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‘Dexter’s’ Michael C. Hall: Grilled

On serial killers vs. undertakers, vigilante fans.


Actor Michael C. Hall earned his stripes performing on stage in off-Broadway productions like “Macbeth” for the New York Shakespeare Festival and in Broadway shows like “Cabaret” before taking on the role of closeted funeral home director David Fisher in the hit HBO series, “Six Feet Under.” When that ended, he easily transitioned to another hit series, Showtime’s gory “Dexter,” playing an almost exact-opposite character: a renegade blood-spatter detective whose hobby is a seria-killer vigilante. He currently can be on the big screen in Lionsgate’s “Gamer.”
Dexter Morgan has become probably one of the most popular serial killers of all time. What is the appeal?
Well, he’s presented in a way that allows the audience to be in on a secret that no one else in his world is in on. So they feel a sense of intimate connection with the character. And the fact that he targets and kills people who themselves are killers — that he kills reprehensible people — sort of opens the door for people sympathizing with him and rooting for him, as well. All bets would be off if he were just killing innocent people indiscriminately.
What were the challenges going into this season – with Dexter being a family man but also still the vicious killer with a code?
Logistically, it’s more than he anticipated. The IDEA of being a husband and a father is one thing. The reality is something else — and he’s just really pinched in terms of the commitment of his supportive, emotional energy. Not to mention the issue of time management.
Your face was everywhere at Comic-Con. What was that like for you?
Very gratifying. Usually, when I go to a big event it’s populated by television critics or the press, so to go and sit down for a big panel discussion with actual fans is fun. It hits home that the show really is out there.
So are “Dexter” fans different from “Six Feet Under” fans?
They’re different in that the characters are very different. When people would approach me to talk about David, they sort of have a sort of, “Oh, poor David” approach because he was beat up by life. With “Dexter,” they’re like, “Go get them, Dexter. Keep up the good work.”
What impact do you think the airing of “Dexter” on CBS during the writers’ strike had on building your audience?
Well, the show has consistently gained momentum and gained in popularity since we started and the writer’s strike phenomenon that led to being broadcast on CBS certainly didn’t hurt. It is a great tool to bring the show to people who wouldn’t have otherwise seen it — and maybe inspired them to sign up for Showtime or buy the DVDs. Yeah, I think it was a really good thing.
How long can you go on being Dexter?
I’m taking it on a season-to-season basis. It takes us just shy of five months to shoot a season, so there is a significant amount of downtime to do other things or just catch up with rest or travel or what have you. I know that after finishing the fourth season, we’ll do a fifth. Beyond that, it’s hard to say. I just take it one season at a time. Otherwise, it’s just too overwhelming.
You have two new film projects coming up. “Peep World” and “East Fifth Bliss” …
I shot “Peep World” last fall. It centers around a family of four siblings, the youngest of whom has written a book which is a successful novel but also a bit of a tell-all on his other family members, revealing their deepest, darkest secrets. They all have different responses to that. That’s a film that aspires to go to film festivals and the like. As far as the “East Fifth Bliss” goes, I’m not sure exactly what’s gonna happen there. Things are still very much in pre-production.
You’re from Raleigh, North Carolina. Do you still keep up with the sports teams?
A little bit. I certainly keep up with relatives who are back in North Carolina. My mom lives in Wake Forest now. But I still watch a lot of college ACC basketball.
And who do you root for?
Well, my dad and both his brothers were students and football players at NC State, so I’m a state fan. But I was so thrilled when I was 11, 12 years old when NC State won the national championship in 83’ … It’s been hard to match.