In Hulu’s drama The Path, Hugh Dancy plays Cal, the leader of a fringe religious movement (“it’s not a cult,” his character is quick to correct) and a recovering alcoholic who has entered into a sexual relationship with a young recruit (Emma Greenwell). Dancy’s first response to the character? “Cal seems like a pretty happy-go-lucky guy.” To be fair, in comparison to Dancy’s most famous recent role — a turn as the tortured Will Graham, who was somewhere between an adversary and protégée to Hannibal Lecter on Hannibal — that might be true. Plus, as Dancy admits, he has a tendency to underestimate the darkness in his characters as a whole. We caught up to talk about the latest developments in The Path, why Dancy wants to return to Hannibal, and the experience of looking back on scenes and thinking, “What the hell did I just do?”
I was trying to come up with the best way to describe your character Cal to a friend, and I ended up with your character on Hannibal, Will Graham, but at the end of the show. He has this very empathetic side, but it’s twisted by this darkness.
I understand the urge to find a through link, but I feel like the only thing that really connects them, which just about connects any interesting character, is that they’re in conflict as to who exactly they are. You can actually say the same thing of Aaron [Paul]’s character [Eddie], and, for that matter, Michelle [Monaghan]’s [Sarah]. Everything about the way Cal carries himself, the way he approaches other people, the stuff he’s carrying around — I didn’t have to slough off Will Graham, if you know what I mean.
You bring in a lot of that darkness, and also that attempt at connection.
For me, the darkness — and this is a truism — but not many people think of themselves as dark. And even though I knew what I was doing, when I watched the first episode, I did have to stop and recognize, “Oh yeah, there’s something pretty bleak about this guy.”
Because from my perspective, and this becomes more true as you move into the middle of the show, I was thinking about him as somebody who is shouldering this massive burden. For his own sake, and for the sake the movement and the sake of everybody else in it. He’s decided that, probably accurately, the only way the thing is going to continue is if he absorbs what he’s now learned about Steve [the leader of the Meyerist cult], i.e. the fact that he’s mortal, the fact that the rungs [part of a critical text in the movement] aren’t going to be completed by Steve. He can’t share that with anybody. It’s a very solitary and lonely position. For Cal, he himself is built on such shaky foundations, that the preservation of the movement is essential. That’s his lifeline. It probably saved his life.
It’s self-preservation for him.
And that’s both desperate, and it can be genuine. He sees it as something with a very positive message for himself and other people. At the same time, just because of who he is, it so happens that selfless decision dovetails very neatly with everything in him that’s also very ambitious and very alpha and very driven and domineering. Those two things are kind of both growing and moving forward hand-in-hand. That’s what makes it interesting to me.
On a more comedic note, I loved the little moments where you see Cal in his car listening to inspirational tapes, trying to figure out how to be leader.
I read the first two scripts when we first signed on and got a few more quickly afterwards, and that in a way sealed the deal for me, a.) because it’s funny, b.) because you realize this isn’t some guy who’s been running a cult all his life. He’s been a follower and an acolyte and a devotee. And to some extent he was marked and chosen, but he never thought he’d be in this position. He wouldn’t want to be, because who wants to think that your savior is actually just a guy? I like that about him, and that he’s really trying to quickly learn the lessons he needs to run a cult.
There’s so much detail in the structure of the Meyerist movement. Did you talk about the underpinnings of it? To me, there’s a bit of Scientology, a bit of New Age EST or Esalen qualities to the cult.
First of all, it’s easiest to talk about cults because at this point, we’ve packed so much into that word. But one thing that I’ve come away from this is thinking “my cult is your religion is your movement.” It’s very much in the eye of the beholder. I don’t think that’s just because I was trying to be fair to the character. I think that everything, from major religions down, at some point has been this unpalatable, unacceptable little offshoot of something. And then either it gains traction or acceptability or it doesn’t. Obviously some of them are more sinister, but they’ve got so much in common. In the ’50s, there was this big upshoot of cults, because the apocalypse was coming due to nuclear destruction. Now it makes sense to me that, because of what’s in the air, the apocalyptic thinking would be based around the environment.
