Michael C Hall: No more serial killers

It's exciting to have the freedom to explore new characters, Michael C Hall tells Kaleem Aftab after appearing in his first feature film since Dexter ended

There was a time when everyone wanted to do "a George Clooney" and make an effortless transition from the small screen to the big screen. The posse from Friends couldn't manage it. The Seinfeld squad struggled. And then came the new golden age of television and it seemed that every actor worth his salt wanted to make it big in our living rooms. So it's kind of a throwback to sit down with Michael C Hall and discuss Kill Your Darlings, his first film since TV executives murdered his serial killer Dexter.

The 42-year-old gives the impression that he was dying for Dexter to end. On the final day of filming he says that a bar was set up and an impromptu party was had. He says, "I am certainly thankful for the time, and I shall miss that family, but there is also a sense of relief in that soup of feelings." A sentiment reinforced by his time on the Kill Your Darlings film set. "It was so nice to be reminded that there was something other than a serial killer to play. It was restorative."

He has discovered the hard way how not to make proclamations about where his career will be headed. "You know I finished Six Feet Under and I said in interviews like this: 'I'll never do another television series again.' I learned to never say never, but I wouldn't like to make commitments to characters that are open-ended, right now."

On television, Hall has specialised in playing characters carrying secrets around with them. As David Fisher in Six Feet Under he struggled to keep his family funeral home in business and during the course of the show managed to reconcile his homosexuality with his religious beliefs. As the eponymous lead in Dexter he was a forensic blood-splatter analyst who moonlighted as a vigilante serial killer in his downtime.

So for his foray into the silver screen he was looking to change things up, although the plan didn't quite come together. "I think the role is different [to things I have done before]," he says. "It's a different time period and a very different story. I don't know if I was super self-conscious about avoiding any parallels between what I've done before and this; then I would not have done it. After all, it's a homosexual scene and a murder scene, a sort of mash-up of my TV roles."

That's quite a good way of putting it because in Kill Your Darlings Hall is both victim and aggressor. He plays David Kammerer, who in 1944 was fatally stabbed by Lucien Carr, a literary student at Columbia University. Carr was the crush of a certain Allen Ginsberg, who at the time was an impressionable 19-year-old trying to make his way in New York. Also on the scene are a young Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs. Carr served 18 months in jail for manslaughter and right up to his death in 2005, he claimed that the murder was done in self-defence against an older homosexual stalker.

Directed by first-timer John Krokidas, this little-known episode in the lives of the Beat Generation took place before they became literary stars. Hall says, "I was familiar with the Beats and this particular story. I was always amazed that it hadn't been told and I was really excited when I read the script that it was finally being told, and that it was as carefully rendered as it was."

Several cinematic tales have centred on the Beat generation in recent years; there was Howl starring James Franco, and the lamentable On the Road directed by Walter Salles. Kill Your Darlings benefits from being set in an epoch when little is known about the writers. It also has a stellar cast of upcoming actors, with Daniel Radcliffe playing Ginsberg, Dane DeHaan as Carr, Ben Foster as Burroughs and Jack Huston in a brief appearance as Kerouac.

"I think there was a collective freedom in that we were meeting all these characters before they became icons," says the North Carolina-born star. "In my case I was playing a character about whom very little was known aside from sketches about his relationship with Carr and the fact that he was murdered."

There's one thing he looks for in all his roles: "I think if it doesn't feel like there's some degree of risk or danger or uncertainty then it's probably not worth doing."

Hall has twice married and divorced actresses he has worked with. In 2003, he married stage actress Amy Spanger, and a year later he played Billy Flynn opposite her Roxie Hart in Chicago on Broadway. They divorced in 2007. Dexter fans got very excited when it was announced that he had married Jennifer Carpenter, who plays his adoptive sister on the show, on New Year's Eve in 2008. However, the relationship was short-lived and heavily shadowed by Hall's battle with cancer.

He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. When he accepted the Golden Globe award for Dexter he was wearing a beanie to cover his post-chemotherapy hair loss. The diagnosis, which Hall received aged 38, was particularly hard as his father, an employee at IBM, had died of cancer when he was 39. He also had a sister who died in infancy before he was born. His mother, a college-guidance counsellor, was among the mightily relieved when it was announced in April 2010 that his cancer was in remission.

During this period, and while he was contracted on Dexter, he couldn't take on other roles; "Doing the show created some opportunities that because of the show I couldn't take advantage of, because of obligations to continue to do the show."

He directed an episode of Dexter, an experience he describes as, "Great! I enjoyed it a lot more than I feared I wouldn't. I felt worried that I would feel stretched in two directions and not be able to give full focus to either, but one sort of informed the other and I really enjoyed it. It was really difficult for me to say 'Cut!', without some sort of absurd gesture or face; it felt sort of ridiculous. I couldn't say it with a straight face."

The hardest part came during the edit: "It was tough because it is a subjectively told show and sometimes you do need to be tight on Dexter and that was a challenge at times."

He has recently been shooting Cold in July, an adaptation of the cult novel by Joe R Lansdale. Hall plays the protagonist Richard Dane, who shoots and kills an intruder who breaks into his home in the middle of the night.

As for whether it's better to play a character over the months of a movie than the years of a TV show, he states: "I don't know if it's better. It's different, or it becomes different after you do it over a certain period. You're not asking yourself the same questions. If you've been doing a television show for three years, like when we were doing Six Feet Under and we were in the fourth season, I had what felt like real memories, that were actually the memory of having filmed a scene two years before with these people, and that's a unique and heavy thing to experience."

'Kill Your Darlings' is released on 6 December

Video: Interview with Daniel Radcliffe on nudity in 'Kill Your Darlings'

By default player size is set to 420 x 315px. But you can resize player width and height once you get the player code using player params.
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine