On the re-imagining of the popular BBC series Being Human, premiering on SyFy January 17th, actor Sam Huntington plays Josh, a young man whose bright future was hijacked when he was turned into a werewolf and forced to abandon his family and the life he once knew with no explanation. He isolated himself, living on the fringes of society and escaping to the woods each full moon for his excruciating transformation into a werewolf. Then he met Aidan (Sam Witwer), a vampire whose friendship has given him the prospect of a normal life, with a job as an orderly in the local hospital, and a new place where the two live with a ghost named Sally (Meaghan Rath), who is on her own journey to navigate a new existence.
During a recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, Sam Huntington talked about his decision to sign on for a television series, how much he has enjoyed working with his co-stars, how nerve-wracking it is to live up to the quality and popularity of the original version, what it’s like to go through the excruciating transformation process in becoming a werewolf, and how he hopes that people really connect with and enjoy the show. He also talked about how exciting it is to finally have Dylan Dog: Dead of Night being released in 2011 and said that he’s writing his own film script that he’s looking to do a role in. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: How did you originally get involved with this show?
SAM HUNTINGTON: It was a very traditional audition. It was very by-the-numbers. I got the script for the first two episodes and I was kind of a bonehead and didn’t know it was a remake of a British series until after my second audition because it’s dangerous to get too close to these things before you actually start to gain a foothold. But, I went in and had several really awesome meetings. I fell in love with the project instantly, and the role especially. It took a long time for this one to come through, but such is life sometimes and such is this business.
Had you actively been looking to do a TV series, or was it specifically this project and character that interested you?
HUNTINGTON: Historically, I’ve done movies, but I’ve got a family now. I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and the idea of working consistently on something that I really, really love, and the steadiness of it, was really appealing. So, actually yeah, for a little bit, I’ve been looking for that perfect show and, to be honest, I really think this is it. I really believe in this show and I really love it. I don’t mean to talk shit about the other work that I’ve done, but I think that this may be the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m really, really, really proud of it. It’s thrilling for me – because I feel like I’ve been doing this forever – to actually have landed in a place now where I’m feeling so positive about the work that I’m doing and the people I’m working with and the show as a whole. It’s great.
Was there any hesitation at all, in signing on for a role that you could be playing for a number of years?
HUNTINGTON: Always. Anytime you test for a TV show, you have that bit of squeamishness entering into it because they lock you in for seven years. I had never been to Montreal before – although I grew up in New Hampshire, which is only a four and a half hour drive away – so there was a big red flag there. I had heard lovely things about the city, but I had never been. And, what if the show sucked? I had only read the first two episodes, and I didn’t know Sam Witwer’s work, or Meaghan Rath’s work, so it was just scary. But, based on the material and the creative people involved, I was swayed. I really loved (executive producers) Jeremy Carver and Anna Fricke, right off the bat, and Adam Kane, the other exec on the show, and the quality of the writing was great.
Did you decide to watch any of the original series before playing this character, or did you want to develop Josh separately from that?
HUNTINGTON: Both, actually. I watched just enough to figure out what they were doing and to see the tone of their show. I was interested and very curious, and from what I’ve seen, I’ve loved it. I think that Russell Tovey is a genius. I watched just enough to get a feel for it and pay them respect, but after seeing two episodes, I stopped. Ultimately, we are trying to make a different show that’s our own. The tone should feel different and the characters should feel vastly different. Although we’re cut from the same cloth, we’re ultimately different people.
Hopefully, I’m bringing something very different to the role, and hopefully the chemistry between the three of us comes off. We genuinely love each other like family and it’s cool. Whenever we shoot a scene with the three of us, it’s going to be fun, easy and great. That’s saying a lot. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’m singing the praises of the people I’m working with. I feel like, although we’re in similar places with our supernaturalness, we’re approaching the show from very different angles. It was never really the intent to do exactly the same thing. That would be a weird thing to do, especially because the BBC show is still on and successful and really great. We don’t need two of those. Hopefully, we’re doing something that will be looked at as its own entity.
With the original series being so popular, does it help that the show already has a built-in interest, or does it make things more nerve-wracking for you, since you have something you actually have to live up to?