In one episode, we see this big focus on climate change in the cult.
It’s like the worst possible iteration of the farm-to-table movement.
There’s this tension with Emma Greenwell’s character, Mary, where Cal has saved her, but he also preys on her to an extent. You can see a very dark aspect of the power hierarchy of a cult.
It’s interesting with this character of Mary. In some very basic way, she’s this perfect fit for Cal. There’s something inside each of them that they recognize, and she is more honest about it than he is. Maybe he’s got too much else on his plate. But he can’t keep himself away. I don’t think it’s that he’s decided, “Oh, great, here’s this vulnerable young woman I can take advantage of.” When he’s under pressure and the cracks start to show, that’s where his compulsion drives him.
I think that also comes out in his relationship with Sarah, in that she’s so devoutly invested in this movement, while he’s still an outsider.
My feeling about Cal, and some of it is my best guess and some of it is from talking to Jessica [Goldberg, the show’s creator], is that he’s been very much head down, working for the movement for years now. We know he’s a recovering alcoholic, and he’s had these lapses. He had a relationship as a young man with Sarah. But he put all that to one side. He’s probably been borderline celibate for the better part of a decade, or longer. He doesn’t really engage in extracurricular activities. He doesn’t hang out. He puts the more human part of himself on ice. What that means is his first love was really his only love, and we’ve all had our first love and it’s significant, but for him, Sarah is still on that pedestal. He’s got this very idealistic attraction to her, which as much as it’s real, also represents something for him. And he’s got this other thing going for Mary, which he can’t possibly allow to be real, but is in fact, very real, and keeps seeping over into his life.
It becomes his catharsis.
I mean, hey, we’ve all been there. [Laughs.] No, no. There were a lot of moments, actually, shooting this where I thought, “What the hell did I just do?” But it was interesting because it was only after doing them. On the page, and I hope on the screen as well, they all seemed to follow quite naturally. It was only in the act of actually doing them that you felt a little concerned.
One of the things that happens in The Path going forward is that it starts to reckon with the mythology of the cult, with the images of vision, and things that seem supernatural. Things that I thought would be proven false start to become part of a magical-realist aspect of the show.
I like that a lot, and you can take it however you want to take it. You can take it as happening within the subjective experience of the characters, or go one step further. I remember talking to Jessica about a scene at the beginning of episode five. I asked her, “Hey, what’s up here? [Eddie’s] having a vision.” I was being very literal about it. The response was, “Well, maybe 7R [the program Eddie has started] works.” I thought that was a much more enlightened way to think about telling the story.
This project was brought together by Jason Katims, of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, and Jessica Goldberg, also of Parenthood. Had you watched their stuff before? What brought you to the script?
I knew of Jason, and actually Jason worked on My So-Called Life, which my wife [Claire Danes] worked on when she was a kid. But really it was that Hannibal had just ended, kind of abruptly. Maybe the writing was on the wall, but I completely didn’t see it. I was just casting around to get a sense of what’s out there, more for me to [figure] out how I felt than to look for something. This was literally the first thing I read. And so I stopped looking because it became more and more intriguing.
Because you couldn’t put it down?
You try to find faults in something. You think, “What’s the problem with this? What’s the risk?” The risk seemed to me that you take this thing at too superficial a level so that you just play the Svengali-like nature of the cult leader and you amp up the sinister nature of it. It seemed to me that, rather than doing that, Jessica and Jason were really invested in the belief of all the characters, or the desire of their belief, at least. That’s very interesting to me. I find that very universal.
Speaking of Hannibal, I know that lots of people, myself included, would love to see more of it. Do you have any hope for the future?
