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Peep World – Michael C Hall is the straight man in the world of funny people

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Peep World - Ben Schwartz,  Michael C Hall, Lesley Ann Warren, Judy Greer, Ron Rifkin, Sarah Silverman and Rainn Wilson
Nathan (Ben Schwartz), Jack (Michael C Hall), (Lesley Ann Warren), Laura (Judy Greer), Henry (Ron Rifkin), Cheri (Sarah Silverman) and Joel (Rainn Wilson) © 2010 IFC Films

Michael C Hall moved effortlessly from an uptight funeral director on Six Feet Under to a Miami blood-splatter analyst and serial killer in Showtime’s popular series Dexter, for which he has won several awards.

His new movie is truly a change of pace – it’s a comedy! In Peep World he portrays Jack, the oldest son of Henry Meyerwitz (Ron Rifkin), a successful businessman, who is about to celebrate his 70th birthday. As the family gathers together to observe the day, Jack is faced with a failing business, and attempting to persuade his wife Laura (Judy Greer) that salacious events chronicled in his brother Nathan’s (Ben Schwarz) best-selling book, Peep World, were not committed by him.

Did you choose this character because you weren’t playing a serial killer and it’s a comedy?

Dexter, 5.12 - Michael C Hall
Dexter, 5.12 - Dexter (Michael C Hall) © 2010 Showtime

Yeah. Jack is probably the straight man in this world, but the idea of being in a movie that was populated by people who were being funny was kind of exciting for me. I really thought the script was great. It was all about the material for me.

Did you have a lot of rehearsal time, getting to know the other cast members, just so that you could appear as a family?

We rehearsed the dinner scene for a couple of days, so that was sort of good for bonding. That was the concern with this, because we’re all kind of in our own movies and it was really reassuring when we got to the dinner scene, because we did shoot that last, and it was like, ‘Oh, okay, it actually does feel like we could be a family and that we come from the same world, even though we’re very different.’

What did you think of Louis Black’s narrating the story?

The voice over element was added after. I don’t think it was a part of what we thought the story was going to be. When I heard about it I was like, ‘Yeew,’ but then I thought it really worked. And his narration helps to unify those very different worlds of those four characters.

Do you think that Jack had issues with his father or is it an issue with himself for not achieving his father’s success?

Fixating on the father is like a crutch for them. As bad as he is, at the end of the movie he says, ‘This isn’t about me, it’s about you. So figure your shit out and stop looking to me, or projecting it onto me.’

Do you think your character changes by the end of the movie?

I think it’s a big day for Jack. I think he does change. His relationship is all of a sudden on a new footing.

Jack’s situation is so relatable to so many people right now who are losing their jobs. Did you have any frame of reference in your mind playing this out?

Peep World - Michael C Hall and Judy Greer
Jack (Michael C Hall) and Laura (Judy Greer) © 2010 IFC Films

I think any actor can relate to the fear that business is going to dry up, or everybody is going to catch on and be like, ‘I’m not hiring him anymore. He’s terrible.’

It’s a very different business model having an architectural firm like Jack’s, but I think any actor can relate to that kind of anxiety no matter where they are.

But he also realizes it’s not the job he ever really wanted.

Yeah, there’s a real epiphany in the midst of his horrible day and his desperation and being on the outs with everybody. It’s kind of what facilitates him saying, ‘You know what? I don’t even want this?’

Jack seems doomed to pay for everybody all the time. How is he going to cope with those bills once they start coming in?

Yeah, there are some logistical issues that aren’t just going to go away because he stood up to his father. I don’t really know. I do feel like he’s ready to bite whatever bullet he needs to, to make things right in his relationship. If that means getting a job at Starbucks for a little while so be it.

Laura is going to have the baby soon. Maybe she’ll go back to work for a while. Maybe Jack will discover he loves gardening. I don’t know.

I have a geeky question for you. I noticed at the end of the film the Red camera was used.

It’s a wave of the present. So much is shot on the Red camera. Especially in independent film, you can move so much faster, as it’s all digital.

Is Dexter done with the Red camera?

No. It’s high-def. It’s not red. I did another independent film last year that was shot on the Red camera. So you see it more and more.

Are you still enjoying playing Dexter?

Dexter - Michael C Hall
Dexter, Season 5 - Dexter (Michael C Hall) © Showtime

I am. It’s a crazy proposition to make an open-ended commitment to a character for that long, but they’ve managed to have him evolve in a way that allows it to continue to feel fresh.

You went through your own nightmare before last season began with your health scare. Was it good to get back on the set again?

I was thankful that the hiatus managed to coincide with my treatment and that we didn’t miss a beat in terms of our schedule. It has become a family at this point, and it was gratifying to show up on the set and realize how, across the board, everyone was so excited to be back and so appreciative of this particular working environment. So it felt, and continues to feel, really good.

Are you in production now?

I’m on hiatus. But we’ll go back starting in May for the sixth season.