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.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the first three episodes of The Path.]
In the world of The Path, Hugh Dancy’s Cal has been a confident and charismatic leader within the religious movement at the center of the show. But the third episode of the series gave viewers a glimpse at what’s been going on beneath the surface, and what was revealed was pretty dark. Not only is Cal helping to conceal the deathbed illness of the founder of the movement, Steve Meyer, but he’s using that information to position himself as the next leader of the movement.
Viewers also learned a lot more about Cal’s background through a toxic visit with his alcoholic mother (played by Kathleen Turner) and learned how close to the edge he lives. The Hollywood Reporter talked to Dancy about what all this means for Cal, and whether we can trust his motivations.
This episode is quite a turning point for Cal. He’s been kind of mysterious up to this point. Given what happens with him, was it important to learn something sympathetic about him, that he’s coming from this background with alcoholic parents, at the same time that we learn he’s keeping this huge secret from the movement?
I didn’t think of it as a counterbalance, exactly. For me, actually, the fact of him keeping the secret, I’m as sympathetic towards that as I am towards the difficulties of his background, because I think that he’s chosen to do something that is incredibly difficult and lonely in order to preserve this thing that he believes in. And I guess what you understand by seeing him with his mum and learning a bit about his background is why it’s so important to him and why, in a sense, he couldn’t afford to have this belief system collapse because it’s probably the only thing that’s holding him together. So the two things inform each other a bit.
So part of why he feels compelled to go that far is that he needs this movement as much as the movement needs Steve to still be alive.
I think, yeah. He’s taking on that responsibility for lots of very complicated reasons, but one of them is just simple self-preservation. And you could also say, and I’m sure he would say, that he can speak personally to the power of message and the beauty of the message and its ability to save people, so why wouldn’t he want to preserve that message for other people? That’s part of it.
I have added screen captures from episode 3 of The Path. You can click on the thumbnails or gallery links to go to the albums. Also, remember, that The Path’s first two episodes as well as the third are available for streaming on Hulu. Sign up and get to watching/rewatching now over at Hulu. This weeks episode delved a little deeper into Cal’s past and Hugh did a phenomenal job once again! [ warning: this album contains spoilers. ]
Cal Robertson comes more fully into view in “A Homecoming,” the first new episode of The Path following last week’s double-decker premiere. If you thought being in a cult warped Cal’s brain, here’s another fact for your diagnosis: His mother is a sad, charmless, drunk hermit played by Kathleen Turner. We sat down with actor Hugh Dancy, who plays Increasingly Complicated Cal, to talk about the episode.
“It’s a show about intimacy to a degree. The people on the show are seeking connection and truth and openness, though they’re not always succeeding.”
You are from the U.K., but I’ve only seen you in shows like Hannibal and The Path where you use an American accent. How did you work out your American accent?
Doing it for a living, I’ve gotten increasingly comfortable with it. I grew up in England, and we were heavily exposed to American culture as you can imagine, so it wasn’t such a huge leap.
And you’re married to an American [Claire Danes].
Yes. I think I was playing an American when we met.
The Path has a much more naturalistic sensibility than Hannibal. Does The Path use a smaller crew?
It’s not necessarily a smaller crew, but the shows operate much differently with the lighting and camera setups. On The Path, we’re using three cameras almost all the time with fairly minimal lighting. On Hannibal, the lighting — or, in some cases, lack of lighting — was much more stylized.
The Path feels like a much more intimate, personal show.
It’s a show about intimacy to a degree. The people on the show are seeking connection and truth and openness, though they’re not always succeeding.
And it’s a show about a family in the way that Parenthood and Friday Night Lights — Jason Katims’ two previous shows — were oriented around families.
That was noticeably absent in Hannibal. [Laughs.]
You are in Peru at the beginning of this episode, so you know that Dr. Stephen Meyer [Keir Dullea] is in a coma, and you tell a few fibs about that. Do you see that as Cal papering over some doubts or being an opportunist?
Cal knew as the season started that Stephen was potentially on his deathbed, so he’s convening at the beginning of this episode there with some of the 10R elders. They have gathered to hear the doctor say that we’ve run out of hope, but that’s not news to them. Cal is not somebody who ever had ambitions of leading the group and he is still a believer, but his original beliefs had Steve leading this group forever. The movement has saved his life, and he needs to bridge to a second generation. To do that he has to keep a lot of secrets, and he sees that as a selfless thing. As the season goes on, that will increasingly dovetail with his own drive and ambition.
The movement is not based on thinking Dr. Meyer is divine, right?
Not exactly. Steve told us that he would provide the 13 rungs that would be The Ladder to progress up until we get to The Garden, and the whole movement is predicated on that. The idea that he’s going to die from mundane causes before he finishes that is a major fault line. It undercuts everything we’ve understood.
“You need a fierce and vulnerable actress to play [Brenda Roberts], and [Kathleen Turner] has both of those things in spades. There’s no vanity about it.”