I do. I’ve spoken to Bryan [Fuller, creator of Hannibal] about it. I know that everybody involved would like it to have some sort of a future. I’ve actually spoken to Bryan in more detail about what that would look like. It’s complicated, it’s about getting everybody back together, and it’s also about the rights to the novels [Fuller has discussed the difficulty of acquiring the rights to The Silence of the Lambs]. Ten years ago, it probably would have been a pipe dream, but for me, I would very much hope so.
There are so many different places, like Hulu, that are producing things now.
And maybe it doesn’t have to look exactly like it did before. It doesn’t have to be in the same place. It doesn’t have to be 13 episodes, or whatever. And given where we left off, and given what Bryan had described to me, if there’s a few years in between, I think that makes perfect.
After they’ve returned from swimming across the ocean and jumping off that cliff.
After they’ve done a very, very big swim.
After Will Graham, followed by Cal, do you imagine yourself playing a happy-go-lucky character as a change of pace?
You know, it’s always bit of a surprise to me. I think, “Cal seems like a pretty happy kind of guy.” A change of pace is always nice, but for me the differences far outweigh the similarities. We’re trying to do something very heightened, but set in the real world. These people could move in next door to you. In Hannibal, it was much more of a dream state, and there was a challenge every day of trying to enter into that. I’m really enjoying playing someone who is totally off his rocker, but who is existing here and now and with other humans. source
Warning: possible spoilers below.
The Hulu original series The Path follows a family at the center of a controversial religious movement, known as Meyerism, as they struggle with relationships, faith and power. As Eddie (Aaron Paul) questions whether all of the answers can be found within the religion that his wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) is so dedicated to, she finds herself pulled deeper and deeper into Cal’s (Hugh Dancy) world and his views on the way that they should be led.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actor Hugh Dancy talked about what he most enjoys about being a part of The Path, the appeal of this character, the rapid growth of Hulu as a quality streaming service, what kind of leader Cal is to him, and the way these types of movements work with their followers. He also talked about how he’d love to return to Hannibal, at some point, and why taking some time away from it might be a good thing.
Collider: What are you most enjoying about being a part of this show and playing this character?
HUGH DANCY: One of the things I liked about the show, as a whole, and I’m sure this is true for Aaron [Paul] and Michelle [Monaghan], is that you had to spend a lot of time with the lines to get below the first level. So often, particularly Cal is speaking from a place of doctrine, but it’s also something that he really, really truly believes, and then that’s covering up something else. You have to do justice to all of those things, rather than just spouting a line. That’s good fun for an actor. Cal is constantly trying to balance so many aspects of his own personality without realizing it.
Coming off of a show as excellent as Hannibal, were you hesitant about doing another TV show?
DANCY: Yeah, I was. The fact that this is so different was definitely a part of the appeal, although that only goes so far. If you’re just looking for an extreme alternative, that’s not going to work out so well. But yeah, I was hesitant and I probably scrutinized it more carefully, as a result, looking for the cracks and the flaws. And then, the more I dug into it and thought about it, and particularly after I had spoken to Jessica Goldberg, who is the showrunner, and (executive producer) Jason Katims, I realized that with anything interesting, there’s a really good version of it and there’s a bad version of it. Anything that exists in an area of ambiguity that’s going to be fun to do, there’s a bad version that doesn’t achieve the subtlety that you’re hoping for. In this case, if you just tried to go straight for the charisma or the manipulativeness with Cal, that would be quite boring. I felt like they were coming at the whole thing from the point of view of, what are these beliefs, and then taking those beliefs seriously. I thought, “These people clearly want to make the best version of this show.” After that, I signed on.
It’s interesting how the show really puts the focus on the characters, and the movement itself is almost secondary to them.
DANCY: Everything they do is within the context of this movement, and I think it’s right that, in a way, it becomes invisible. If you are somebody living in that way, and I think it’s true for all of us, we don’t even notice our core beliefs. We hardly even know that we hold them. The opinions that we’re trying out, we’re much more aware of, and we voice them and see what happens. But the things that, deep down, identify who we are, we’ve lost sight of. There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s just the case. For these people, that’s the entire bubble that they’re living inside. And because that’s a given, what they’re thinking about is, what am I going to have for lunch, or how’s the marriage going.
