Last week’s episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, “Brothers,” featured a canon-shattering revelation: Darth Maul had survived being cut in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi and was hiding out on the garbage planet Lotho Minor. His reentry into that galaxy far, far away is one of the creepier things we’ve ever seen from the Star Wars saga, not just because of the spider legs Maul’s somehow conjured for himself from the dark side of the Force, but because his shattered mental state hinted at the deepest, murkiest kind of psychological darkness.
Who better to play that than Sam Witwer? He’s already literally embodied the dark side with his character The Son on The Clone Wars’ third season and voiced Darth Vader’s secret apprentice Starkiller in The Force Unleashed videogames. Not to mention that he plays sexy vampire (do they come any other way these days?) Aidan on Syfy’s Being Human and portrayed the decidedly unsexy tank zombie that Rick kills in the pilot episode of The Walking Dead. In a far more awesome alternate universe, he was also the star of Frank Darabont’s ambitious original idea for the Walking Dead Season 2 premiere.
EW caught up with Witwer about Maul and what exactly his resurrection means for the future of the Star Wars saga as we know it. He’ll also be joining us, along with Obi-Wan voice actor James Arnold Taylor, for our live chat of The Clone Wars Season 4 finale starting at 7:40 p.m. ET/4:40 p.m. PT tonight.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What did you think when you first heard Darth Maul was being brought back from the dead?
SAM WITWER: I first heard about it a year ago when Dave Filoni called me up and said, “Hey, I need someone to play Darth Maul. Can you do it?” And whenever someone asks you that, the only correct answer is “Yes.” Then you wonder if you can do it. But you don’t wonder if you can do it before you say yes. You doubt your abilities after you agree to do it. Because then the pressure sets in and you worry about getting it right. The first thing I thought was, “Darth Maul is back! We all want that!” But then it’s like, “Well, we only want him back if it’s a good story, if it really works.” So Dave started explaining the story to me, and then I got excited.
It’s very interesting psychologically. The Sith don’t really look at death as a natural progression — they look at death as a defeat — so some of them hold onto their lives against all reasoning. They’re so egotistical that some of them don’t let go. And what happens to Vader physically is what happens to Darth Maul mentally. There’s a tremendous psychological price that he pays for what happens to him in Phantom Menace, for not just letting himself die.
Getting cut in half has got to take a mental toll. What is he thinking and feeling 10 years later?
I think everyone who’s a Star Wars fan has talked about what would happen if he came back from the dead. I know I did with my friends. Ironically, some of the things that show up in these episodes are things that we’ve talked about. Especially the psychological impact of having lost everything. There was a plan, you know? The Clone Wars were coming. They were 10 years away when Maul was cut down, but they were coming, and this guy was going to be a part of it. And now, the party has started without him. It’s sad really, a real bummer to give up your whole life in service of this grand plan…and be killed right at the beginning of that plan.
Maul’s a real character, not just a guy with cool tattoos who whispers to people and wields a double-bladed lightsaber. There are motivations and talents and arrogance there you wouldn’t have imagined. As we’ve portrayed him he’s a lot smarter, more charismatic, and funnier than anybody would ever have thought him to be. And when I say funny, I mean in the way his master is funny: when things are going their way they might say something they’d find very amusing. You won’t necessarily see all the layers of the character right away, it takes time to unravel. I don’t think I’m spoiling too much when I say that he’s going to be around for a little bit. You will see a lot more of him going forward than you would have expected.