Glenview native Sam Witwer moving on from vampire role
In his first TV acting job, on the show "JAG," Sam Witwer had two lines:
"Sup?" and "How's it goin', Vic?"
"The world could not become a brighter place when I got that (part)," joked Witwer, of the 2001 role which came after an entire year of unsuccessful auditions.
Those two lines became the start of a successful TV and movie acting career for the 36-year-old Glenview native, who most recently starred as Aidan Waite, a vampire trying to lead a normal life on Syfy's "Being Human."
After four seasons, the show's series finale aired April 7. Witwer said the cast was free to let loose in the final season -- if a scene called for you to be mad, you could be furiously mad -- and he even contributed to the script and produced a few musical tracks. (Witwer's also a musician, who heads up the band "The Crashtones," in his free time.)
"The objective of this season, for me, was to take the gloves off and go for it. Blow it out. If you're going to have an emotional moment, let's make it a 10 instead of an eight. Amp everything up," he said.
Ratings increased, and the show's stars briefly wondered if "Being Human" might come back to life. But as of now, Witwer said there are no such plans.
"We did go with a happy ending, which I think was deserved after torturing those characters for years," Witwer said. "It went out the best way it possibly could."
Witwer's road from Glenview to Hollywood was a slow and steady climb.
He dropped out of The Juilliard School, regrouped for a year at home and then headed to Los Angeles to pursue acting. After a year out there, he still didn't have a rent-paying acting job.
"I got good feedback (from the auditions). So my agent said, 'As long as you're doing well and people are liking you, I'll keep sending you out.'"
His "JAG" appearance led to guest-starring roles, and then to reoccurring roles and small parts on shows like "Smallville," "Battlestar Galactica" and the 2007 movie, "The Mist."
There were work droughts along the way, but Witwer said he prepared himself financially and mentally for these times, staying positive and focused on his acting career. Once he was cast in "Being Human," fans started recognizing him on the street.
"Sci-fi fans are way more loyal than fans of regular shows," he said.
The son of a super-athletic mom and lawyer dad, Witwer was a tennis star at Glenbrook South High School and acted in some plays. He and his friends had a band, Love Plumber, which played a few gigs at The Thirsty Whale in River Grove.
"I didn't have good grades. All the things I did in lieu of getting my homework done are things I get paid for now," he said, laughing. "I got lucky. I would never, ever encourage anyone to treat their high school studies the way that I did."
Witwer came to Hollywood with a passion for telling stories through acting and being creative, and his persistence paid off.
"It's not just a matter of saying your lines. It's looking at the material and figuring out how to get across the story in the most efficient and evocative way possible," he said.
"If you're coming to L.A. simply because you like attention ... ultimately, that's probably a recipe for misery and disaster."
In his life after "Being Human," Witwer hopes to record a second album for The Crashtones and produce, write and act in a small, independent movie. He already has a story idea for his movie, which he describes as a character piece that's "a little bit out there."
For now, he's getting ready to voice another video game (he's voiced several "Star Wars" video games) and might be on another TV show. He's contractually forbidden from sharing details of either project.
"I have no idea how successful either one of them are going to be," he said, "but I'm definitely having a good time."
-- Jamie Sotonoff
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking from people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make a great feature, send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.