MIPTV: Michael C. Hall on His British Accent in 'Safe' and Leaving 'Dexter' Behind
“The chance to try something else on, in a way that’s not arbitrary but actually required as an obvious difference, was appealing," the actor says of his latest role.
Playing it safe is not Michael C. Hall’s style. After all, the actor starred as the serial killer next door on Showtime's Dexter, and followed it up with a turn on stage in David Bowie’s Lazarus in London’s West End.
He returned to the U.K. to star on Harlan Coben’s Safe, playing a widowed father whose wealthy gated community is anything but. The StudioCanal drama, which will air on Netflix internationally and Vivendi’s C8 in France, which premieres Wednesday night at CanneSeries.
With Safe, fans used to Hall's past work might be surprised to hear his British accent. “Sometimes I meet people and they’re like, ‘Are you Dexter?' And I’ll answer yes, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, you sound just like him!’ Well, yeah, I look just like him, too,” he jokes, reminding fans that despite being in their homes for years, Dexter isn’t real. “He’s just words on a page.”
Lazarus was a way for Hall to wash his hands of the serial killer role, the actor told The Hollywood Reporter. “When Dexter ended, I wanted to mix it up and get back on stage and flush him out of my system. I think at this point he’s pretty well flushed out, but I can’t really change the fact that I do still look like him and sound like him,” said Hall.
Thus, the British lilt was a welcome change. “The chance to try something else on, in a way that’s not arbitrary but actually required as an obvious difference, was appealing,” he added. “It's sometimes nice to have something that specific to put on to remind yourself that you are someone else.”
The concept of security as something money can buy is challenged on Safe. It’s a timely idea, says Hall, which has bigger political themes.
“We live in a world where much of our media preys on and stokes our fear of the other or our fear of what might be out there,” he says. “I think a preoccupation with safety, that’s stoked by a somewhat fear-mongering media, can create dangers which wouldn’t otherwise be there.”
His single doctor dad has tried to control danger for his daughters, but ultimately the threat comes from within.
Safe is best-selling crime novelist Coben’s second TV series adaptation following Sky’s The Five, and Hall called the author’s approach to storytelling “infectious.”
“He has an enthusiasm about this new way of telling stories and a really refreshing appetite for collaboration," said the actor. "He sits at the head of the table [as showrunner] but defers to other people in terms of how we get there.”
Hall's Safe shoot followed months on the London stage, a city he called “New York with better manners and prettier buildings,” bringing his time in the U.K. to almost a year and a half.
The actor relished the five months in the British countryside, in part for its change of scenery out of New York City, and because of its slow pace, where union rules mandate definitive workdays.
“In the U.S., things can spiral out of control and you find yourself working 16, 18 hour days. So it’s a bit more civilized that way,” said Hall. “I think after a certain point, nobody is able to do their best work because everybody is running on fumes, so I like taking a bit more time. It can lend itself to a certain kind of consuming intensity, which I suppose can be good, but given the choice between one or the other, I like having a relatively sane work schedule.”