Sam Witwer was enjoying a friend's birthday dinner at a Los Angeles restaurant when he felt a tap on the shoulder.
"This man says, 'Hey, sorry to bother you, but I'm a big fan, I really look forward to seeing your show every week.'
"It was Alice Cooper!"
Mr. Witwer, who stars as a conflicted vampire in the Syfy series "Being Human," was taken aback. As his (fake) blood brother went on about loving the metaphors of vampire bloodlust as drug addition, "I was sitting there trying to gather the ability to speak; my command of the language is limited, at best."
He is, in reality, a chatty guy, which will be helpful when he and co-star/fellow vampire Sarah Allen are on hand all three days of Pittsburgh Comicon, Friday through Sunday at the Monroeville Convention Center.
The 18th annual event brings in some of the top illustrators and writers from the comic book and anime worlds, as well as Hollywood's sci-fi and fantasy favorites. Among the events is a 2 p.m. Saturday Q&A panel with the "Being Human" actors.
Mr. Witwer's trying-to-stay-clean vampire is straight man to Sam Huntington's worrywart werewolf, Josh. Completing the supernatural trio of housemates is Meaghan Rath as Sally, a ghost trying to exorcise her own personal demons.
Mr. Witwer playing a tortured soul? No problem.
"My face is constructed for angst," he said, laughing, "because I have this big, Cro-Magnon brow."
Fans of "Being Human," which has been picked up for a second season, would disagree. His character, Aidan, is cute and sexy, sure, and who doesn't love a dark, brooding vampire?
But that was precisely one of the reasons Mr. Witwer almost didn't audition for the role: "I read the first three pages and said, 'OK, it's a vampire show, and we've got about eight of those,' and I closed the script.
"Thankfully, a friend of mine who knows me just well enough to keep me from doing something stupid ... berated me, and rightfully so. She said, 'Why aren't you doing your job [reading the script], what's the problem?' "
Unfamiliar with the hit British version that just finished season 3 on BBC America, he was drawn in by the humanity of what at first appears to be the setup for a Britcom.
"I was extremely skeptical when I heard about the concept, sounds like a sitcom: ghost, werewolf, vampire walk into a bar ...."
Although Aidan Turner's BBC vampire (think scruffier, and Irish) was available on Blu-ray, Mr. Witwer did not want his interpretation colored by the original.
There was apprehension that the remaking of a popular fantasy series wasn't going to go over well with fans, something he had been through before.
He played fighter pilot Crashdown in the Syfy redo of "Battlestar Galactica," which ran from 2004-09.
"I was there at the beginning of 'Battlestar Galactica,' and we kept saying, 'Oh, the fans, we're going to get our asses kicked.' But they laid off us."
It's been a similar experience with "Being Human." Although season 1 has had some very strong ties to the BBC version, stories will go their own way next season.
They'd better -- Mr. Witwer's British counterpart recently exited the series in a cloud of dust after Mr. Turner left to film Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" movies.
It's tempting to compare the two series and their lead actors, but you might describe it as a Coke-vs.-Pepsi thing.
"It seems to me that whatever series you saw first, you like better, and I'm very proud of that. It's just really a preference thing," Mr. Witwer said. "It's kind of like an imprint.
After studying acting at Juilliard, Mr. Witwer embarked on a varied career that includes some of the biggest icons in sci-fi and fantasy. He did "BSG," of course, played a serial killer wannabe on "Dexter," was part of two "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" video games and played the human incarnation of Superman-ish evil on "Smallville."
Mr. Witwer even did an episode of "Angel," which forever puts him in the Joss Whedon 'verse.
He's also into music and has a metal-punk act, The Crashtones, hilarious photos of which can be viewed at his website (www.samwitwer.com).
So, Sam Witwer is a funny guy. With the rare exception, vampire Aidan is not.
"I feel like my job on the show is to portray a man who is battling drug addiction. As far as where he's going to end up, I don't know, it's pretty bad," he said.
Maria Sciullo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1478. First Published April 14, 2011 4:00 AM