By George Bate and Josh Reilly
Star Wars Holocron recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Sam Witwer, who plays Maul in The Clone Wars, about a variety of different topics, one of which being the Siege of Mandalore. The final Clone Wars arc, which began today, is the culmination of 7 seasons of the show that George Lucas worked on extensively. When describing what he enjoys about the final arc, Witwer had this to say:
“The pacing is really great. The editing is fantastic. The cinematography is better than anything we’ve ever done. The sound design too. The music is Kevin Kiner’s best stuff on The Clone Wars I think. It’s really, really good. I think all the actors are on point, and the animation is awesome too. It’s interesting, because, in making season 7 of The Clone Wars, there was a little bit of a ramping up process because they had to get people back into the room working on the show again and they had to relearn how to do the show. The Bad Batch, for example, was an arc that they already had story reels for and all this stuff. So there were some alterations, and certainly the animation was new and stuff like that, so you can see that it’s lit better and everything. Joel Aron was killing it and the animation was better, but ultimately, Bad Batch is very aligned with the old, years ago Clone Wars. Then you have the next arc, which was getting them acclimated. Again, not all the work was done on the next arc. It wasn’t all set in stone yet. So then you have everyone coming in and throwing in a bunch of new stuff. Then with this final arc, it’s the brand new version of The Clone Wars. It’s a different animal, and you can really feel that because, aside from the broad story strokes that Dave [Filoni] and George Lucas made from having all these conversations about what the story was going to be about, the work hadn’t been done on the final arc. So, it was everyone having ramped up during the first two arcs, but then being freed to do what they had to do to make the best version of the show. When I say it’s the best Clone Wars, I mean this is the most modern statement of what The Clone Wars crew is capable of.”
Witwer last played Maul in Star Wars Rebels, another animated show from the mind of Dave Filoni. However, the Maul in that show is considerably different from The Clone Wars version of the character. When asked how he prepared to come back to that version of the character, Witwer said:
“When it came to coming back to do The Clone Wars version of Maul, I had to rewatch a lot of the Clone Wars stuff and see where he was at. But then we’re propelling him out of Son of Dathomir, which we wish we were able to do, but we didn’t get to do. It’s too bad, but those events, according to me and Dave and George Lucas, did occur.”
However, Witwer was clear that the Maul we see in the Siege of Mandalore is different from his previous appearances on The Clone Wars:
“There’s an anxiety that this character has in the Siege of Mandalore that we’ve never really seen from him before, so you have Maul at the height of his power, but also working some things out and trying some new things that, frankly, he may not be very good at.”
However, not everything about Maul in this arc will be objectively clear:
“I really can’t wait to see how the fans react and see what their interpretation of that is going to be because there’s plenty to interpret. There’s plenty of fan debate that I think may come in terms of what Maul’s intentions are in this next arc…One of the things I’ve learned from Dave and George is that you really do, as much as you can, need to let the fans interpret things.”
Witwer went on to explain how friendly disagreements between he and Dave Filoni led to interesting moments in the Siege of Mandalore arc:
“There’s some stuff that happens [in the Siege of Mandalore arc] that I wasn’t aware of. When I read the script, I was like ‘Wow, okay. This is what happens. This is how the war ended and these are the specifics. This is what Maul was trying to do’. I was floored when I read the script. I was very surprised and very interested, and the fun of that was having disagreements with Dave as to where [Maul’s] heart is at (Laughs). That’s the fun of working on this stuff. George and Dave are the overall story guys who say ‘here’s how the story goes. Here’s the shape of it and this is what we’re trying to say.’ Then it’s my job to push against the boundaries of that story as much as I can so that little things make their way into the episode that spark debate. That’s at least what I think my job is, y’know? So what will happen inevitably and what’s happened many times in the past is that me and Dave will have a disagreement as to what’s going on with the character, and then we’ll be doing takes and both agree on the take that we liked. And it’s a fascinating thing because he’ll hear something different in it than I do. I’ll say ‘Well no, clearly the character is saying this when he says this’. And then Dave goes, ‘Well no, I wrote it. Clearly when he means this and that’s in the take’. And then I go ‘I think my interpretation is in the take’ and then [Dave] goes ‘Then that’s the take’ (laughs). And that’s the one [take] because people get to import their own beliefs in what is going on with this character.”
Witwer also spoke about how the Siege of Mandalore feels like a Star Wars film, with his preparation for this stretch of episodes more akin to his live-action work than previous voiceover work:
“Funny enough, Dave Filoni’s live action experience definitely played into this final arc, because this final arc is more of a film read in terms of the vocal stuff that I was doing. I was like, ‘This is how I would do it if I were shooting it and Ray Park was on the set. This is how I would go about it.’ By the way, Ray does a great job in this season.”
With the Siege of Mandalore, Dave Filoni and co. are finishing a Star Wars project that George Lucas himself started over a decade ago, and one that he truly cares about to this day. Because of this, Sam Witwer (Maul) has high hopes that Lucas will like the final arc:
“My main priority is this last Star Wars that has his fingerprints on it, my main priority is that he likes it. More than anyone else, I just hope that George likes it.“
Moreover, Witwer revealed that Lucas has been staying in touch with Dave Filoni, a protégé of his, and has been giving him his thoughts on the episodes of the final season he has watched so far:
“George [Lucas] has been calling Dave and giving him nice little comments on the episodes. I really, really hope we get some positive feedback from the maker himself when this comes out. This show has such a special place in George’s heart. He was so happy when he was making this show, and we were so happy to be implementing it for him…you really did just get a directive from George, and that directive got discussed and translated by Dave Filoni, and then it went right to the actors, animators, lighters, everything. It just got done. That’s the fun of watching the Siege of Mandalore, because it just feels pure in its intention… It’s so cool that this is the last George Lucas produced Star Wars. The last Star Wars that has George’s fingerprints on it. I truly loved to hear that George was reacting well to [the final season of The Clone Wars]. And I’m happy to hear that he likes how Clone Wars is going so far this season and I really hope he likes our finale because that’s where it all counts.”
Clearly, the cast and crew of the show are hoping that George Lucas himself continues to like the new season of The Clone Wars. Given the quality of the first episode in the arc, “Old Friends Not Forgotten,” we wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case.
Stay tuned to our twitter account and blog for more from our exclusive interview with Sam Witwer, where he talks about Solo: A Star Wars Story, The Mandalorian, The Force Unleashed, and more!
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm, Disney+, and The Star Wars Show
Interview was conducted and transcribed on 04/16/2020. Full transcription will be released soon.