‘Star Wars’ Legend Mark Hamill Shocked by How ‘Contentious’ Fanboys Have Become
The “Star Wars” icon talks his hilarious vampiric turn in FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows,” the “Rise of Skywalker” backlash, and setting Trump straight on Twitter.
Mark Hamill is known worldwide as force-wielding rebel hero Luke Skywalker, but this Wednesday he turns his back on the light—literally and figuratively—by guest-starring on FX’s riotous vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows.
It’s a wildly absurd trip to the dark side for the famed actor, whose appearance on the series was born from a simple tweet expressing admiration for both the show and the 2014 feature film (from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi) upon which it was based. Given Hamill’s strong social-media presence, that enthusiastic post resulted in a surprise Season 2 part as Jim the Vampire, who—as early previews have revealed—materializes suddenly at the Staten Island mansion of ancient bloodsuckers Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Laszlo (Matt Berry) and their hilariously dull energy vampire roommate Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch). His mission? To pick a fight with Laszlo over a long-overdue debt that, fittingly, Lazlo can’t remember accruing in the first place.
While his big-screen adventures in a galaxy far, far away will always be his calling card, Hamill is no stranger to wacko humor—or to inspired voice work, which has resulted in an illustrious career lending his vocal talents to fare like Batman: The Animated Series (his Joker is an all-timer) and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. He’s certainly perfectly at home on What We Do in the Shadows, trading thickly accented barbs with his fellow creatures of the night with the sort of socially awkward weirdness and animalistic hostility that has become the show’s hallmark, and has made it one of TV’s best.
In the wake of Star Wars completing its “Skywalker Saga” with last year’s underwhelming The Rise of Skywalker, Hamill’s transformation into an undead specter plays like a sly nod to Luke’s force ghost fate—a connection furthered by his cheeky What We Do in the Shadows introduction. His latest role is also, however, simply an inspired marriage of star and material.
In advance of his episode’s premiere, we spoke with the legendary leading man about sinking his teeth into this goofy TV opportunity, his lifelong fondness for horror, saying goodbye to the sci-fi franchise that made him an icon, and using his social-media platform to publicly speak out against his favorite Twitter target, Donald Trump.
Thank you for finding the time to speak ahead of the show’s premiere.
I have The Daily Beast bookmarked. I go to your site quite often.
We’re big fans of yours as well. Your guest spot on What We Do in the Shadows came about because of your complimentary tweet. Does this suggest that Twitter is now a new way to get work?
Let me be really honest with you: I tweeted because I loved the show. I wasn’t trying to get a job out of it. What I was trying to get out of it was, my problem is so many of the shows I like get cancelled. Last season, I loved the show The Kids Are Alright. I thought it was one of the best family comedies I’d seen in years, because I’m one of seven kids from a Catholic family, and it had an authenticity, and it was so real to me. I was devastated when they didn’t get a second season. So it was kind of selfish on my part, that my objective was to bring more people to What We Do in the Shadows so that they would get a second season. But I didn’t expect to be asked to be a part of it.
What do you find so appealing about the show? Is it its absurd sense of humor, or its playful riffing on genre…
It’s all of those things. I’ve been a lifelong fan of horror. As a kid, I loved all the black-and-white Universal films—the original Dracula and Frankenstein—and, later, the Hammer films. I didn’t even know about the 2014 movie. My son said, “Have you ever heard of What We Do in the Shadows?” I said, “What’s that?” And he said it’s a reality show about vampires. Which is such a provocative statement! A reality show about vampires—this I have to see. I was just bowled over by the movie. It’s so clever, and they combine the magnificent with the mundane. Here you have the mythology of these vampires, and yet they’re getting ready to go out, and since they can’t see each other in the mirror, they’re doing sketches of how each other look. I mean, who thinks like that? It’s beyond entertaining. It has elements of a horror film, but then it has things that are so relatable about what it would be like to actually be a vampire.
When they announced that they were going to do a television series, I sort of lowered my expectations. I thought, well, Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi are going to be involved, but it’s going to be a whole new cast. I thought there’s no way they could top the movie. And lo and behold, it’s magnificent.
What We Do in the Shadows’ tone is very particular and unique, as is the rapport between its characters. Is it intimidating to come onto a series that has such a finely honed ensemble, and have to integrate yourself into that dynamic?
Absolutely. I would be perfectly content to just be an audience. Whenever you go on a show that you like, even though you know it’s not real, you never see it the same way again, because you meet the actors, and see the sets. It’s a whole different dynamic once you’ve been a participant. But although I had some reservations about it, I love a challenge.
To tell you the truth, when I heard that they wanted me on it, I asked them to send me the script. I fully expected to be a member of the city council or a high school principal or a next-door neighbor. To read that I was playing a character called “The Vampire”—well, I just hit the roof. I said, are you kidding me? I couldn’t wait! To a person, all of them really enjoy each other, which is great. Sometimes, I’ve done shows where there’s tension on the set, and this one doesn’t get along with that one. But that’s just one big, happy family in Toronto.
On Twitter earlier this week, you shared a sneak peek at your introduction on the show, and the way you pull back your robe’s hood seems to harken back to a particular Star Wars moment. Was that intentional?
I can’t say for sure. To me, I didn’t really think in those terms. I was just zeroed in on the essence of this show, not anything I’d done before. But there’s a moment, when I’m having this brawl with Lazlo, that clearly is a reference to those movies. I spoke with Matt Berry, who plays Lazlo, this morning, and I asked him, “Do you remember if that was in the script, or did that just happen when we were staging the fight?” He seemed to think it was just when we were staging it. I’ll have to go back and look at the script.
I wasn’t going to reveal that I was a vampire; I thought that they should keep that a secret. But the decision was made to let people know that. I’m like you—I don’t want to give anything away, and once I was sure that it was their decision to go ahead and reveal that I’m a vampire, I could post that clip and talk about it.
Whereas What We Do in the Shadows is joyously lighthearted, Star Wars has become a franchise that often elicits very heated reactions from its fans. Were you surprised by the uneven (and, in some corners, hostile) response to The Rise of Skywalker—and were you personally happy with the way the series concluded?
I don’t know when, over the period of time, fandom became so contentious. But people are really opinionated, and you can’t help but be opinionated yourself, because you’ve lived with the character so long. So whether it was on Episode VII, VIII or IX, I’d have disagreements, and I would say to whoever it was, “Well, I don’t know if that’s right.” But everyone shares the same goal: you want to make the best movie you can.
I love the new cast. I think the characters are great and all the actors are just perfect. I wish I’d gotten to work with them more, obviously, because I was so isolated. But you know, I never expected to come back at all. It was bittersweet, but I was able to enjoy it from a different perspective than years ago when I was in my twenties. So it was just fun to be a part of it, and it was sad in a way, because I knew it would be the last time I’d ever play Luke.
You’re vocal on Twitter about your distaste for our current president, whose campaign manager recently posted a tweet comparing their upcoming campaign to the Death Star. Have you received backlash for speaking out on social media, and do you care? Or do you relish the platform that Twitter provides, especially in this trying time?
In general, Twitter is a place where you express your own opinions. Obviously, people aren’t always going to agree with me, and that’s fine. That’s what democracy is all about. But I think everybody should register, everybody should vote, and if you can work for what you believe in, that’s something extra, beyond voting. I’m grateful to have a voice on Twitter.