Photo by Miranda Penn Turin
Playbill On-Line: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination.
Michael Hall: Thank you. PBOL: Where were you when you heard the news?
MH: I was in bed.
PBOL: Were you watching the announcements on TV?
MH: Yeah. I had planned to sleep through [the Emmy nominations], and if I was called, I'd find out, but I woke up, so I turned on the TV right as they were announcing them.
PBOL: Was that exciting?
MH: Yeah, it was surreal.
PBOL: The show seems like it would be a lot of fun to work on — what's the experience been like for you?
MH: I think — considering how much goes into making a show like this, from the production end, all the different departments — it's kind of a miracle that this show completely fires on all cylinders. Nobody drops the ball. It's a dream to go to work and just worry exclusively about your job, knowing that everybody else is doing theirs. It's an incredible group. We all really enjoy each other.
PBOL: Is everyone coming back this season?
MH: Yes...as far as I know. [Laughs.]
PBOL: How did you come to be cast in "Six Feet Under"?
MH: I was working here in New York. I was doing Cabaret, and my agent let me know that Alan Ball had written a pilot script for HBO, and asked if I would I be interested in reading it. I said, "Of course." And, from the beginning, they had said they would see me for David. Five pages into the script, I was very excited about auditioning for it. I auditioned twice here and had a third and final screen-test day in L.A. and then got the job.
PBOL: Do you remember your thoughts when you first read the script?
MH: I loved it. I was by no means turned off by the fact that it was about a funeral home or anything like that. I was amazed that [Ball], in a 60-page script, had created so many characters with so much dimension and such complex relationships between them all. I really saw it as a great opportunity.
PBOL: Are you excited about returning to Broadway?
MH: Yeah, definitely. It'll be fun to flex some different muscles after being in front of the camera for a year-and-a-half.
PBOL: How did the Chicago gig come about?
MH: My wife Amy and I were driving down to North Carolina to visit some of my family, and we both got calls individually on our cell phones. It's not something that we really sought out. I still am not sure exactly whose idea it was. We just looked at each other and thought, "Well that sounds fun." [Laughs.]
PBOL: Have you ever worked with her before?
PBOL: Had you seen this production?
MH: I saw it at City Center and then after it opened on Broadway, and I also saw it on Broadway later when Amy played June. And I saw it on tour when Amy played Roxie on the tour, so I've actually seen it four times.
PBOL: This is the second Kander and Ebb show you've done. Are you fans of their work?
MH: Absolutely, yes... There's something really sharp in their sense of theatricality. Everything moves things forward.
PBOL: What do you think of the character of Billy?
MH: Billy's fun, especially in light of what I've been doing on "Six Feet Under," because he's really someone who is so utterly confident and without conflict [laughs], so that's a lot of fun.
PBOL: Cabaret was your Broadway debut. How did that role come about?
MH: I guess it happened because I did the five-day workshop, and later I did the more expensive workshop, of Sondheim's Wise Guys, and [ Cabaret director] Sam Mendes directed that, and the timing just coincided with the fact that he was looking for someone to replace Alan Cumming. And, I guess, based on what I did in Wise Guys, he invited me to come in for a work session the following week. They called me at noon and sent me the material over, and I went in at six and finished the work session at seven, and then at eight o'clock they told me I had the job. And I went and saw the show that night, having not seen the production. It was quite a day!
PBOL: Was it difficult following Alan Cumming into the part?
MC: He'd managed to redefine a role that was so totally defined by Joel Grey, and so it was daunting in one way, but I think it was so daunting that it was kind of like, "Might as well just try to enjoy myself." [Laughs]. Ultimately, it was made a lot easier because it was an incredible company, and everybody welcomed me with open arms and recognized that Alan was amazing.
PBOL: But you got great reviews for it as well.
MH: They didn't hire me to simulate his performance, and I think that's a strength of that production. They've hired a lot of different kinds of actors to do all the roles in that show. It's a production that's so strong that it can support different interpretations, and the story still gets told. It's not like you just plug yourself into some already existing thing.
PBOL: How long will you stay with Chicago?
MH: Just for six weeks because I go back to shoot the third season of "Six Feet Under" in September.
PBOL: Do you have anything else coming up?
MH: No, not for sure. [Laughs.] We'll do "Six Feet Under" until early spring and then see what happens in the next hiatus.
PBOL: Would you like to return to Broadway again, maybe in a new show?
MH: Oh yeah, I'd love to... There's nothing like performing in front of a live audience. There's nothing like that communication, that immediate response, so I hope to return to the stage again and again and again.
PBOL: Were you a fan of theatre or musical theatre growing up?
MH: Yeah, I guess my first sort of experiences as a performer — aside from singing in choirs and stuff — were doing musicals in junior high and high schools.
PBOL: Do you remember what you did?
MH: Yeah. [Laughs.] I went to a private day school, so it was possible for the junior high and middle-school kids to be in the high school musicals, so from sixth grade all the way to my senior year I did a musical. I did all the chestnuts. I did Sound of Music, The King and I, South Pacific, Bye Bye Birdie, Oklahoma, Fiddler on the Roof and Annie Get Your Gun. [Laughs.]
PBOL: Do you remember what your favorite was?
MH: Bye Bye Birdie — because I got to play Conrad Birdie, and I got to pretend I was a rock-and-roll star.
PBOL: Did your parents take you to the theatre?
MH: Actually, my father took me to see a musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol, when I was, gosh, I must have been six. The guy who played Scrooge, Ira David Wood, now does this production on a much larger scale. It's become a tradition in Raleigh. I was so taken with his performance, and I was so amazed when I found out he was only in his early 20s because he seemed like this old man. I was just completely fascinated by that, so I think that really turned me on to the idea of performing.
PBOL: When do you think you knew definitely acting was what you were going to pursue?
MH: I don't think it was until I was in college that I really fessed up that I considered it a legitimate career choice. About halfway through college, I realized that there was nothing really doing as much for me or turning me on like acting did, and so I changed my major and decided to major in theatre. Then I applied to grad school and went to grad school at NYU and started to take the idea of making it a career a lot more seriously.
PBOL: So, how's married life?
MH: It's great!
PBOL: Have you been rehearsing together?
MH: We have a bit. We rehearsed early on together, and just in the past few days we've rehearsed some onstage. It's really been fun.
—By Andrew Gans