Michael C. Hall, who plays blood splatter analyst and conscientious serial killer in the series Dexter, talks about exploring the dark and light spaces his character inhabits
Based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the series Dexter created the ultimate anti-hero in Dexter Morgan. Played by Michael C. Hall, Dexter is a blood spatter pattern analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department by day and a serial killer by night. The series debuted in 2006 and Season 7 is to premier this September. In an email interview Hall talks what drew him to the role and the freedom the character gives him.
What drew you to the role?
Well, I like the role of Dexter in a way that’s unique to Dexter, beyond comparison to just the role on Six Feet Under; in comparison to any role I’ve played. He claims to be without authentic human emotion. I’m sceptical about that. But it sort of frees me up as an actor to suit my behavior to whatever situation Dexter finds himself in and that’s a lot of fun. When you are playing a character for a long time, it is nice to be able to mix it up that way.
How do you deal with Dexter’s ambiguous morality?
I think the key to Dexter being sympathetic to the audience is that he kills terrible people. You know, if he were killing innocent people, nobody would like him.
There is a part of him that is fundamentally innocent and childlike and I think he has an earnestness about him in terms of the way that he approaches the world and human interaction. He really does want to get it right and figure out how to be the person he feels he ought to be or feels a human would be and we see him take that to a new level now that he’s married.
But I think that’s a part of it. I mean I think a lot of that has to do with the writing, with the way the show is set up, with the fact that the audience is in on the secret, that no one else is in on, you know?
What is the difference between working on Six Feet Under and Dexter?
I think creatively, this show is different. Six Feet Under, Alan Ball wrote that pilot script and created all of those characters and really sat at the head of the writer’s table. The show was ultimately where the buck stopped in terms of the development of those stories and those characters, whereas in this situation, somebody wrote a pilot script that was based on a book that incorporated these characters and there were other producers involved and there’s a network involved. So it’s sort of more typical to TV I would imagine, a many headed creative monster.
You have done a lot of theatre— which do you prefer, TV or theatre?
I think of myself as an actor first. I have people approach me talking about both. I do enjoy singing, and it’s a very different and much more sort of expansive energy than I’m called upon to do on Dexter.
What preparation did you do for your role?
I don’t know if you mean improve in terms of my performance or improve in terms of the character, himself, but I think ultimately the character requires an imaginative leap. I mean I don't know if I'd be able to execute tracking down a killer and killing him and seeing what that feels like. What that feels like for me is not what it feels like for Dexter. So ultimately, there has to be some sort of internal alchemy you do to work it out. But I don't know. It is an evolving thing. You try to get out of it’s way after a certain point.
Dexter is aired from Monday to Thursday at 10.30 p.m. on BIG CBS prime.