Mark Hamill on His ‘Creepshow’ Episode, Playing Villains & His Love of Horror
It’s nearly Halloween, and Shudder’s horror anthology series Creepshow is upping the ante with an animated tale that is jam-packed with monsters and a helping of dread. As if that wasn’t enough for you to want to tune in, it also features beloved actor Mark Hamill (known best for playing Star Wars‘ Luke Skywalker and voicing Batman: The Animated Series‘ sinister Joker) in a voice role.
The animated vignette, available today, called “The Things in Oakwood’s Past,” sees Marnie Wrightson (Danielle Harris), a desperate librarian, hunt for clues relating to a 200-year-old curse before the town’s time capsule opening celebration. Her father, the mayor (Hamill) is none too pleased with her wacky theories. We’ll see who wins in the end. The animated tale is directed by The Walking Dead‘s Greg Nicotero and Dave Newberg.
And before you even get to that cartoon story, you’ll first be mesmerized by a relatable live-action allegory, “Time Out,” where a young man and aspiring lawyer named Tim (Matthew Barnes) inherits a magical armoire that grants him incredible time management — for a price.
Below, Hamill talks about his turn on Creepshow and when his love of the horror genre began.
What drew you to want to do this Creepshow episode?
Mark Hamill: When I was a teenager I discovered EC Comics. They weren’t the actual comics, they were pocket books, and I remember the one I first read, I don’t remember which it was, had a wonderful twist ending that really shocked me. I became aware of EC Comics, and these [current Creepshow episodes] take that format with the host and the panels — they even have the ads on the inside covers which I love. So it’s just right up my alley.
And I had met Greg Nicotero years ago on a movie we did for [filmmaker] John Carpenter, [1993’s] Body Bags, which is also an anthology. We just had hit it off. I remember what really had cemented our friendship was that at lunchtime, I went off to the nearest Toys “R” Us because I was collecting action figures at the time and I was trying to get one that was really hard to find, and lo and behold, there’s Greg Nicotero, [now] executive producer and director of this show, and I go, ‘What are you doing here?!’ and he says, ‘The same thing you’re doing!’ because we were both in the action figure section. Greg and I stayed nominally in touch, but it was great to be able to work with him again.
What did you enjoy most about doing the episode?
One of the things I loved about [this] episode is, because it’s animation, the time element is not as extreme. If they did a live-action version of this animated episode it would take, oh god, I don’t know how long. Just the conclusion, the climax alone would be filled with way too many special effects, but that’s one thing I love about animation, especially in this episode. “The Things in Oakwood’s Past” is really economical storytelling. They get right to it. They establish the premise, you follow the protagonist as she’s trying to solve this riddle, and they tie it all up in [about] 20 minutes. I thought my character is very much like Murray Hamilton’s character [Mayor Vaughn] in Jaws. He puts appearances and his own career above the safety of the public. I’m normally the antagonist if there is one, and I have great fun doing it. It’s way over the top. The ending is so great for Halloween too. If you love seeing a show with a monster, well, this episode has dozens of ’em!
Did you get to record with any of the other voice cast like Harris or Ron Livingston?
Unfortunately, no. And it’s not just the pandemic. There has been a trend in recent years to have the actors record in isolation. And I don’t know, I think it’s easier for them to micromanage every syllable, but it’s a shame. Back in the days when we were doing Batman, the entire cast would be there. You’d start on page one and read it all the way through, so you’d get the sense of flow, and actors love to play off other actors. You get a sense of their timing and certain line readings will alter the way you respond. So it’s always an advantage to have everyone there, but in this case I didn’t work with any of the other actors, unfortunately. The good news is you can do it home. They bring a unit to your house. I have a recording studio in my basement, but it’s very time efficient, I have to say.
Would you say that at this point in your career you prefer doing voice work over onscreen work?
Oh absolutely. I’m so spoiled by this pandemic — I don’t like to leave the house anymore! With Zoom you get meetings — it would take me three hours to go to a meeting in the Valley and back. I [recently] did a movie in Serbia, and it’s a beautiful country, don’t get me wrong, but I’m at the point where I just love my home and my dogs and my wife and I’m just content. So, animation is just the ultimate. You don’t have to memorize lines, you can read your lines. They don’t care what you look like. They cast with their ears, not their eyes, so you’re also able to play all of these characters that you normally wouldn’t get to play if they could see you physically. The mayor in this episode has got to be 6″2, 300lbs — they never in a million years would think of casting me if it was live-action, so that’s a great advantage as well.
Now you’re obviously most known for playing Luke, and the Joker, but you’ve also done a ton of horror in the past two decades, from Body Bags and Midnight Ride, to voicing Chucky in the latest Child’s Play film in 2019. What is it that you think draws you to the horror genre?
You know that’s a good question. I don’t know, I just know that when I was a little, I discovered the black-and-white Universal horror films. I had to beg my parents to stay up and watch them because they’re usually on Saturday nights and we had to go to church the next morning, but I loved Frankenstein and Dracula, all of them, and then I branched out to Hammer Films and I loved stop-motion animation; King Kong is one of my favorites, and I was reading Famous Monsters and building the Aurora model kits — I was all in. And it was perfect timing. Before the Beatles changed the world, it was all about monsters for me. I don’t know whether it’s something you should admire or feel sorry for me for, but I’ve never outgrown what I loved as a kid. I still love Laurel and Hardy as much as I loved them as a kid, and I still love monsters and horror and comic books.
What did you want to make sure came across in your portrayal of the mayor? He’s kind of a complicated guy!
Even though he does things that lead to catastrophe, I think he’s well-meaning, and he’s probably a little too self-centered that he doesn’t regard his daughter with credibility. He’s looking at the end game instead of what concerns his daughter. Villains don’t really regard themselves as villains. The Joker thinks he’s just a misunderstood genius and doesn’t understand why Batman would oppose him the way that he does. And I think in the case of the mayor, I think he really thinks he’s doing the right thing.
Creepshow, Thursdays, Shudder