‘Being Human’: Drew Struzan, Sam Witwer on monster poster

Jan. 10, 2013 | 3:18 p.m.
The cast of Syfy's "Being Human." (Syfy / NBC)

Syfy’s “Being Human.” (Syfy / NBC)

Last year, Drew Struzan contributed portraits of the classic Universal monsters to a special exhibition organized by Mondo, Alamo Drafthouse’s collectible art division, designed to celebrate the ongoing legacy and influence of the studio’s horror canon. Now the legendary illustrator is back with a poster inspired by one of his favorite current TV series, Syfy’s “Being Human.”

The show, adapted from the BBC series of the same name, centers on three supernatural roommates, ghost Sally (Meaghan Rath), werewolf Josh (Sam Huntington) and vampire Aidan (Sam Witwer), and it was Witwer’s friendship with Struzan that led to the creation of the unique poster, which also depicts Kristen Hager’s werewolf Nora.

The duo recently spoke to Hero Complex about how their mutual admiration translated into the new image, which was unveiled this week at a special “Being Human” event at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills.

Drew, why were you interested in creating a poster for “Being Human”?

Drew Struzan: I was always a fan of the show myself. What you may not know is that I am retired and have been for about four years. I thought 45 years was more than enough time to suffer, so I quit. But I always said that I would come out of retirement for friends and loyal patrons because you can’t work for 45 years with people and just walk away…. I have this friend that happens to be the lead actor in a TV show that I love, and that would be Sam Witwer. So, Sam being my good friend and “Being Human” being such a wonderful show, and them needing a poster, how could I say no?

Sam Witwer as Aidan on "Being Human." (Syfy)

Sam Witwer as Aidan on “Being Human.” (Syfy)

Sam Witwer: One of the things that was definitely on my list in a big way [as an actor] was … ‘God, wouldn’t it be cool to be in a project that was represented by a piece of Drew’s art?’ He just kind of makes the heroes look more heroic, the women look softer and more feminine …

DS: … and the monsters more monstrous!

Drew, how do you decide what projects to take?

DS: Well, when I started out I was so hungry if you’d just look my way I’d do a project for you. But as my work increased and my reputation did, people saw that my work was very positive. It’s always beautiful and always has a positive bent to it. People in the industry were smart enough to only offer me work that looked like stuff I usually do, so I didn’t really have a problem choosing projects. They’d come to me, and they’d always be very nice. I figure someone spends millions of dollars and years developing their ideas and writing the scripts and casting and acting and all the stuff that has to be done to make a production — so there’s got to be something there that’s really good, that someone’s in love with. I can find that love in it and just represent it in what I do.

Sam, were there any specific supernatural role models that might have inspired your approach to the character of Aidan?

SW: In terms of vampire stuff, I think the vampire that I know the best would be the original Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. I haven’t watched the current crop of vampire stuff, you know “True Blood” and “Vampire Diaries,” I haven’t seen them. I don’t really know what everyone else is doing. I’m approaching it from the point of view of “Being Human.” Strangely enough, especially this season, we tend to have the most grounded view of this monster phenomenon that people are so fascinated with these days — their fascination with vampires or werewolves. Ours just seems to be very two-feet-on-the-ground. For me, when I read the script, what drew me was realizing that it wasn’t about monsters, it was about, in my case, a man battling an addiction. When I first got the script, I turned it down. I thought that we didn’t need another vampire. It wasn’t until a friend of mine forced me to read the script and I realized that there was more there.

Did that grounded view influence how you approached creating the poster, Drew?

DS: Very much so. Me and Sam talked it over. Being a fan of the show — that’s why I like it because it’s so metaphoric about having troubles in life, whatever they may be, and trying to work them out and be human in your situation no matter what it is and not letting the sorrows beat you down…. We decided that it would be very interesting if the point of view is that they’re afraid of people finding out who they are. We’re turning the tables here in saying, ‘They’re  not scary to us, but we’re kind of scaring them.” We thought that was a neat way of keeping it grounded.

Drew Struzan's "Being Human" poster. (Syfy)

Drew Struzan’s “Being Human” poster. (Syfy)

SW: Drew keeps saying “we” did this, and “we” did that…. I did nothing. All I did was fill him in on what’s happening in Season 3, then I just let him go. And I love the fact that when Drew created the poster he got to, in a way, play the characters. This is Drew’s interpretation of these characters. He decided to feature the characters over their monstrous elements, which I believe is exactly our show.

Are there elements of the poster that hint about the future direction of the series?

SW: Interestingly enough, you have me protectively holding Sally and there’s definitely a very strong relationship between those two characters this year — more so perhaps than any other year. Then you have, as Drew pointed out, a certain amount of fear from the characters, but the Nora character … she’s got a ferocity about her. There’s something else going on there. And Josh, he’s kind of looking to restrain her. There’s a lot of really fun elements to where, if I was to tell you what happens this season, it’s indicated in the art.

Do you have a favorite piece Drew’s done, Sam?

SW: I was very drawn by the stuff he did for “The Shawshank Redemption.” In fact, when I went to New Orleans to shoot “The Mist” with Frank Darabont … well, maybe some people know this and some people don’t, but “The Mist” is all about Drew. It’s about a poster artist [played by Thomas Jane] who gets caught up with all this supernatural craziness. When you go into Tom Jane’s studio, it’s all Drew’s work. So basically Tom is playing Drew. Anyway, those of us who were quick on the take grabbed Drew’s work off the walls when we finished, and I got a “Shawshank Redemption” piece.

Drew, are there other projects that might draw you out of retirement?

DS: To tell you the truth, I don’t follow the industry any more because I’m retired. I don’t expect to have my heart set on anything. My heart’s set on my family and my grandkids and my friends. If something comes along, it’s just giving me a few extra dollars to spend on the kids, but I don’t have dreams about doing anything more. If I can do it again without losing my touch, then I’m happy to do it.

— Jevon Phillips

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex



2 Responses to ‘Being Human’: Drew Struzan, Sam Witwer on monster poster

  1. Fred Lang says:

    Drew is the undisputed master of the movie image. When studios began moving from poster art to photo collages, a lot of the magic of going to the movies was lost. Nothing in the dreaded "five heads on a poster" compositions I see today make me want to go see a movie like Drew's work did.

  2. John Weiler says:

    Damn straight. I think it's a shame that comics, novels, video games and toys all have more compelling key art than most film and television these days. Hollywood has really lost something special, and to me, Drew is the shining example of what it was once and could be again.

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