It's one killer of a job

Special to The Times

Michael C. HALL plays the title role on Showtime's "Dexter," which returns tonight for Season 3. He is late of "Six Feet Under." According to E!, he arrived "arm in arm" with his costar, Jennifer Carpenter, for HBO's Emmy bash last weekend, on the evening he was nominated for but did not win the award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series.


Looking back at your time when you were primarily working in theater -- were you very happy? Or is it a crushing sense of insecurity financially?

I think from a financial standpoint, working on stage in New York is a sort of paycheck-to-paycheck kind of proposition at best. I certainly, when I started to do "Cabaret," I had a more sizable paycheck and was able to start saving some money and paying off the student loans. But there were times doing plays off-off-Broadway and I looked forward to that ending from a financial standpoint and going on unemployment and making some real money.


When "Six Feet Under" ended, were you immediately then off to the next thing?

There was a bit of a gap, a gap I'd welcomed. It'd been five years. We all simulated our deaths onscreen. I think it felt like a death. Or at least a saying goodbye. And I must say, the last thing I thought I would do next was another television series.


How did "Dexter" come to you?

I got the pilot script from my agent at the time, and I knew that there was interest on the part of Showtime -- Bob Greenblatt who was and is the head of original programming and was a producer on "Six Feet Under."


You're still shooting Season 3?

We're halfway through the ninth of what will be 12 episodes. We're shooting through October.


And then what do you do to celebrate?

You don't go to work. No, I dunno. You catch your breath. Sleep late. Maybe take a trip. . . . It's a tricky thing, because you're saying goodbye to the season but not totally saying goodbye to the character, so you put it back in the oven, so it'll simmer while you're not thinking about it.


You've always kept a fairly low personal profile and now you are just reaching the point where you become a subject of gossip.

Mmm hmm.


Does that feel weird? Are you surprised?

Um, no, I mean I suppose it's as far as the level of exposure and popularity the show has, those kind of dynamics would emerge. It's not something I'm interested in indulging or courting.


So when you talk to Showtime or whomever, you're like, "Ignore, ignore, ignore!"?

I don't actually have any direct conversations with Showtime about that.


Don't go get drunk at the Ivy or something.

Good idea.


Hmm. What else? What are you reading?

I just picked up an anthology of Philip Roth I've been reading. But -- yeah, that's what I'm reading right now. Along with the occasional script. Honestly at this point I'm pretty immersed in the "Dexter" freight train. I'll come up for air when we're done. Can I ask you a question? What is this article focusing on?


Oh, it's straight Q&A; format! It's interesting that you say "coming up for air." I get the sense that living in "Dexter" in midseason is stifling.

Well, yeah -- to extend the metaphor, you do dive into the waters of the show. You're pretty much swimming in them, it feels like one long day -- in a way that I totally welcome and enjoy. ... But right now I'm very much in the thick of it.

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