do a TV pilot you’re trying to sell it and the characters. So you’re trying to show them as much as you can, but because we didn’t do that, I think we all felt sort of patient.

 

SH:  It's like, I'm going to show you this little piece of my character and do the best job I can at this one bit, you know?

SW:  Here’s one little thing, and later on you knew that there were going to be opportunities to show more and more of your character. So now having established these characters, it’s a matter of, OK, what new things about them can we show you? The three of us have watched something like nine episodes from season two so far, and we do get to show different sides of these characters in big ways.

The other big challenge this year is that we shot everything a bit faster. We had less time to film, for various reasons, so there were several things that I had to do in one take and get it right.  That was a little bit frightening, but I think it all turned out all right.

 

As you continue to develop your characters in season two, is there anything you’ve been surprised to learn about yourselves as people along the way?

MR: I think for me I feel like that’s the way I’ve grown as a person since I started acting. It’s a strange thing, but every new experience you have, every different set, every new character, I feel it forces you to find something in yourself that has been there but that you never knew existed. So you’re just trying to access different parts of your emotional life or feelings that you’ve suppressed over the years.

And that changes you, especially when you connect to a character so much and you love that character, it really forces you to question what you would do in this situation, what does this mean to you and how can you put this situation into your own words? That’s how I continue to mature and grow as an actor.

 

SH: We’ve all been kind of at this acting thing for quite some time and done a lot of different jobs, each of which presents various challenges. It’s a fun gig but really hard, and I’ve got to say that for some reason this year more than last year I really feel like my range broadened. A lot of that probably has to do with the type of material that I was given to do. I felt like I learned a great deal more about myself and where I’m able to go emotionally. These are lessons I’m going to take with me through the rest of my career.

It’s weird, you can have a relatively large body of work and then there can be this one thing that just kind of changes everything. As a result, you learn kind of a lot about who you are as an actor, and it’s been a joy. I’ve also been able to experience that with these guys, who are like my besties.

SW: I think all three of us have learned to trust ourselves a little bit more in terms of our creative instincts. I’ve learned that if the editors even have it (a scene) in pieces, even if you never got through a full take without blowing something, if the editors have it in pieces, leave it alone and go to sleep. It’s fine; it’s done.

Please note, all photos above copyright of Syfy.

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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