July 07, 2013 4:25pm PT by Philiana Ng
'The Killing': Hugh Dillon on Going Toe-to-Toe With Peter Sarsgaard
The Killing continues to head into deeper, darker territory.
With Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) and Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) on the road to solving the season's mystery of the serial killer targeting street kids, another story line is just as significant. Death row prison guard Francis Becker (Hugh Dillon) finds himself in "a dark duet" with imprisoned inmate Ray Seward (Peter Sarsgaard), behind bars for allegedly murdering his wife.
For Canadian actor Dillon, who appeared on Continuum and starred in Flashpoint, Becker is "giving a master class in dysfunction, to tell you the truth," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. "He's a product of his environment. He's emotionally bankrupt. He's struggling to keep some semblance of humanity." He likens The Killing to "a poisonous flower: The more it unfolds, the more you're in it and the more deadly it gets."
Filming the scenes between Becker and Ray "couldn't be better," with the actor recalling a time when Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Rachel Getting Married) was directing he and Sarsgaard — an actor Dillon admires. "This isn't network television. It's elaborate and so beautifully written and the kind of thing that as an actor you're waiting to do and hoping you get to do these kind of roles," Dillon says. "I look for parts and roles on film and shows I'm interested in that are exciting to be a part of, and this was that."
Dillon characterizes the Becker-Ray dynamic as remarkably tense. "It's a dark duel. It's the antagonist's antagonist. It's the bad guy to the bad guy, who's cloaked as an authority figure," he says. "[The writing] instilled that kind of tension in the words and the characters."
Becker heads into "very dark" places, but Dillon reassures that hints of who this guy is have been inserted along the way. "As the [season] goes on, you see what the psychological baggage he carries with him is, and that is his family," he says. "He is the dark lord in the prison. He is the master of that domain. That's why he has such a problem with Seward. His home life is, for a guy like that, so dysfunctional, it's killing him."
Acting primarily in a stale, static environment such as a prison wasn't as challenging for Dillon as one might think — though he "tended not to" look to past prison documentaries or films in preparation for the role. Having grown up in a town with five penitentiaries, Dillon was "aware of that environment," instead speaking to correctional officers for research. "Shooting in such a dark, depressing place just helps you in every regard when you're acting, because going on to that set," he says, "it's a character in and of itself."
In a show like The Killing, where there are many suspects in the seasonlong mystery, Dillon knows that the light is also being shined on Becker. "There are a few episodes coming up where you go, 'He's the guy,' " he says.
The seventh episode of the season, "Hope Kills," "really reveals Becker's underbelly in terms of his home life and what makes him tick. This guy's a time bomb, and you're about to see what lights the fuse," Dillon says. "Ray's a master manipulator. He chips at Becker to make him uncomfortable and react."
How different of a place does Becker end up in at the end of the season? "It's night and day," Dillon says. "It comes down to the effect that this kind of job and this kind of lifestyle [has] — it's almost like post-traumatic stress. It affects every element of this guy's personality, of his emotional life, of his humanity — right down to his son and his wife. The end is a beautifully written piece because it really shows the reverberations of crime and punishment on an individual."
The Killing airs 9 p.m. Sundays on AMC.