HUNTINGTON: Both. Hopefully, the BBC series, being out there and being so loved, will gain us more viewers, and hopefully, our show will be popular and gain more viewers for them. At the same time, I’m openly terrified. The only thing that I really care about is that my wife likes the show, which she does, and that’s awesome because she’s definitely the hardest critic I know, but I also hope that Russell Tovey watches it and isn’t completely shamed by my performance. I hope I do him justice and depart from his beautiful work and do my own take, and that he likes it. One of the British executive producers, Rob Pursey, came and visited our set, and that was really encouraging. He had really positive things to say about it and just seemed like such a wonderful guy.
Do you think that having a bigger budget will help to expand this version, in ways the original wasn’t able to?
HUNTINGTON: The BBC series gets 11 days to shoot an episode, and we only get seven. We were cramming. My make-up days were stupid, especially towards the end. The one thing that I keep hearing rumblings about having to change for the next season, because it just got too much, is to add an eighth day to the schedule, per episode. It was insane. Even though we may have a slightly bigger budget, our work load isn’t any less, I can assure you.
What is the process that you go through for the werewolf transformation? Is it a combination of make-up and effects?
HUNTINGTON: Ultimately, yeah, at the end of the day, that’s exactly what it is. For me, personally, it’s just tremendously long hours in make-up with the make-up effects guys. I basically get in at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning and stand up during the application. Unfortunately, you can’t sit during it. They do my entire torso, so my whole back, chest, stomach, arms and everything get done. So, I just basically have to stand there, arms akimbo, and work with them and move to the rhythm of their beats. It’s insane.
To be honest, the worst part is the removal because it takes a really long time and it’s at the very end of the day, so I’m blitzkrieg exhausted, and they can never manage to get all the glue off. So, I go home and I’m in the shower for another hour on top of that, trying to pick these bits of glue off of my person. It’s definitely a process. The actual hardest part of the make-up days is that, once all the shit is on, you have to really perform. It’s not just about going to do a light fluff scene. You have to go and literally scream your brains out and struggle, and your insides are on fire. The transformation is the most excruciating pain that you could possibly imagine, so you’re mimicking this grand mal seizure while wearing crazy latex make-up. It’s so bizarre. It’s really out there. The most challenging part is the emotional and physical side of it.
Because you have 13 episodes, instead of the 6 in the first season of the BBC series, are you using those extra episodes to expand the character’s storylines, or are you also adding new storylines to fill that time?
HUNTINGTON: Yes, we’re doing all of that. I have limited knowledge of the BBC series, but I fully intend to watch it now that we’ve shot our first season. There’s no danger in watching what they’ve done now, and I’m very curious. But, from what I understand, we’re broadening the world, in every sense of that. We build a family for Josh, we get a little bit deeper into the vampire lore with Aidan (Sam Witwer) and we see more of Sally’s (Meaghan Rath) backstory and, subsequently, what happens to Sally is far more expanded. Beyond that, there are big elements that are added, that are different and completely new to our series. Those start filtering in after the first and second episode. Hopefully, people will take the first two episodes with a grain of salt, knowing that these are our jumping off points. We have to go where the show takes us, but beyond that, we start broadening.
Will viewers continue to see the relationship between Josh and his sister, or any of the rest of his family?
HUNTINGTON: In the vaguest sense, it’s not quite over, but I can’t tell you exactly how it’s not over.
Do you collaborate on new ideas for the characters, or are you just going with what is in the scripts, at this point?
HUNTINGTON: The writing is so good and the stories are so great that there’s very little of that. There are the odd scenes where you’re like, “This should be a little bit more fleshed out. This should be a little bit more on the nose. This should be a little bit less on the nose.” There’s massaging that needs to be done, on occasion, to certain things that I’ve established, as a character, that don’t quite fit into what they’ve written. That definitely happens. And then, there’s also stuff that needs clarifying, like with the vampire stuff. When you stake a vampire, do their clothes turn to dust? What happens? How exactly does that work? I know that Sam Witwer is really on point about the supernaturalness of it and the sci-fi elements, which is really neat. That’s a part of it as well.
