The Clone Wars is back, giving us a chance to catch up with a delightful moment in Star Wars history, straddling the two different eras of the saga before and after George Lucas. But according to one returning veteran—Darth Maul actor Sam Witwer—the chance to end Lucas’ Star Wars story properly will have some huge ramifications for fans going forward.
Although his time as an official part of the Star Wars saga started before Clone Wars—voicing Starkiller, the protagonist of Lucasarts’ The Force Unleashed video games, a rogue secret apprentice of Darth Vader—lending his voice to Maul on The Clone Wars, Rebels, and even in Solo: A Star Wars Story has become Witwer’s biggest impact on the galaxy far, far away.
“I wandered into Lucasfilm, god I think it was 13 years ago, to start working on Force Unleashed,” Witwer recently told Gizmodo. “I thought at the time I was like, ‘Great, it’s a bucket list thing. I get to do a Star Wars project, this is fantastic. It’s my favourite thing ever, and I just feel lucky, you know, and move on from this very good mood.’ Here I am 13 years later and they’re still hiring me for things. I’m very surprised that I get to keep working with these people. And I’ve worked with them all for some long, they’re friends, they’re my friends who work on this stuff. I’m so very proud of my friends for what they’re accomplishing.”
The actor wasn’t just grateful for the chance to return and reunite with his friends, but to see what time away from Clone Wars has done for its return from a behind-the-scenes perspective, as both a creative and a fan. “Dave [Filoni, Clone Wars’ executive producer] is not just finishing The Clone Wars, he’s also been showrunner of The Mandalorian. So he’s bringing with him into these last four episodes a lot more cinematic language than has ever been used on Clone Wars. A lot more experience, a lot more crazy cinematic tricks. I really cannot wait for people to see it.”
As for what to expect from the big finale, Witwer officially raised the hype bar to new levels. “The finale, that script, was the best Clone Wars script that I ever read,” he told us. “I think Dave has done a really very very cool thing. When I say script I don’t mean—when I’m talking about the finale, I’m talking about the last four episodes because it’s really meant to be seen as a movie. These Clone Wars arcs that go on for three to four episodes, they could also be cut together as movies and they work as one story, but this one really is meant to be seen in its entirety together, more so than anything else we’ve ever done.”
“I’m very very excited for the audience to see it, because it’s consequential, it changes the way you think about certain things in Star Wars,” he added, “changes the way you think about certain characters, and shows some really interesting core mythology stuff. I’m thrilled, and I’m shocked.”
But beyond being able to return to the Clone Wars, with its final season giving him another chance to expound upon Maul’s twitsy-turny legacy, Witwer is a Star Wars diehard himself—and he appreciated that the show getting the conclusion it always deserved would help give a sense of completion to the wider part of its place in the franchise’s history. He sees it as a fitting end to George Lucas’ last major contribution to the saga, something he began over 40 years ago.
“What may be my most favourite thing about this, what we’re doing is, Clone Wars is the last George Lucas-produced Star Wars. To be able to finish George’s story is tremendously meaningful to all of us, so that’s really the big deal right there,” Witwer said, full of praise for Star Wars’ former master.
“These are stories straight from George, and we get to execute upon them, and that’s kind of the end of the era. You have to appreciate that this is a crazy maverick independent filmmaker, and only one of his Star Wars movies was a studio movie. The rest, past the very first Star Wars movie, these were independent films that he funded himself. And Clone Wars was an independent production by an independent film studio, just a crazy guy with crazy ideas issuing marching orders to people like Dave Filoni, and through Dave to me. And here we are doing this again, and it feels very familiar. I thought we had lost this, and now we get to finish it. It feels really really great to finish the last George Lucas-produced Star Wars.”
Maul will return (we’d say for one last time, but even though we’ve seen his actual end at this point, that’s not stopped him from showing up before!) as part of the seventh season’s finale, the highly anticipated “Siege of Mandalore” storyline. It’s a tale that sees the Republic—alongside a returned Ahsoka Tano—look to break the wayward dark sider’s grip on the Mandalorian homeworld, a storyline that’s been teased practically ever since Clone Wars first came to an end. But for Witwer, what made it most interesting was returning to a version of this character he’d moved on to, having played the older, wiser—albeit still just as deceptive and furious—version of Maul on Rebels.
“He’s got a few more things to say,” Witwer said of revisiting Clone Wars as Maul. “Like every other great opportunity to tell a Star Wars story, you want to make sure that what the audience is seeing is something they’ve never seen before from these characters. I do believe we give that to you as far as Maul, I believe you get to see sides of this character you’ve not quite seen. We see him trying things he’s never really quite tried—things he’s maybe not so good at. This will be really fun to see how people respond to it.”
Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ seventh and final season is currently airing on Disney+.
Reporting by Beth Elderkin.