Within TV projects, there are so many different canvases to pain on, with broadcast, cable and streaming services. Were you familiar with streaming services, prior to doing this show? Is that something you use yourself?
DANCY: Yeah, sure. I’ve watched shows on Netflix and Amazon, for example. When this came around for me, last June, I was like, “Oh, okay, Hulu.” Just between then and now, the speed with which they’re positioning themselves, with such quality, has been very impressive to me. But when I signed on to this show, it wasn’t because of that. I didn’t realize that was happening. I was like, “I don’t know what the platform will be like, but I love the show,” so I had to go with my feelings, in that regard. Now, I’m delighted to realize that this is a big calling card for Hulu, so they’re very invested in it and love the show. That’s all really nice. But the truth is, in the making of it, the only thing that differed, for me, was that you have this very unquestioning support from the people that are paying the bills. That filters down to the actors because it primarily affects the writers and the scripts. The message they were getting from Hulu was, “Go where you want to go and explore what you want to explore,” and you sense that when you get the script. We had freedom.
Because Cal is a guy who has so many layers, and he’s holding so much back from so many people, how do you view him? What kind of a leader is he to you?
DANCY: He is trying to hold it together and he is coming from a place of a very dark background, but all of that stuff is stuff that he’s shared and continues to share with his community. He’s not just putting a happy face on it. I think that is really interesting. Honesty can be used as a weapon. If you insist on honesty, under specific circumstances, particularly if it’s 95% honesty, it can be very powerful. He’s fully invested in the idea of transparency, he’s just not quite there. He is also very active. He’s not someone who’s going to sit around and agonize over what he’s doing. He’s just going to do it, and he’s going to do it strongly with a strong play. That makes him a leader. He is invested in the idea of how to exercise influence over people. It’s not just that, by default, he’s charismatic. He’s learning and really thinking hard about how to do this. He wasn’t planning on being a leader. He was going to be a follower to Steve, who was going to live forever.
He gets stick in this situation he didn’t expect, but then he uses it to his advantage.
DANCY: I don’t know if that’s self-preservation, but that part of him that grows alongside his desire to save the movement is a much more ambitious, domineering thing. The two go hand-in-hand.
As you were getting the scripts and learning more about this fictional movement, did you find yourself identifying with what was being presented?
DANCY: Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about that. I don’t think of myself as a joiner, although I think a lot of us have the capacity to fall head-long into the craziest beliefs, and none of us are immune to that. I’m not saying it will happen to all of us, but any of us have something inside of us that’s a place of vulnerability. If the right person at the right moment reaches out and touches you, you can go so far down the line before you even know where you are. I really believe that. We also don’t know what our capacity for doing awful things is, or turning a blind eye to terrible things. We’d like to think we’d be the hero, but most of us would not be the hero. But I do understand the desire to have a community, even if it’s just in your close friends. It doesn’t have to be a structure, but people who you can turn to, with all your flaws, and say, “I fucked up. Don’t judge me.”
It’s interesting to see a movement like this push that they’re like a family, but then if your family doesn’t agree with their beliefs, you’re supposed to cut your real family off.
DANCY: The more maligned versions of this kind of movement put a lot of effort into undoing family bonds very quickly, and they try to convince you that your family doesn’t have your best interests at heart. There isn’t a human alive that hasn’t, at some point, had mixed feelings about their parents. If you tap a person at the right point, you can exploit that. And I don’t think that’s particularly what’s going on with Meyerism. It’s a more general sense that the people outside are going to bring about the destruction of the entire world. If I really believed that my family were a part of bringing about the destruction of the entire world, I’d like to think I’d still stick with them, but you never know.
With as much as everyone involved loved being a part of Hannibal, if it was something you could find a way to revisit, at some point, would you?
DANCY: Oh, totally. Bryan [Fuller] has got plenty on his plate and everybody is busy, which is fantastic, but I think we’re in a place where we can say, “Okay, let’s see what happens in four years.” If we’re able to revisit it, maybe it would be different. I don’t know what shape it would take. I’ve said many times, and it’s completely true, that I would love that. If we were able to come back, maybe taking a few years away for it to reform itself might be the best thing that could happen for it. I certainly think it’s warranted, just by where we got to in the story. Sure, you could start a fourth season, or whatever it would be, with a big splash and see what happens when they hit the water, but I think it would be more interesting to find them a few years down the line.
The Path is available at Hulu on Wednesdays. Source.
‘It’s a final victory,’ Hugh Dancy says.
NBC’s Hannibal concluded this past August with a bang — or, more accurately, a splash: The season 3 (and series) finale ended with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) falling off a cliff and presumbly into the sea far, far below after killing Francis Dolarhyde, also known as the Red Dragon.
Dancy, Mikkelsen, and showrunner Bryan Fuller called up EW to talk about the strange relationship between Will and Hannibal, what that last scene really meant, and what they want for Hannibal’s future.
On the series’ final moments
HUGH DANCY: In that final sequence, Hannibal realizes his long-held dream. By the very end, he and Will have killed someone in a kind of ritualistic, cold-blooded fashion. I remember very clearly dripping in blood, and that’s what Hannibal wanted to put it into effect between them at the end of season 2. That’s what he imagined. They go off to Europe like slaughtering people or something. And Will is acknowledging to Hannibal that it was as extraordinary an experience for him as it was for Hannibal. That’s what he’s saying. And I talked to Bryan a lot about that, that the motivation for going off the cliff at the end had to be Will’s realization, not only that this thing had happened, but that he loved it, as opposed to just, “Oh my god, what have I done? I finally arrived at this place I never wanted to be in. Oh, it’s so terrible!” It’s not that. It’s, “This is beautiful.”
MADS MIKKELSEN: [Hannibal’s] been, for three seasons, he’s been trying to make Will Graham see the light, which is [that] there is a wonderful power in killing and doing it for your own purpose. Not to protect yourself, but because you want to. And this is literally what Will is doing at this moment, and they are doing it together. They are doing it as a Bonnie and Clyde couple, which is absolutely perfect in the script that Hannibal wrote.
DANCY: It’s not a real relationship. [Laughs] It’s more, I think, exploration of things which probably we’ve all gone through one way or another, which is slightly obsessive, slightly compulsive. In a sense, it’s just like a really compelling but totally destructive relationship with anybody that you keep coming back to.
BRYAN FULLER: The last moment is [them] nuzzling each other. It actually went further than… Mads was like, “We really went for it!” and I was like, “You actually went a little too for it” because it was like, longing glances, [Laughs] curling lips, and those types of things. I sort of brought it back to the characters and their role without taking it into fan fiction territory. [Laughs]
MIKKELSEN: There is some kind of physicality all of the sudden that becomes almost erotic between them in the very end. It was as if it was impossible not to go there. We basically touched all the other bases with a relationship, and that was kind of like, this has been leading up to this all the time. Whether it’s a physical kiss or it’s just a mental kiss that is being sculpted by our physicality, that is obviously up to the viewers’ eyes, but it just felt unavoidable, that there was no way around it. I think we did a couple versions like that. [Laughs]
It’s definitely a bromance. To Hannibal, Will represents something that he has never really had before, something that is on his level in some senses. And he genuinely loves Will. He could definitely see, not necessarily in a sexual way, a family consisting of him, Will, and Abigail Hobbs. That would be an ideal way of spending the next 10 years of his life. It does not go that way, because Will unfortunately, in Hannibal’s eyes, betrayed him. It is a weird, weird relationship. As Will Graham says in one of the very first scenes they have together, he tells Hannibal that he doesn’t find him that interesting and Hannibal says, “You will.” And that’s what it’s all about. They’ve been getting closer and closer together throughout these seasons.
