Michael C. Hall Finds 'Bliss'
Michael C. Hall's growth and range as an actor can be tracked by three much-lauded roles: as the flamboyant emcee in director Sam Mendes' Broadway revival of Cabaret in 1999; as repressed gay mortician David Fisher on all five seasons of HBO's Six Feet Under (Mendes famously recommended Hall to series creator Alan Ball); and, of course, as the title character in Showtime's Dexter, which is about a serial killer with a heart—literally!
It's a busy time for the 40-year-old. Peep World, a comedy he co-starred in with Sarah Silverman and Rainn Wilson, opened last month. Hall heads the cast of the dramedy East Fifth Bliss, which opens the Newport Beach Film Festival on April 28. And in late May, he returns to the Dexter sets for a sixth season, which will air in late September. Producers, of whom Hall is one, have said there will be a seventh season.
On top of everything else, there was Hall's bout with Hodgkin's lymphoma early last year, something Jennifer Carpenter, his real-life wife and Dexter-life sister, announced in April 2010 was in remission. She filed for divorce in December. No wonder he sounded tired during a morning phone call from his home in Los Angeles. Or maybe it was too early to slip out of his slow North Carolina drawl.
OC Weekly: Can you describe East Fifth Bliss?
Michael C. Hall: It's a . . . I think the tagline for the movie explains it best. They call it a coming-of-age story for someone who should have come of age a long time ago. Morris Bliss, the character I play, has been spinning his wheels for some time. He's still living in the apartment he grew up in with his father. You learn pretty early on that Morris' mother died while he was a teenager. He never really moved past that; part of him is frozen inside. Then certain things conspire, and he is propositioned by a very young girl. Simultaneously things become crazy that force him to start moving forward.
How did the project come to you?
It was Michael Knowles, who directed the film. He edited a documentary called The Edge of Things that was directed by a woman I went to grad school with [Carolyn Corbett]. He discovered from her that she had a relationship to me, and asked if I would come to read the [East Fifth Bliss] script, which I did. It just took off from there.
Did you read Douglas Light's novel [of the same title, on which the film is based]?
What did you pull out of it for your character?
A great deal. It's a very faithful adaptation, so I took just more details about what Morris' days were like. Not a whole lot in the book had to be excised for the script. Also, I lived in the East Village for years, on Fifth Street.
So you knew what kind of vibe to bring.
One thing I often read about indie movies is how tight the shooting schedule is. In that sense, given your many years on one-hour episodic television, were you more prepared for that?
Yeah, I don't think I'm really fazed by [quick] film work. It's really comparable, the number of pages we shoot in a day for the show and the amount of material we went through for the movie. It's good training ground for film.
Why is it fans can't get enough of Dexter?
I don't know. Lots of different reasons, I suppose. We live in a world that seems to be spiraling out of control. The character has a lot going on in his own little world, and, in a unique way, he is trying to get control. I think people identify with that.
Given your musical-theater background, were you jealous that Grey's Anatomy did a musical episode?
I don't remember jealousy being among the pangs I felt when learning that.
I think a musical episode of Dexter would be a natural. Songs like "I've Got You Under My Skin."
The ship hasn't totally sailed. . . . But I wouldn't hold your breath.
How is your health?
Good. It's been a year since my last treatment. I had some exhaustive tests that confirmed I'm all clear. I'm feeling good.
Did that experience change you?
Yeah, but I think I'm still sort of processing what happened. The diagnosis came during the course of doing the television show. It was really a matter of making those decisions and then getting the treatments. I don't think I'm the type of person who is in the business of denying my mortality. But I do now have the highest sense that life is precious—and of gratitude.
Festival organizers told me they are trying to get you down here for the premiere.
Oh, yeah, I'm coming. The 28th, right?
Yes, April 28. Were you also a producer on the film?
No, I just acted in the film, but I want to support it.
Well, you're familiar with the area because some of Dexter is shot nearby in Long Beach, right?
Yeah, we go down there all the time. Any time we want to fake Miami, we just go south. Anything with ocean on the side and no hills in the background can sub for Miami.
This article appeared in print as "Finding Bliss: Michael C. Hall talks about Dexter, beating cancer and the little film bringing him to Newport Beach."
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