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Michael C. Hall’s Bloody Good Run Continues on ‘Dexter’

[IMG:L]Out of Jeff Lindsay’s novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter came a series about a charming blood-spatter expert who in his spare time chops up people and dumps them in plastic bags into the Atlantic Ocean. Taught by his adopted father to channel his killing urges into something more justifiable, Dexter only goes after the criminals that the Miami PD cannot catch. His way of achieving justice requires no search warrant. And let’s face it, he can’t help himself.

Dexter claims he has no capacity for human emotion, but the discovery and death of a biological brother in Season 1 has definitely shaken his convictions. For him, the only way to stabilize is to go back to old habits and keep cleaning the city. But as the second season begins, Dexter can’t catch a break; not only is his colleague, Sergeant Doakes, convinced there’s something suspicious about him, but his victims will be dug up from the bottom of the ocean –every last one of them. The noose tightens on Dexter, or, as the media now has dubbed him, the Bay Harbor Butcher.

As the actor who brings Dexter to life, Michael C Hall brings sympathy to a character convinced of his own immorality. With his quiet charm and intelligence he has convinced viewers that this is a man worth rooting for. When we met Hall, we couldn’t help but ask what his thoughts were on this Serial Killer-turn-Anti-Hero.

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Hollywood.com: Last season ended with Dexter getting a little bit of emotional equilibrium. Is he going to have that going into this season, or is the stress going to wipe it out?
Michael C. Hall:
Yeah. I think his world is pretty rocked. He encounters a person he never anticipated encountering, someone who sees him for who he is, accepts him as such, and he really had no choice but to do him in. So, I think when we meet Dexter at the top of season two, he’s still reeling from that, and any footing he’s able to establish for himself is pretty much immediately pulled out from under him.

HW: How do you find his claims that he’s emotionless, when he still has human reactions?
MH:
Well, I think he does maintain his claim that he’s without the capacity for authentic human emotion, and yet, what’s fun about playing him is watching that get tested. When we meet him, he’s constructed a lot of things for himself; his work life, his relationship to his girlfriend and her family, his sister, his colleagues. It’s only when those things that he’s pragmatically, methodically constructed for himself start to crumble that he has no choice but to respond in a way that elicits what he may not admit is evidence of a real emotional connection. I have my opinions about whether or not Dexter is human. I think he is. I think a lot of his journey over the course of the second season will be negotiating his growing awareness of that fact with the fact that his compulsion remains and how to reconcile those things.

[IMG:R]HW: Do you think that Dexter has an underlying desire for social acceptance?
MH:
If there is an underlying desire, and you certainly feel it manifest itself from time to time, I think it’s a desire to reveal himself. I think that he has a desire to expose all of who he is to the world. A part of what so compelled him and seduced him about the Ice Truck Killer was that this was a person who was showing his works to the world, whereas Dexter is more of a low impact serial killer. He’s burying it and leaving no trace. I think that he finds himself and thrives on situations that allow him to reveal his deepest darkest secrets in a covert way. In some way that’s emotionally resonant for him. He feels that he has legitimately unburdened himself even though people don’t know what he’s telling them.

HW: Does departing from the book feel like losing a safety net?
MH:
Yeah. That’s scary, but it’s also exhilarating. I can certainly feel it from the writers’ room. There’s a sense of, “Okay, it’s up to us. What are we going to do?” It’s a new sort of invigoration. I think we need it. We finished the first season and thought we’d all resolved a great deal and I think that from a plot standpoint things were resolved, but for all of that resolution Dexter experiences them all as open wounds. He’s cracked open by things that have happened and any little thing can get in there and stir the soup. That’s kind of gross. Sorry.

HW: As you look back at the first 12 episodes, do you think you hit Dexter from the get-go?
MH:
I think when we meet Dexter in the pilot episode you don’t really spend that much time with him when he’s really firing on all cylinders. I think my understanding of Dexter evolved as Dexter’s understanding of himself evolved.

HW: What kind of reaction are you getting from people on the street? Are they intimidated by you in person.
MH:
The people who are afraid of me, I wonder why, you know — if they have a reason for it. People generally just express their enthusiasm about the show, the character. They want to make sure it’s coming back. That’s always really encouraging. But if there’s any nuance beyond that, it’s usually that they express a sense of guilt over their affection for the character. And I think that’s great. That’s what the show sort of aspires to do.

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HW: As the show is moving along do you feel more or less affection for Dexter?
MH:
More. I think that’s part of my job, playing the character in spite of his claims of having a closed heart – to open my heart to him. The more I learn about Dexter as he learns about himself, the more affection that I have for him, the more respect I have for him, too. We all have our shadow. His is about as formidable a shadow as you can imagine, but he’s taking this unique responsibility for it. I admire him for that.

HW: Have you thought about how odd it is that Erik King’s character is actually the bad guy?
MH:
Yeah, it’s fantastic. The guy who has the sixth sense for the serial killer is almost the one we’re rooting against. I love the way that the show turns so many things on its head. That’s part of the appeal for me for sure.

[IMG:L]HW: The first show you did was such a hit. How does it feel to get another one after leaving that?
MH:
A lot of gratitude. I didn’t anticipate that I would do another television series after Six Feet Under in part because I didn’t anticipate anything would come along that would be as artistically viable and challenging to me as an actor. So I feel really fortunate.

HW: Do you have any reservations about the part following you for the rest of your career?
MH:
Yeah, maybe. I didn’t have enough trepidation about playing a gay funeral director not to play it. I didn’t have enough trepidation about playing a serial killer not to take the challenge. If people are inclined to associate me with a character I’m playing, I suppose that’s a good thing. It’s better than, “Well, clearly you’re not that guy.”

HW: What were your thoughts regarding the apprehension everyone had about how people were going to receive this?
MH:
It’s always a risk. Any time you take a leap and commit yourself to a new character and a new story that sort of goes with the territory, but I really felt –maybe this had to do with my experience on Six Feet Under and being a part of the emergence of original programming on cable networks and shows that took more chances – I anticipated that people would appreciate being given a little more credit than they’re accustomed to being given. I was certainly pleasantly surprised at the extent to which that happened, but I did have a reasonable amount of hope that it would.

HW: Between undertaking and murdering are you completely desensitized to violence?
MH:
I’m not desensitized to death and violence, but when it comes to prosthetic limbs and stuff nothing really fazes me.

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HW: Do people ever pitch you romantic comedies?
MH:
Maybe someday. In a way I think that Dexter has romantic comedy elements. If you piece together individual scenes with Rita it kind of plays like a romantic comedy, just with a really significant underbelly.

HW: What’s been fun to play this year?
MH:
I think that a part of the fun of this season is the situation that maybe Dexter attracts to himself, but doesn’t necessarily seek out. He finds himself backed into corners that back him into other corners that put him into situations that surprisingly allow him to reveal himself in a way that he hasn’t been invited to or even required to before. That’s been fun to play.

HW: What else is going on with you? It can’t be all work, work, work.
MH:
Oh, I had a significant hiatus and I made a decision not to work and catch my breath after five seasons of Six Feet Under and going straight to Dexter.

[IMG:R]HW: How did you do that?
MH:
I did a lot of traveling. I took trips to Hawaii and Ireland. I went scuba diving in Florida. I took a trip to Southeast Asia with a friend of mine that was pretty extensive. I also renovated my home here in Los Angeles. I did a lot of things for myself. I reacquainted myself with myself [Laughs].

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