Showtime's "Dexter" sets his creepy persona aside, as Michael C. Hall plays brother to black sheep Rainn Wilson and psycho sister Sarah Silverman in new indie comedy Peep World. Hall tells us of his experience being an only child, and Silverman talks about how her family views her success.
Izumi Hasegawa: What is it that drew you to your role?
Michael C. Hall: The script generally appealed to me. The time I spend playing someone who's so uniquely afflicted with all this darkness, it was nice to play a person around whom there wasn't some sort of internal chaos he was dealing with--not that Jack doesn't have his own afflictions. He was dealing with external chaos, and he was just a guy. That was appealing.
Sarah Silverman: I liked the script, and I got a chance to audition for it. It was a character where I liked the contrast that she was so broad and yet so sad and pathetic. She was somebody who you could feel very sorry for but not want to be anywhere near. I thought it was a very familiar character.
IH: Were you able to relate to this type of family relationship at all?
SS: I have a strong family. We're close. I think anyone can tell an honest version of their childhood or their family that is very sad and dysfunctional, and they can also tell an honest version that is perfect and wonderful. I don't think there is anyone who grew up with a perfect family. Your formative years are with your parents. That's their chance to fuck you up, no matter how hard they try not to. You can either be imprisoned by that for the rest of your life, or get through it and be free of it. If you've got sisters or a witness of some kind to certain childhood, it can help you or not.
MCH: I'm an only child. When I was growing up, I had friends who were members of really big families. I was always attracted to being some sort of surrogate member of a bigger family. As an actor, it's really fascinating to make believe that I have all these connections because, for the most part, it was just one-on-one with me and my mom.
IH: Being in the industry, do you always have friends or family that are looking to push their scripts or their writing on you?
SS: Yeah. The people where you came from, you're familiar to them. The fact that you can do something makes them think, "Well, if they can do that, I can do that." People will go, "Oh, so and so has changed. I used to know him and he's totally changed." And it's like, I think you may have changed. You feel weird around him because you've now seen him on TV. You have an anger and it's about how you feel about yourself, and it makes you resent him. He may not have changed at all. Maybe he has, but more likely it's that you now have a whole new set of feelings you're not familiar with, when it comes to him.
MCH: I don't really have any family members who are hitting me up for work--just autographs. They just want me to sign pictures.
SS: Oh, my parents forge my name on so many things.
MCH: I saw my mom recently and she was like, "You should get a stamp. Send me all the mail and I'll stamp it for you." That isn't a bad idea. She's a smart lady.
SS: I think that's gonna change. Not after this movie, but maybe the Showtime thing.
IH: The book reveals a lot of secrets about the family, some of which were shown in the film and some weren't. As actors, did you think about the secrets of your characters?
MCH: The one thing I did was I wrote out a page of what I imagined would have been the most damning, upsetting passage from the book, just to have a sense that everybody around me had read that and was projecting that back onto me.
SS: With my character, it's two-fold. She's so betrayed by what Nathan has exposed about her, but he also took her dream of wanting to be famous, took her ugliest parts and made himself famous with it. As delusional as she is, and looking to blame others for unhappiness, there's actually some sort of valid, tangible thing she can point to here, which probably, deep down, makes her feel like her version of good but of course she's devastated about.
IH: From an acting standpoint, was it more difficult to do the scenes where all of you guys were there together?
SS: To a degree, it was choreographed like a dance. We had a day of just working it out because it was so many pages. From there, it was lots of fun because we got to act. The in-between scenes that are usually the boring part were really fun because we had each other to play with, make jokes with, and be idiots with.
MCH: Your fellow actors are what grounds you, and if you're literally surrounded by all these great people who are just bringing such focus and energy, your job is that much easier, in a way.
IH: How structured was this script, and how often did you have the freedom to improvise?
MCH: Virtually none, right?
SS: It was fun when we were able to be a little loosey goosey. When (director) Barry (Blaustein) reined us back, it may have made us feel reined in, but that may have been a good thing. If you feel 'I just wanna say what I want and improvise' and he's not letting me, that actually really informed the character so well. We stuck to a script that was very good.
MCH: In my ADR session for the dinner scene, I threw in all kinds of ad-libs so they could sweeten up the atmosphere. When we were shooting it, it did feel like, oftentimes, we were being very quiet while a little conversation happened here or there. So some of the improvisation happened then.
IH: Sarah, as a comedienne, is anything from your family fair game?
SS: I talk about my dad in my stand-up because he loves it. I would love to talk more about my mom. She's hilarious. But she doesn't like it, so I don't as much. I just added my sister, Susie, into part of my stand-up. I started telling a story about how she got fired from volunteering at an abortion clinic. Her job was just to hold teenagers' hands when they have no one there and they're getting an abortion, but they had to fire her because the first time she fainted, and then the second time she puked. Sometimes you need walls to do the things that take a big heart or compassion.
IH: Do you think your dog Duck appreciates being included in your material?
SS: He loves it. He really gets a kick out of it. He's very dead-pan himself. He's dead inside. He can't watch himself. He literally can't. He has cataracts. He has beautiful blue eyes floating over his beautiful brown eyes. He's just hanging on. He is doing very well. He's going to be 17.
MCH: That's 119 in dog years.
IH: What are you going to be doing next?
MCH: I go back to Dexter in May to start shooting Season 6. We'll go until late October, and the show will air mid-October or something like that.
SS: I'm going to start making hats. I'm going to do different kinds of hats that people can wear–hats for shade, hats for style, floppy hats. And then I'm going to try to start acting again.
IH: Sarah, who are you playing in Take This Waltz?
SS: That's another family movie. It's really great. Sarah Polley wrote it and directed it. I remember the first scene I shot, Sarah came over to me after the first take and said, "That was amazing!" I was so excited. And then somebody brought her coffee and she said, "This coffee is amazing!" I was like, "Okay, I'll take that with a grain of salt." She's so kind. That would be a fun one. She will be back here. I've got some prepared.
IH: Michael, do you have any idea where the show will be going in Season 6?
MCH: I have a sense of the broad strokes of what's going to happen, but I'm not telling you.
SS: Last season, it just started right where it left off. Now will be time--like Harrison is gonna be five or six.
MCH: It's possible.
SS: Oh my god. What about the whole show was a fantasy of an artistic boy's mind?
MCH: That's possible.
IH: Sarah, have you always wanted to be a comedienne?
SS: I just always wanted to be a stand-up comedienne ever since I can remember. When I was in third grade, I filled out a thing for what I wanted to be when I grew up and it said, "Comedienne, actor, or masseuse."
IFC Films' 'Peep World' is released on March 25, 2011.