Why Mark Hamill Joined Twitter, and How He Found His ‘Knightfall’ Voice

The veteran actor also reveals why his work in the upcoming "Dark Crystal" prequel series offered up a whole new challenge.
History Channel

Mark Hamill may have decades of experience under his belt as an actor, but he doesn’t like to watch himself on screen. “Have you ever heard your voice on a tape recorder and you go, ‘Oh, that’s not me’?” he said to IndieWire. “It’s like that times a thousand, because it’s how you look, how you walk, and you always — at least, I do — question the choices you make.”

It’s a surprising lack of certainty from a man who outwardly tends to project confidence, whether it be as Jedi master, animated Joker, or rambunctious Twitter user. The latest project to draw upon his noted gravitas is the History Channel series “Knightfall,” which in its second season introduces Hamill as Talus, the Templar veteran who becomes a harsh yet not easily defined mentor for Landry (Tom Cullen).

Hamill might not like to watch himself on screen, but he does like the process of dealing with the public, whether it be at press events or Twitter, because “I like engaging people, I like hearing other people’s viewpoints. You do have to make sure you don’t fall into a pattern of robotic answers. ‘Did you ever expect “Star Wars” to be such a success?’ If I could have a royalty on that one, because there’s only so many ways you can answer that question. Although, I remember Carrie [Fisher] saying, ‘Yes, we knew all along that we would be lunchboxes and electric toothbrushes.'”

The reason he enjoys Twitter as a means for this, he said, is that “you feel like it’s a place you can be yourself more. I’m not someone that is an activist really, that goes out and wants to persuade people to think a certain way, but just because of these extraordinary circumstances we’re under. You figure, how can you not be yourself?”

He initially joined Twitter to help promote “Sushi Girl,” an independent gangster film that, the producers told him, didn’t have much of a budget for publicity. “So I went on Twitter, tweeted about the movie, didn’t think much more about it, and my daughter came back and said, ‘Dad, you haven’t tweeted in like 10 days. What’s wrong with you?’

“I said, ‘Am I supposed to do that?’ She goes, ‘Well, do you want your followers to go up?’ I said, “Do I want to do that?'”

“Knightfall.”History Channel

Hamill has gotten savvier to the platform since then. “Really, once you get into it, you realize, ‘Oh my gosh, this is almost like publishing a little newsletter every day.’ I’ve tried going away for a couple of days and people are, ‘Are you all right? How are you feeling? You haven’t tweeted in days.’ I enjoy it mostly because you can follow news sites and like your thing, and everything that you want to read. I think you can have fun with it.”

He admitted that his track record isn’t flawless: “I remember tweeting a joke that was ‘R2-#MeToo.’ Now, after I tweeted, I realized, see the implication there. Even though it was pleasing ear play, to many people #MeToo is a really serious social issue and I went for the easy joke. I deleted it because I thought, I didn’t mean it that way, but I didn’t really think it through. But I just like, I love the wordplay and I found a picture that was appropriate ’cause it was, I think, C3PO with his hand in a sort of dodgy place. It’s funny, people are so outraged these days, and it’s just the way life is.”

None of the people that Hamill have worked with, even the folks behind “Star Wars,” have offered input on what he should or shouldn’t be Tweeting. Instead, he just looks at the platform as “set-up for a punchline. I did recently a retrospective of some of my favorites like, ‘how did you feel when you first read the Episode VII script and realized you had no lines?’ I tweeted back, ‘Speechless.’ See now, that’s always fun. I love if you can do a one-word tweet that’s funny.”

Another favorite: “Someone wrote, ‘Dear @HamillHimself, oh, I’m such a fan. I love you so much. It would mean the world to me if you would tweet back.’ And I wrote, ‘B-A-C-K.'”

The catch is that, as Hamill said, “my kids are on me — they say, ‘That’s such Dad humor.'” He wasn’t at that point sure what exactly they meant by “Dad humor,” though. “If it’s funny to me, that’s what I think, and so what I wind up doing is mostly just Dad jokes and retweeting those adorable animal videos and baby videos and stuff like that. I like to keep it pretty light, but it is fun.”

In order to come up with the voice for a new character, whether it be someone he’s playing on screen or just as a voice, Hamill will first read the script and “let it sink in a little bit and then go back and see what is the character they’re asking me to play, what’s required of that character to make the story work the best it can. It’s a gradual process, it’s not like it just all comes to you in a flash.”

“Knightfall.”History Channel

For his “Knightfall” character, Hamill’s initial read wasn’t that gritty, but after the table read, the director pushed him to go a bit less “posh.” But what really helped him was seeing the character’s finished make-up. “I have one, two, three, or four … I think, three scars on my face and a full wig, full beard, full mustache, even over my real beard and mustache, and they would glue all of this down,” he said. “That’s part of what makes you able to transform into something else other than you are.”

The character, Hamill noted, “seems fairly two-dimensional in his objectives because he’s just a hard-nosed, militaristic taskmaster, but as the season progresses, layers are removed, and you see a different side to him. His back story’s particularly poignant.”

Hamill’s projects are varied, but one major one coming up on the voice-acting side is “The Dark Crystal” prequel for Netflix, which he was excited about because it’s “so well-written.” He noted that his as-yet-unrevealed character is “so much fun to play. It’s really taxing. I did three sessions last week and they’re four-hour sessions. But oh my gosh, 10, 15, 25 takes.”

The complication, he said, was that he’s matching his voice work to the performance already done by puppeteer Ollie Taylor. “It’s completely finished and you’re dubbing, which is an entirely different skill,” he said. “Some lines, you know, there’s breaths and coughs. It’s crazy. They’re doing it old school — it’s real sets and all practical puppets. It’s not CGI, and it’s wonderful because I hadn’t seen the movie since I took the kids to see it when they were small. I watched it again and I thought, ‘This has just grown over the years.’ In my mind, it’s a classic.”

It’s just one facet of a career that has ultimately become far more diverse than one might have anticipated after his initial “Star Wars” debut, thanks to the voice acting opportunities he’s gotten. “I love voiceovers. It’s so exciting to me in a way because the parts I get are, for the most part, seem more interesting than a lot of the stuff I’ve done on camera — with the possible exception of ‘Knightfall.’ I said, ‘Why did you think of me for this character? I wouldn’t have.’ I’d be all, this is Anthony Hopkins or whoever. This is somebody really much different than myself. But leave it to me to talk them out of hiring me.”

“Knightfall” premieres Monday, March 25 on History Channel.

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