On the characters’ and the show’s futures
DANCY: I think there’s no question that that’s a big cliff. [Laughs] The only way Will’s ever going to destroy Hannibal is probably to destroy himself. And in that moment, the part of him that’s always fighting against the darkness inside him also thinks, not only is that the only way I’m going to kill Hannibal, it’s better that I should go too. I actually have to end both of us. So that’s what he does.
It’s a final victory. I think what happens is, right up until that last moment, essentially, Hannibal is victorious. He has engineered exactly what he wanted. He’s out of prison, he has Will with him, they’ve gone to this brutal, dark place. And Will manages to pull back a victory. I mean, it’s optimistic in a very, very narrow sense, because they just both killed someone and then jumped off a cliff. But even so. [Laughs]
It’s a very conscious reference to Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty. We all know that Sherlock Holmes came back from that. Whether I’m Sherlock or Moriarty in that equation, I don’t even know.
MIKKELSEN: They’d really have to be some super soft rocks down there if Hannibal can make it, right? On the other hand, you see Hannibal getting out of situations that nobody else could get out of it. So if there was a fourth season, we’d have to figure out how he did that. But I don’t think there’s anything supernatural about him. I think he’s mortal like the rest of us, absolutely. But for some reason, God seems to like him. [Laughs] He has a protecting hand carrying Hannibal around all the time. And that is the irony of the show. Why would God simply protect a man like this? It seems like he’s always coming up with a lucky hand.
FULLER: What I would love most about this show is for people to remember Mads Mikkelsen as the definitive Hannibal Lecter. I would love that. As much as I love Anthony Hopkins and think he is brilliant and so amazing in his portrayal as Hannibal Lecter, I am much closer to Mads Mikkelsen’s performance so it would be a great honor if the audience walked away from this series with him as Hannibal Lecter in their minds.
MIKKELSEN: As a human being, I obviously want Hannibal dead a long time ago because it’s absolutely horrendous what he’s doing, but he’s also an extremely interesting character. I would not personally want him wandering around the streets, but if he has to, I think that maybe, that [he and Will] both survived somehow and they have some kind of future friendship where they could put a lid on their urges. And that might be the best solution for the development of those two characters.
DANCY: It’s hard to believe that Hannibal would really die. Because he’s not exactly mortal. And I personally think that if Hannibal’s going to survive, he would save Will. So I don’t know. Let’s just say they’re on a beach somewhere. Drinking something out of a coconut. Or a skull.
The third season of Hannibal is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Thank you to the wonderful people over at Article Magazine, I have added a brand new BTS image to our photo archive. You can view it by clicking on the gallery link at the bottom of this post. If you would like to purchase the issue, please visit this link. Remember the issue includes 16 (gorgeous) full pages of Hugh! Interview (which is amazing by the way) and photo shoot images (literally a must have).
You can pre-order your own copy of the show’s third season, due out December 8, by clicking here.
In Hannibal Season 3, Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) is on the run in Europe — accompanied by his psychiatrist, Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) — sporting a new identity, but servicing the same insatiable appetite. As the lives of Will (Hugh Dancy) and Jack (Laurence Fishburne) converge toward Hannibal again, each with their own motivations to catch him once and for all, their deadly dance turns in startling and unexpected ways.
Hannibal Season 3 contains all 13 episodes and is loaded with special features that include select episode audio commentaries with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes featurettes, webisodes, deleted scenes, and a gag reel. / Source
A huge thank you to the amazing people behind Article Magazine for sending us this wonderful image of Hugh. It is a page from issue six of ARTICLE magazine. Taken by photographer Matt Holyoak. If you would like to purchase the issue, please visit this link. Remember the issue includes 16 (gorgeous) full pages of Hugh! Interview (which is amazing by the way) and photo shoot images (literally a must have).