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01 October 2006 @ 11:57 am
Dex the knife  
Dex the Knife



By MARISA GUTHRIE

Michael C. Hall is a killer working as a CSI blood-splatter expert in 'Dexter,' premiering tonight on Showtime.

To television viewers,Michael C. Hall is David Fisher, the fastidious, duty-bound funeral director with a tightly controlled self-destructive streak on HBO's "Six Feet Under."
Never mind that Hall, 35, has been in countless theater productions in New York, including "Chicago" and "Cabaret." His newest television incarnation, that of a CSI blood-spatter expert on the Miami Police Department in Showtime's "Dexter," will turn on its head our collective memories of that buttoned-up, by-the-book persona. The show premieres tonight at 10 p.m.

"It has been an interesting change of pace to play someone who does not wear his heart on his sleeve," says Hall.

Indeed, Dexter Morgan's heart is obscured by years of scar tissue. His job on the police department enables him to indulge a secret obsession with blood and an unstoppable compulsion to kill. As we see in flashback sequences, Dexter's blood lust was recognized early in his life by his foster father (James Remar), who accepted the boy's unorthodox tendencies and helped him channel them. As an adult, Dexter satisfies his need to kill by becoming a vigilante, dispatching truly loathsome characters who would otherwise slip through the spindly fingers of the law.

"In both cases," says Hall, referring to his television parts, "I was attracted to characters that had a lot of complexity and a lot of potential for evolution and growth. In that way they're similar."

The show will aim to explore Dexter's core ethical dilemma: Is he a vigilante or a serial killer?

"I admire Dexter," says Hall. "I think he takes a unique responsibility for his shadow side."

His dark side was born of a perverse inability to feel human emotions, or so Dexter tells himself. "He has to pretend to be human," says Hall.

He dispatches his victims in the most efficient fashion. He keeps only one souvenir: a microscope slide with a single drop of the victim's blood, which he files away in a box that he hides in his living room air-conditioning unit.

"He's really hiding in plain sight working in the police department."

Dexter is surrounded by a quirky group of outcasts on the police force, including his sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), a seemingly bumbling cop desperate to get promoted out of vice, where's she invariably forced to dress like a hooker for undercover assignments. Dexter's lieutenant (Lauren Vélez) harbors a poorly disguised obsession with him while Detective Doakes (Erik King) makes no attempt to hide his dislike for Dexter.

An only child, Hall grew up in North Carolina with his mother. His father died when Hall was 11. He moved to New York in the early '90s to attend NYU, where he earned his MFA. Much local theater work followed, including Shakespeare in the Park and productions at the Roundabout and the Public. "Six Feet Under" took him to Los Angeles and although he considers New York his home, for the moment "Dexter" is keeping him in Los Angeles.

Hall knows that the show will provoke polar reactions. The blood, the murder, the creepy lack of human emotion in the starring character, is bound to make "Dexter" one of those love-it or hate-it shows. And he's fine with that.

"I would rather do something that makes an impression," he says.

Besides, he said, "my mother, for example, she loved the pilot."

Yes, his mother.

"She unshockable," he says, "whether it's seeing my swastika-branded ass in 'Cabaret' or all the things I did in 'Six Feet Under.' She's over it."
 
 
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