After three intense seasons battling Mads Mikkelsen’s grand guignol gourmand on Hannibal, Hugh Dancy could have been forgiven for choosing something bright and breezy for his next project.
However, while the 40-year old Brit did pick something closer to the New York home he shares with fellow actor Claire Danes, the subject matter isn’t exactly “light”.
The Path is a 10-part tale focusing on the Meyerist Movement, a religious cult with a distinct set of principals and beliefs. Stoke-on-Trent born Dancy plays Cal, the group’s unofficial leader, but a man whose ambition is at odds with the existing leadership.
Dancy says that apart from the talent already signed up to the show (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, True Detective’s Michelle Monaghan) and the creative minds behind it (Parenthood’s Jessica Goldberg and Jason Katims), what attracted him to the project was its ambiguity.
“That’s what keeps an actor interested. What I loved about this was that while it’s about a cult and has some machiavellian characters, they took the character’s belief system totally seriously and looked at what is like to have your beliefs crumble.”
Helping Dancy get into a character was “an introduction to Meyerism” the showrunners had created and the physical setting – a compound in upstate New York.
“Before we started shooting, we spent a day up there just getting to know one another and while you were sitting there on the grass in the sun it became immediately apparent why somebody might want to be a part of something like this.”
However, he admits that after Hannibal, he wasn’t exactly looking at jumping into just anything.
“If I was going to do another TV show I had to be certain about it. Hannibal was sometimes a tough day at work, but I went home delighted. What I was doing felt real and fun and serious. While I think it was about the relationship between two guys (Dancy’s Will Graham and Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter), it was also about death.
“Although The Path is also dark, it’s not really about death. That might be a fine distinction, but it made me think it was different water enough to throw myself into. Plus, it certainly didn’t hurt that the job was close to home and fitted around the family’s schedule.”
And so is Cal an easy character to leave behind after a long day’s shoot then? “I certainly hope so.”
Dancy says he also enjoyed being drip-fed information about the plot and where his character was headed.
“You have to expect not to know to a certain degree, because it is television, but I had a general sense of where they wanted to go with things. We had all 10 episodes by the time we started shooting episode six and I had some really helpful conversations with Jessica in particular.
“And what I found occasionally when speaking with other actors was that they had been speaking to her and had information about where their character was going. Slowly but surely, by digging around, we all managed to get a picture of where we were going.”
When asked if Cal and The Path is something Dancy would like to return to, he doesn’t hesitate with his answer.
“Obviously everybody hopes we get to do more of this. Cal could end up being like the pope, or in prison, and I’m cool with either of those things.”
The Path is now screening on Lightbox – stuff.co.nz