Special to The Times

After playing the flamboyant emcee in “Cabaret” on Broadway, Michael C. Hall was cast as closeted mortician David Fisher on HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” which ended in 2005. As critically acclaimed and different as that series was, last year he landed a role that stood out even more -- as the eponymous serial killer in Showtime’s “Dexter,” based on the books by Jeff Lindsay and which immediately gained a rabid following. Now the nominations are rolling in: With the second season wrapped up, Hall is up for both a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award for his role as killer who moonlights for the Miami Police Department. We caught up with Hall, 36, soon after the explosive season finale aired. The season ended with the death of Dexter’s nemesis, Sgt. James Doakes. Will Dexter miss him?

Very much. I think Dexter always felt a kinship with Doakes, who emerged as a really legitimate confidant. Aside from his father, Doakes is the only one Dexter has killed in front of -- that’s pretty intimate!

I will miss Erik King very much. As an actor, as a professional, as a genuinely enthusiastic and kind member of our family, it’s going be rough not having him around. On “Six Feet Under,” when we’d do scenes in the kitchen, we felt, ‘Aah, we’re at the heart of the show,’ and doing scenes with Doakes, I also felt it was home. We really enjoyed the humor of it. Some new source of suspicion and tension will need to emerge on the show, but I don’t think it can quite have the unique character that that relationship had. How is Dexter going to be different without the “Code of Harry” that guided him as a serial killer?


The story Dexter was telling himself about his father and his code revealed itself to be just that, a story. Dexter is on the cusp of taking a new sense of ownership over who he is, and who he is is a killer. It’s kind of twisted, but I think this has all moved Dexter to a place where he’s a more fully realized and potent killer. What have been some of the hardest scenes to shoot this season? Which have been the most fun?

I think the more challenging stuff is ultimately the most fun. We really needed to see Dexter kill Lila, and that was very challenging, but Dexter had to move forward in terms of experiencing himself in more human ways. Calibrating Dexter’s development is also challenging. His impulse to turn himself in was somewhat problematic with me initially because it seemed to be motivated by this growing sense of empathy, which I thought was off the mark. I wanted to find a way to make it more of an expression of Dexter’s, and it’s actually the ultimate act of rebellion against his father to turn himself in. It’s all a bit of a tightrope. Do certain awards mean different things to you than others?

I suppose the nominations reflect the approval of a different body in different cases. The Hollywood Foreign Press and Screen Actors Guild are comprised of very different people. SAG is a more extensive group and they are truly my peers in terms of what they do, which makes it special in its way. The Golden Globes has a certain prestige and they throw a heck of a party. It’s nice to be invited even though this year (the ceremony) might not happen. It sounds sort of up in the air.

If you lose are you going to throw a fit?

I guarantee that I will not. It’s the weird thing about those awards shows: You show up and 75% or more of the people there are going to feel like losers at the end of the night, which is a strange thing. It’s nice. I’ve been nominated for things before, I’ve not been nominated for things before, I suppose I prefer to be nominated than not to be nominated. Were you surprised by the reaction to the show?

I was hopeful given the creative team that was assembled that the show would be interesting and provocative. Initially I anticipated more of a cult following and I think ultimately that’s what the show has. I knew it was a risk but anything worth doing is inherently risky to some degree. I did think that the audience would appreciate being given a bit more credit than they’re accustomed to when they’re given black and white scenarios of who you’re supposed to be identifying with. It’s clear on “Dexter” who you’re supposed to be identifying with but it’s just not who you’re accustomed to identifying with.

Why do you think people love it so much?

I think Dexter in spite of everything is an eminently relatable guy. We all have questions about our authenticity and have secrets that we keep that are potent in terms of our interior landscape. We all have a shadow side, maybe not as formidable on paper as Dexter’s. Because of your role as Dexter and David the mortician on “Six Feet Under,” do your fans assume that in real life you’re fascinated with death?


I would imagine that that perception might exist. I can’t deny that both shows were populated by dead bodies. Some people say, ‘Man, say you scare me, you freak me out!’ but they say it with a sort of affection and a relish since they’re given permission to identify with someone who does kill people.