Now that you’ve finished filming the first season, how do you see Josh? What kind of a person is he to you?
HUNTINGTON: I think Josh’s arc, over the season, is quite dramatic. He’s a different person at the beginning of the season than he is at the end of the season. He starts out very insecure and very guarded, with good reason. He’s been introduced to this world, but he’s not really used to it yet. Also, the idea of moving in with someone and letting someone in is scary to him. I think he’s carrying a lot of that with him. He’s anxious and stressed, which are qualities of mine, so those are the things that I find most relatable.
Beyond that, I think he’s a very angry guy because of what’s happened to him and how it happened to him. He was so set up to have this wonderful life and he got it all taken away from him, so I think the bitterness and anger that he carries around with him consumes him. He’s on a hair trigger. It’s interesting because it’s not what you would expect from the character. That element makes it a little bit more three-dimensional. I think that the werewolf is the manifestation of his rage. That’s something that we’ve talked a lot about. That’s how I’ve been playing him. Also, the funny thing is that, despite all these poor characteristics, he’s a charming, funny guy. You can catch glimpses of who he used to be and who he must be, at his core, which is a really caring, loving, funny, charming guy. Josh was probably even easy-going once, but because of what has happened to him, he’s a mess.
How has it been to work with Sam Witwer and Meaghan Rath?
HUNTINGTON: Honestly, some of my best friends are friends that I’ve made while working, and I think that Sam and Meaghan instantly became like family. We just get along, like it was always meant to be. I feel like we were meant to work together. We all compliment each other. We all work similarly. We can sense when one or another of us needs time to be quiet and prepare, or we can tell when it needs to be looser, so we can swing into that mode. It’s always organic and, therefore, it just works. Also, I think that we have a tremendous amount of mutual respect for each other, or at least I have a tremendous amount of respect for them, as actors. That just makes my job so much easier. I trust in what they’re going to do, and know that they’re going to be prepared and bring 100% of their talent to the table, in every scene and every frame. That’s a lovely, soothing thing.
When you’re working with Meaghan, is it difficult to make sure that you don’t touch her, since she’s playing a ghost?
HUNTINGTON: Absolutely! It’s really hard. We are at the point now where, whenever we watch the episodes, we’re hyper-aware of it, so much so that when I watch them now, I’m aware if anyone touches and I get that instant pang of, “Oh, they touched! We’re going to have to reshoot!” It’s really weird. And then, there’s everything that goes along with Sally being a ghost and the fact that she can’t leave an impression on anything. What a metaphor that is. She can’t cast a shadow. You can’t see her breath when she’s outside, which is difficult in December, in Montreal. The poor thing is always in the same wardrobe, so she’s in these tiny little stretch pants, a t-shirt and a wicked thin sweater. When it’s really cold out, we’re all bundled up and cozy, and she’s chattering away. It’s hilarious, but she’s a trooper.
Because it’s something you have to be so aware of, does the whole not touching thing rub off with people, in your own life?
HUNTINGTON: Anytime you do a job, especially one that’s as intense and long as this one was, you have phantom work syndrome. I’m constantly feeling like I’m miked, so I’m careful of what I say all the time. Sam Witwer told me that, when he’s out, he’s been concerned that he’s going to be in the light of the person next to him. But, not touching Meaghan is one of those things where, when we were hanging out, outside of work, we were constantly worried that we were going to touch Meaghan. It was really funny. We’re all going to Hawaii in February, which is probably the next time I’m going to see her, and I’m very interested to see if that’s the case while we’re there.
Are you going to work on any film projects during hiatus, or are you looking to take a break?
HUNTINGTON: If I get a job that goes in February, I’ll be psyched. But, I plan on doing some writing. I’ve got a writing thing that’s going very well, that I can do from wherever, whenever. That’s going to take up some of my time. Right now, I’m honestly just enjoying my family. I feel like I haven’t seen them enough. My kid is a year and a half old and I just want to roll around on the floor with him for a little bit and have a normal relationship with my family.
Is that a script that you’re writing?
