I had a handful of minutes to interview Secret Apprentice actor Sam Witwer - he was in high demand all night long at the Force Unleashed launch party. Between signing autographs and climbing the raised stage to throw t-shirts at the raving crowd, I got 10 minutes to speak to the Smallville/Battlestar Galactica/Dexter star.
Witwer managed to pack that ten minutes with a bit about his love of gaming, the excitement of speaking a "certain line" in the game and how the Force Unleashed managed to pack so much chemistry into the game.
For a Sci-Fi Channel superstar, Sam is really down to earth. And a total nerd, too.
"I was all into the X-Wing games [when I was younger] ." He's even read some of the books (although not the Michael A. Stackpole installments).
I asked him how he felt about being part of a pivotal moment in the Star Wars story. We already got the scoop on how he feels about the Clone Wars - I suggested Force Unleashed was a cut above, and Sam was quick to defend the
CG acid trip movie as an important part of the continuity. But he agreed that Force Unleashed was a Big Freaking Deal and he was happy to be a part of it.
There was one major "geek goose bump" moment in particular that stuck with Sam. This is the line that hit Sam the most out of all dialogue recorded for Force Unleashed:
"Will you lead us?"
Sam squealed and actually kicked up his legs. "It was like the 8-year-old inside me rose up and was all like 'alright - we need to defeat Darth Vader because he's bad, and then we need to do this and this...'." You could tell he was so totally into it. It reminded me of an interview James Earl Jones gave about being Darth Vader - about how the "I am your father," line took his breath away.
End Spoiler Alert
We had to steer away from spoiler town and I only had a few minutes left, so the rest was a jumble of Sam's impressions from working on the game.
As an actor, this was a tough job for Sam. There were times when he looked at the script and thought that he couldn't do it, that he'd blow the line. Over a period of two and a half weeks, Sam worked to bring the character to life. There's over an hour of game cinema worth of his acting and he was anxious to make the Secret Apprentice come alive.
"The key is the other actors," says Sam. They shot the cinemas on a green screen, which explains the extremely high chemistry between Sam and his co-stars. The in-game dialogue, on the other hand, was harder. In these instances, he was recording basic lines into a mic instead of acting onscreen with other actors. There's no context and absolutely tons of these lines. It got to a point where Sam didn't even remember some of the stuff he'd recorded, so when people complimented him on parts of the game, he had no idea what he'd done to make the scene so good.
Comparatively, recording the Secret Apprentice lines for Soul Calibur IV was easy. And a ton of fun, because not only did he get to yell "I'm gonna kick your ass" stuff for about four hours - he also got to hear his Japanese voice actor counterpart.
"That guy was so cool," Sam gushes. "He was all like, [fake Japanese in manly voice] ! And I was like... [throws himself backwards in chair]WHOA!"
I had time for one last question - I asked what he thought of game voice actors being faceless unknowns.
Obviously, Sam isn't an unknown - even if I can't bring myself to watch Smallville - and he admitted that he had very little knowledge of the complaints of GTA4's Niko Bellic voice actor Michael Hollick. But he said LucasArts made this project totally worth his while and pointed out that since the game is using his likeness, that he is the face of the Secret Apprentice.
Observe his Apprentice face:
And this is his camera face:
Sam Witwer was a fun guy to talk to - and even if his character kicks the bucket at the end of the game (haven't gotten that far yet, so I'm not spoiling anything), I do hope to see more of him on my Xbox 360 (and maybe less of him on the CW).
Check out our interview with Force Unleashed front man Haden Blackman.
P.S. - Sorry about the grainy iPhone pics!