Michael C. Hall has killed 125 people as Dexter Morgan since we first met him seven years ago. Yet it’s breaking into all those apartments and houses that’s bugging him.
“The Miami of Dexter’s world is a world without home alarms or deadbolt locks,” he notes after having quickly lock-picked yet another suspect’s residence. “He’s like Houdini.”
Hall is sitting at the kitchen table of a Long Beach house used in the production of Dexter‘s eighth season. For his next trick, he will help bring to a close Showtime’s long-running hit series, which launches the first of its final 12 episodes on Sunday night. The lock-picking comment is very Hall. As you’ll see below, he’s quite thoughtful and analytical about his character and the series. If he were to take a Meyers-Briggs personality test, one suspects he would strongly index as a “thinking” person vs. “feeling” (the unedited transcript of his interview originally contained about a dozen uses of “I think”).
On the set, Hall comes across as cool and capable. He can switch quickly into character and causally endure a chilly submersion into a lake, for example — no complaints or slacking, but occasional “does this make sense?” questions. Since his character is almost Spock-ian in his reliance on pragmatic logic vs. emotions, Hall’s own seeming left-brain tilt has likely served him well. This season, in addition to being the star and a producer on Dexter, he’ll also make his directing debut in the second week’s episode.
Below, Hall teases the final season, tackles some burning questions about the series and wonders: Who is Dexter talking to during his voice-overs, anyway?
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s go way back. What did you think the moment you first heard of Dexter?
HALL: I finished Six Feet Under in the spring of 2005. I got a call about a new pilot. I was reluctant to the idea of doing another television series in general. When I heard it was about a serial killer who only killed criminals … I didn’t roll my eyes, but I did think, “Do I want to be surrounded by dead bodies for another indeterminate number of years?” And second, I wondered how tonally you’d pull something like that off. But once I looked at the book and the pilot script I realized it was a totally unique character and I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t take the leap.
The show’s sense of humor helps sell it, I think.
Yeah. I think, obviously, his code, too — the code that he’s defied more and more significantly over the course of the seasons. The audience’s affection for the character has been challenged in more intense degrees. And there’s his voice-over, so you are in on the secret and implicated as a result.
There’s definitely a voyeuristic quality.
You’re a silent passive accomplice.
When asked about Dexter’s morality, you once said he “should be given a medal and then beaten to death with it.”
I’m reluctant to come down on one side or another, with this or any character. I like that he operates in a morally gray area. He’s moving toward the light in some ways, but as a result the darker stuff is all the darker because of it. I like that the spectrum between the light and dark of the character has broadened. He has an undeniable and insurmountable compulsion.
Do you ever lose sympathy for him?
No. No. I wish that he could be liberated from his compulsion. I have sympathy for him because of that.
Do you have any compulsions that help you relate to the character?
[Pause] I’d acknowledge that they exist, but I wouldn’t [reveal] them.
Every time he veers from the code, as you’ve pointed out, innocent people die.
Arguably the tragedy of Dexter is that it’s not his homicidal behavior that’s gotten the people in his life in trouble but it’s his appetite to play at becoming a human being — his desire to have real relationships. I guess a lesson that’s emerged is that you can’t have your cake and kill it too.
NEXT: Why Dex always has stubble; Hall’s favorite part