Can­cer con­querer Michael C. Hall re­turns to dis­tress and im­press as Dex­ter, writes Dar­ren Devlyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story -

MICHAEL C. Hall is per­fectly cast as a se­rial killer. For a start, Hall is mer­cu­rial and elu­sive. He’s a clas­sic shapeshifter who, like jelly crys­tals in wa­ter, has the rare abil­ity to dis­solve com­pletely into a role.

In Six Feet Un­der, he was com­pelling as gay fu­neral di­rec­tor David Fisher, who Hall called an ‘‘ in­ter­nalised pret­zel’’.

His Dex­ter Mor­gan, how­ever, is un­like any TV char­ac­ter we’ve seen be­fore: the se­rial killer as oc­ca­sion­ally lik­able hero.

For much of the show’s run, foren­sic blood spat­ter ex­pert Dex­ter has been true to his the­ory that he has no ca­pac­ity for au­then­tic emo­tion and could op­er­ate in con­ven­tional so­ci­ety only by fak­ing all hu­man in­ter­ac­tion.

Dex­ter, how­ever, ap­pears to have evolved as a re­sult of his ex­pe­ri­ences as a hus­band and fa­ther, throw­ing Hall one of his ca­reer’s great curve balls.

‘‘ It’s a real tightrope walk to main­tain his real so­cio­pathic na­ture, but also to move him for­ward into un­charted hu­man wa­ters,’’ Hall says.

‘‘ I like the fact that it re­mains am­bigu­ous as to whether Dex­ter is de­vel­op­ing as a per­son or is he just be­com­ing a more nu­anced sim­u­la­tor.’’

So heav­ily does the char­ac­ter weigh on Hall that he con­fesses the show man­i­fests it­self in his dreams.

‘‘ I have this dream where Lit­tle Chino (Matthew Wil­lig), who is this gi­ant Dex­ter tries to kill in the first sea­son, then kills in the sec­ond sea­son, keeps show­ing up at my door,’’ Hall says.

‘‘ I would have to kill him . . . even though I was at home try­ing to have a nice meal with my fam­ily.

‘‘ Ev­ery time he (Chino) would come to the door, I’m like, ‘ You again!’ But I was my­self (not Dex­ter) in the dream. I’m rolling my eyes in the dream be­cause it is so ab­surd.

Hall, mean­while, has been through real phys­i­cal and emo­tional trau­mas dur­ing the past year. He re­cently an­nounced he’d split from wife of two years, co-star Jen­nifer Car­pen­ter (who plays screen sis­ter De­bra Mor­gan). Ac­tor Ju­lia Stiles, who had been work­ing along­side Hall on Dex­ter, re­leased a state­ment deny­ing she played any part in the mar­riage bust-up.

‘‘ I have ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with the split be­tween Michael and Jen­nifer,’’ Stiles said. ‘‘ We are good friends and en­joyed work­ing to­gether. This is a per­sonal mat­ter be­tween them, and we should re­spect their pri­vacy.’’

The good news in Hall’s life is he has com­pleted treat­ment for Hodgkin’s lym­phoma.

Hall, 39, was di­ag­nosed in Jan­uary, shortly be­fore wind­ing up film­ing on sea­son five.

One of the great mis­con­cep­tions about the ill­ness is that be­cause it has a high cure rate, the treat­ment regime for it must be easy to en­dure. On the con­trary, the chemo­ther­apy course can be rav­aging.

Los­ing his hair as a re­sult of treat­ment, Hall says, was the least of his wor­ries.

‘‘ Los­ing your hair is just proof the treat­ment is work­ing,’’ he says mat­ter-of-factly.

‘‘ But it (treat­ment) is no fun. The treat­ment re­ally had two stages for me. Ini­tially, I wel­comed the poi­son. I was like, ‘ Get this wizard juice in me, get this can­cer out of me’. Once the can­cer went into re­mis­sion and the treat­ment con­tin­ued, I just felt like I was poi­son­ing my­self. Once I was in re­mis­sion, the treat­ment re­ally started to feel in­sid­i­ous.

‘‘ One of the most chal­leng­ing parts about it is man­ag­ing other peo­ple’s re­ac­tions. You are not just tak­ing care of your­self, but also try­ing to take care of other peo­ple’s fears.

‘‘ I had ev­ery in­ten­tion of keep­ing it (ill­ness) quiet. My friends and loved ones knew, but it was only when I was in­vited to the Golden Globes that I felt com­pelled to make an an­nounce­ment.’’

Hall says the di­ag­no­sis did not come as a sur­prise to him be­cause he had won­dered since child­hood whether he would live to be 40.

‘‘ My fa­ther died (of prostate can­cer) when I was 11 and he was 39. I turned 39 over the course of the treat­ment,’’ he says. ‘‘ There was a sense of be­muse­ment, like, that’s ironic be­cause this is an age and time in my life I’ve been look­ing to­ward since I was 11 and my fa­ther died. I saw it as some kind of marker.’’ Dex­ter, Eleven, re­turns Jan­uary 17 Emo­tional bag­gage: is Michael C. Hall’s se­rial killer Dex­ter start­ing to care — or get­ting bet­ter at fak­ing feel­ings?

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