What is so disturbing to Eddie [Aaron Paul] about seeing Dr. Meyer in that condition?
Sarah [Michelle Monaghan] is talking to Mary [Emma Greenwell] in the first episode and says that Steve is off in Peru completing the final rungs and that he “lives in the light.” That is the line that has been propagated — that he’s reached this level of purity where he’s bathed in light and completing the rungs for their spiritual salvation.
So Eddie feels like he’s been sold some BS about that?
I don’t think he knows what he feels. When you live inside a belief system like that, just seeing Steve like that is not enough for him. He doesn’t think everything he’s been told is bullshit. It takes a while to process that.
Kathleen Turner plays your mother in this episode. Is this the first time you’ve worked with her?
I had not worked with her, but I had shared a train ride with her once. [Laughs.]
So did you see her on set before she was dressed out as the drunk mom?
We shot all of those scenes over a couple of days, so we didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time. You need a fierce and vulnerable actress to play that kind of part, and she has both of those things in spades. There’s no vanity about it.
Does she want you to take that drink because she wants you to give her something — to do something you don’t want to do — or was it more about getting you to admit something about yourself?
She knows that I have the same weakness that she does, and she’s using that, but mostly she’s trying to pull me back into her life. It infuriates her that I’ve chosen this other parent and this other life over her, and she knows that I’m just a drunk like her.
She explains some of your backstory that you went into the movement fairly young and not of her doing.
That’s right. The backstory is that my father was — like her — an alcoholic, but he extricated himself from that and took me to join this nascent movement. After a certain point, he got out and I was old enough to stick around.
So Steve Meyer then becomes your father figure.
Yes, he was very much my father figure.
“The real thing [Cal is] committing to is loneliness.”
There’s more discussion in this episode than in the first two about the various rankings in the movement. Cal is a 10R. Who are the other 10Rs?
Steve has written 10 of the 13 rungs, so 10R — 10 rungs — is as high as you can progress. Cal is 10R, the two elders who are with Cal at the beginning are 10R, and Silas is 10R.
Do we have enough evidence at this point to know why you would be a 10R and be so much younger than the others?
Cal grew up in the movement and essentially became Steve’s adoptive son. Cal and Sarah and Eddie were young stars in the movement, but Cal dropped away everything in his life that wasn’t related to the movement.
What are Sarah and Eddie’s rank?
Sarah is an 8R. When we see Eddie at the beginning of the series — when he’s on hallucinogens, by the way — he’s in the process of obtaining 6R. We talk more as the season goes on about achieving the rungs. There’s a book for each rung, and there are tasks for each rung. The writers’ room has a clear idea about that underlying structure, but you don’t necessarily see a lot of that.
You’re coming from Hannibal, which had a deep mythology, to another show with a deep mythology. Have you thought much about that?
In the case of Hannibal, the mythology was more the richness of the source material — the Thomas Harris novels — where here the mythology is the underpinnings. I think you could say the same of any good piece of writing. If you’re in a good family drama you’re only going to see the surface, but the actors need to know much more detail about the intricacies and dynamics of the family. I think that’s a quality of good storytelling.
You seem to downplay Cal’s messianic ambitions a bit. Do you think there’s not much evidence of that ambition?
When we shot the scene toward the end of this episode when I come back from Peru and break the news to her in a not-completely-honest way that Steve is working on the final rungs and invite her to recognize that I’ll be a leader, my reading of that was that he was acting out of the shock of the experience of his mother and coming back to where he began and fully committing to that.
The commitment that he’s making is ambitious on paper — he’s committing to the idea of being a leader, and that ambition will grow — but the real thing he’s committing to is loneliness. He’s signing off on never being able to share the truth of what is happening with Steve and everything that means to him, including the fact that he must have some greater doubts about the whole belief system.
Is that the source of the mixed signals he sends Mary?
I think the source of that is that he’s really drawn to her.
Is the implication that he should be alone?
He knows that the nature of his attraction to Mary is not a very elevated one. [Laughs.] Since his teens, Cal has basically been celibate. He’s got big self-control issues, and he has probably been very self-denying. He has also put Sarah on a pedestal and made her a symbol of purity and effortless virtue within the movement. He’s fighting the other side of his nature with Mary. – Source
I have added high quality images of Hugh’s photoshoot with LA Times for The Path promotion to our photo archive. Also, for those wondering about “The Path” episode 3 screen captures, they are coming later today. I’m giving a little time for those who haven’t seen it to watch and not be spoiled once they are posted.
I have added three images from the Variety photo session to our photo archive.
I have added screen captures from episodes 1 & 2 of The Path. You can click on the thumbnails or gallery links to go to the albums. Also, remember, that The Path’s first two episodes are available for streaming on Hulu. Sign up and get to watching/rewatching now over at Hulu. Let’s show Hulu how much we adore the series and how excited we are for episode 3! And I think we all can agree that Hugh did a phenomenal job in these two episodes. I can see why everyone is praising his portrayal of Cal!