By George Bate and Josh Reilly
Star Wars Holocron recently had an exclusive interview with Sam Witwer, who plays Maul, about a variety of different topics, one of which being the Siege of Mandalore, the focus of Part 1 of our interview. In today’s Part 2, we shift gears to Witwer’s involvement in Star Wars Rebels. Witwer reprised his role as Maul on the show, as well as voicing Emperor Palpatine. When asked about Maul’s reappearance in Rebels, Witwer had this to say about the behind the scenes process of bringing back the iconic character once more:
“When we did Rebels, there was definitely a sense of, because we had gotten away with bringing him back on The Clone Wars and the mad version of Maul and then building him up from there, we felt confident that fans were ready for a new, older version of the character. We felt that if we don’t do something new with the character, then we’re failing people and really letting them down. That’s the way we always have to think about it, and it comes straight from George [Lucas]. You always have to push things in the direction of what have people seen and what haven’t they seen before. So with Rebels, we were doing this extremely sincere, kind old-man version of Maul, which gives the fans the option of trying to decide how much of that is an act and how much of that was really his true age and where he is at this point in his life.”
Fans know all about how Maul’s character seemed to change in the time between The Clone Wars and Rebels, but his anger, particularly for his old nemesis Obi-Wan Kenobi, is still there.
Witwer also revealed that his presence on Rebels was originally greater than just playing Maul and Palpatine:
“Rebels, for a second according to a few people at Lucasfilm, was called ‘The Sam Show’ because I was Kanan. And then they found Freddie [Prinze Jr] after they heard Freddie’s audition. I’ve got to be honest, I had a certain take on the character, and what I was doing was not better than what Freddie was doing. What Freddie was doing was better than what I was doing in my opinion, and I realized that when I saw it. I was like, wow, this guy is absolutely that character. I think that’s the way to go.”
Witwer also spoke of his fondness for the introduction of the the TIE Defender from Legends into canon with Rebels:
“…the TIE defender showed up in Rebels. I remember having some talks with some people behind the scenes, just asking them like, ‘So that’s gonna show up. What is that? And someone who I will not name who worked on it was like, ‘That’s a different philosophy how you bring the galaxy under heel.’ You have the Death Star on one side. And then you have a different military project, where these characters think that all you need are really great fighters. Kind of working out like what are the rebels mostly using to great effect? They use starfighters. So let’s just beat their starfighters. That’s all we gotta do. That’s all we gotta do. Let’s create starfighters that they can’t compete with. Because right now our starfighters aren’t as good. They’re cheaper. We can put out millions, trillions of starfighters and they’re faster and more maneuverable, but they’re fragile. It’s an engine with a gun strapped on it. So, what if we really built expensive, really great fighter? You know the technological might of the Empire. And just beat them that way, that was their perspective. And the Death Star people were like, ‘No if you have a Death Star you don’t need to fight anyone. They’ll just surrender. So why spend all that money developing all these fighters. And, oh well, the Rebellion or anyone who might resist us, there may not be a lot of them, but we don’t know where they are. We’d have to pretty much cover the galaxy for those things. And that would be expensive. And we’re already working on the Death Star. Come on, man, ya know?’ And, like, this is all explained to me. And is that ever said in Rebels? Not really, but it’s hinted at. Because, in Rebels, that was what was going on behind the scenes, so you feel that conflict in the Imperial hierarchy with different philosophies of how to bring the galaxy to heel.”
Witwer provided some great insight into the shifting mentality of Maul in Star Wars Rebels and some information about the making of the show, including the fact that he was once going to play Kanan. Stay tuned to our Twitter account and blog for more of our exclusive interview with Sam Witwer!
Images from Lucasfilm, Disney+, and The Star Wars Show
Interview was conducted and transcribed on 04/16/2020