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Michael C. Hall Interview: "Dexter" Star Portrays a Different Kind of Killer in the Gritty, Testosterone-Laced Noir "Cold in July"

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Image attributed to Michael C. Hall

Michael C Hall

Michael Carlyle Hall, born on February 1, 1971, in Raleigh, North Carolina, is best known for his role as Dexter Morgan, the blood-spatter analyst who moonlighted as a vigilante in the Showtime drama series Dexter and as David Fisher, the repressed mortician,  on the HBO drama Six Feet Under. In 2010, Hall won a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his role in Dexter.

Hall’s professional acting career began in the theater, and he appeared Off-Broadway in Macbeth, Cymbeline, Timon of Athens, Henry V, Corpus Christi, among others. In his first Broadway role, Hall portrayed the flamboyant Emcee in the revival of Cabaret. Film credits include Paycheck, Gamer, Peep World, The Trouble with Bliss and Kill Your Darlings.

“He kills somebody, but he’s a regular guy who didn’t want or need to kill anybody or mean to kill anybody, so it’s sort of a different context character wise than Dexter Morgan.”

Cold in July, a crime drama directed by Jim Mickle (We Are What We Are), is Hall’s latest film project, which also stars Sam Shepard and Don Johnson, and it will be released on May 23, 2014.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Michael, your character, Richard Dane, kills a burglar, but isn’t that just the beginning of his troubles?

Michael C. Hall: Yeah. He’s told one thing by the local police, but comes to suspect and ultimately discover that he has been lied to. He kills somebody, but he’s a regular guy who didn’t want or need to kill anybody or mean to kill anybody, so it’s sort of a different context character wise than Dexter Morgan.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The incident affects Dane psychologically?

Michael C. Hall: I think he copes by not turning his back on what he comes to discover and by honoring his compulsion, even though he’s in a world that is very unfamiliar to him, to see things through and to get to the other side of it no matter what that might entail.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What drew you to the film?

Michael C. Hall: What initially drew me to it was the script. I was really taken with how it set up and then defied expectations that it had created more than one time, and that it seemed at times to be a domestic drama, other times to be a horror movie and other times an action thriller.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Had you previously worked with director Jim Mickle?

Michael C. Hall: I had not, but I familiarized myself with Jim’s work, and after that I was all the more excited about being on his set because I think he’s a really special filmmaker.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Mickle’s 2013 horror film, We Are What We Are, actually had very little gore despite the cannibalistic subject matter. Is Cold in July a psychological drama?

Michael C. Hall: I think this film resists categorization. The movie certainly is plot driven in its way, but it also deals with some pretty complex psychological components having to do with fathers and sons primarily, notions of masculinity. There are a lot of things going on in the film.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): We Are What We Are focused on relationships between women.

Michael C. Hall: I think Jim actually has said that was his female empowerment movie, and now in Cold in July, he’s doing more of a meditation on masculinity.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was the experience like working with Don Johnson and Sam Shepard?

Michael C. Hall: I had never worked with nor met either of them before. Of course, I was very aware of their work and careers. They’re both icons as far as masculinity goes. They were great. This was a very bare bones operation, and both were very game participants. That was fun to see.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was this your first role after Dexter ended last year?

Michael C. Hall: Yeah. There were some other things I did while doing Dexter, but I think I started shooting this movie just a little over two weeks after Dexter ended.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): No vacation in between jobs?

Michael C. Hall: No. I wanted to work. It was therapeutic, I think, after playing that psychopath to play someone who killed somebody and felt horribly about it (laughs). I remain eager to mix it up and to do different things and continually remind myself that there are many stories to tell.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were you worried you may be typecast as a psychopath?

Michael C. Hall: I wouldn’t say “worried.” I’m aware that people associate me primarily with Dexter and Six Feet Under. Thankfully, it’s not just Dexter. But it’s not something I worry about. I’m aware of it. I understand that’s something that people will associate me with for a long time, but hopefully it won’t keep me from the chance to tell other stories.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’m sure you still have Dexter fans coming up to you and commenting on the series finale.

Michael C. Hall: (laughs) Sometimes it’s more general, but most people want to talk about the ending and hear what I thought of it or let me know what they thought of it (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You had input as executive producer, so was that the ending you wanted?

Michael C. Hall: As a producer, I think my main job was to be the only producer on set so if there were decisions that needed to be made I was there to make them. But with that said, I did know that we were heading toward a place where Dexter was going to sort of exile himself to a prison of his own making, recognizing that he could only hope to continue to destroy those closest to him if he continued to indulge in intimate relationships.

That ending made sense to me. How we arrived at that ending or got there, I didn’t know exactly how that was going to go down. Maybe it could’ve happened differently, and audiences could’ve been in sort of a different place when we got to the end of the show. But it is what it is or was what it was.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Would you be opposed to going back to Dexter or even back to regular series television?

Michael C. Hall: You mean on Dexter or another show?

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Either.

Michael C. Hall: I’ve learned to never say never. The idea of doing another TV series may be appealing if the right series comes up after some time has passed. It’s not something I want to do right away.

As far as doing Dexter again, I guess he’s still technically out there. The series ends, and he’s still alive, so it’s not an impossibility that something could happen at some point, but I have no idea what that would be and struggle to imagine, at this point, what it could be or what would make that a compelling proposition for me. Let me know if you have any ideas (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I will definitely do that (laughs). Was it an adjustment period for you going back to Broadway with The Realistic Joneses after a few years’ absence?

Michael C. Hall: I suppose. It was a challenge just like any new role, but it just felt really good to get back on stage and get back in the rehearsal room. I’m with an amazing ensemble of actors. I was flexing muscles that I hadn’t exercised for some time, but I found that they hadn’t completely disappeared on me.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are your favorite TV shows, Michael?

Michael C. Hall: I need to catch up on some shows and just recently watched Breaking Bad, which I love. But I’m sort of behind as far as stuff that’s on the air now. Being in New York and doing this play, I really haven’t been watching a lot to be honest.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How are you feeling?

Michael C. Hall: I’m in excellent health, thank you.

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