HUNTINGTON: Yeah, it’s a movie. I’m psyched about it. It’s been a long process, and now we’re actually coming to the conclusion. I’m very excited about it.
Are you writing the movie for yourself to be in?
HUNTINGTON: There’s a part in it for me, but I didn’t write it specifically for myself, no. It’s actually set up at Red Hour, which is Ben Stiller’s company. It was Dreamworks, but now I think it’s Paramount. We’re really excited about it. It’s in its third draft. I don’t know what’s going to happen with it, but it’s exciting nonetheless.
Is it nice to also finally have Dylan Dog: Dead of Night coming out?
HUNTINGTON: Yeah, it is exciting. We worked really hard on that, and it’s going to be a fun, campy little film. I’m really excited for people to see it. I think it’s coming out in Italy in March, so hopefully I’ll get a trip to Italy out of it. But, I don’t know if or when it’s coming out in the States. I think that new poster is hot, with the dead hand coming up and opening the shirt. I hope it comes out. I was really proud of that movie. You just can’t predict what’s going to happen. When we were in production, I was like, “This is going to be a really cool little movie. I think people are really going to dig it. I bet it gets a fast turn-around.” And then, sure enough, here we are almost two years later and it’s still not out yet. We’ll see what happens.
Who did you play in the film?
HUNTINGTON: I play a zombie. It was a great part. This guy basically gets chewed up by a zombie on page 18 or something, and then comes back on page 30 as a zombie. He’s this living dead person for the rest of the movie, struggling with the fact that he’s rotting.
Is it difficult, as an actor, to do a project that you’re proud of and you want people to see, but you just never know if that’s going to happen?
HUNTINGTON: It’s really difficult, but at the same time, I have been doing this for a really long time, so I’ve come to expect things to take a really long time. You get to a place where you do your job and then you dust your hands off and say, “Okay, my job is done. Now, it’s in the stars. We’ll see what happens.” There’s nothing I can do to affect it. The cool thing about Being Human is that it comes out now. That never happens with movies. I’ve learned many, many difficult lessons, seemingly over and over again. You just can’t get your hopes up. It can be the biggest movie ever made and you can think that you’re going to make five of them, and guess what? I have a tremendous amount of faith in the quality of Being Human. I think it might be the best thing I’ve ever done, and I just hope people watch it. There’s nothing I can do about that.
You’ve had experience with sci-fi and genre fans in the past, but you’ll be getting it on a much more regular basis by doing a TV show. Are you prepared for that level of devotion?
HUNTINGTON: Those are my people! You couldn’t have cast better people in this show than me and Sam Witwer. I am that guy, so I’m thrilled about it. When this job was around, my agent and manager were like, “It’s another genre thing. I don’t know if it’s something you should do, after Fanboys.” And I was like, “That’s exactly what I want. That’s the exact audience that I love and am. Sold!” I didn’t even bat an eye.
There’s going to be some of that backlash from the people that are super fans of the BBC series, and I’m fully expecting that, but at the same time, I’m not stressing about it because there’s nothing I can do about it. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about the people who are going to hate it, regardless of its quality. They’re completely entitled to their opinion. I hope they at least give it a chance, but if they see it and don’t like it, then that’s their opinion and that’s totally cool with me. I don’t like things, too. We’re human beings and each have our own taste. It’s free will. People are going to like what they’re going to like, and they’re not going to like what they don’t like. It is what it is.
I’m reading some of the comments and blogs, just to gauge people’s interest on the show, but when the show actually comes out, I plan on not reading anything. At that point, people are going to have formed opinions and the only thing I’m going to look at are the ratings, to see if we’re coming back next season, which my fingers are in a claw over, they’re so crossed. I’m really hoping that that works out.
Do you have any dream roles or projects that you’d like to do, but haven’t had the chance to do yet?
HUNTINGTON: There are movies that I love tonally, that I would love to emulate. Anything from Wes Anderson or the Coen brothers is right in my wheelhouse, as something that I would aspire to. I love that kind of indie, fun, colorful, funny, sweet, heartfelt but dark film.
BEING HUMAN premieres on SyFy on January 17th