I have updated our photo archive with additional stills from The Path. I have included the graphic below for those who might not want to see spoilery images.
I have updated our photo archive with additional stills from The Path. I have included the graphic below for those who might not want to see spoilery images.
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
Illustration by Tom Bachtell Article by Tad Friend For the April 18, 2016 Issue.
As he shed his tweed jacket, Hugh Dancy looked around Sushi Azabu, a basement nook in Tribeca, and said, “It feels like a railway car—if you can imagine Humphrey Bogart eating sushi, it’d be here.” He laughed. “I actually can’t imagine him eating sushi, though. Maybe he’d use some for a black eye: ‘If there’s no steak available, give me the halibut.’ ”
Dancy, the lithe and elfin forty-year-old English actor, is particularly keen on uni, the sea urchin’s gonads. Dabbing chopsticks into a pink curl of them, Dancy said, “My three-year-old son”—from his marriage to Claire Danes—“has a fascination with germs, because, he says, ‘they’re disgusting and beautiful.’ I suppose the same is true of me and uni.” He held up a morsel of the unctuous goo. “They look like the tongues of dehydrated infants. So eating them is a faith-based decision.”
In “The Path,” a drama that débuted on Hulu last month, Dancy plays Cal Roberts, the leader of a cult called the Meyerist Movement. Its devotees are vegetarians who drive blue Priuses, use ayahuasca, and plan to live on as pure light after the coming apocalypse. “Cal is someone you side with against your better judgment,” Dancy explained. “An alcoholic who’s probably been essentially celibate for a decade, someone with serious control issues, an awful black hole of a person. He is not ‘Netflix and chill’—or, I should say, ‘Hulu and chill.’ ” Seething, lustful, and lonely, Cal lies and schemes to foster the movement, because, since he was five, it’s fostered him.
Meyerists reprogram themselves using electrical devices and advance through increasingly secretive levels of initiation. They shun apostates, even their own children. Cal’s global ambitions for Meyerism, which he took over from its founder, Steven Meyer, make it further reminiscent of Scientology, which David Miscavige transformed after he inherited it from L. Ron Hubbard. Dancy resists the comparison, saying, “One person’s cult is another person’s religion.” He observed that “every religion that expanded from a niche movement grew because its founder was followed by a leader who was pragmatic and understood how to spread the word. In Christianity, it was St. Paul; in Mormonism, it was Brigham Young.”
After the actor had polished off an assembly line of mackerel, tuna, and shad, praising their various mouthfeels, the waiter suggested a few exotic specialties, including conger eel. “Conger eel!” Dancy cried. “My granddad once caught a conger eel in a lobster pot, and we ate it. It was disgusting.”
“You have to boil it, because the blood is actually poisonous.”
“That would explain it.” When the eel appeared, the actor admired its presentation: “We just had great wagon-wheel chunks of it, which we gave to the cat.” He nimbly whisked wasabi into his soy sauce. “Who lived.”
Dancy had recently returned from the show’s première, in Los Angeles, where he was treated rather like a cult leader. “People seemed to expect me to be commanding, but I distrust certainty, and I don’t particularly want anyone to follow me,” he said. “It was challenging that the very first line I had to speak on camera was”—his voice thrummed with assurance—“ ‘Ma’am, we’re going to take care of your baby.’ ” When he read the pilot script and saw that Cal was “written as quote-unquote charismatic, that made the flags go up,” he went on. “Because it’s one of the ways writers signal executives that the leading man will fit their definition of a star. With a woman, it’s ‘She’s this and this and that—and she’s really rockin’ that dress.’ With a man, it’s charisma. Or he has ‘a wry grin’—he can’t be too open, he can’t have a wide grin, but he’s seen it all—or there’s a squint involved, which evokes a heroic cynicism. The idea is actually to blunt reactions, to say, ‘Don’t worry, this guy will be fairly comatose—a blank canvas that people can project their ideas of cool onto.’ ”
Dancy ordered more nigiri. “But,” he continued, “it was clear that Cal actually thinks about what it means to be a charismatic leader—he listens to self-help tapes, he’s taking Charisma 101—and that, because he has internalized Meyerism, he speaks with natural conviction. Jessica Goldberg, the show’s creator, wrote me a letter making it plain that she wanted to do the good version of the show. For her, more important than all the television meshugaas that’s in there—the F.B.I. investigation, the power struggle, the love triangle—is the fascinating question of faith. So you can go with that, rather than feeling you have to lather on a layer of personal charisma you’ve had in reserve.”
The baby yellowtail arrived, and Dancy raised his chopsticks in delight: “Carrying on the theme of eating children! Source
I have added 9 images of Hugh attending The Contenders Emmys to our photo archive. Huge thank you to my friend Mouza from anthony-mackie.com for sending these our way!
Goldberg said her series about conflicted couple (Aaron Paul and Michelle Monaghan) who get swept up in a cult led by an ambitious leader (Hugh Dancy) “was not based on Scientology. They’re not the only movement, there are over 4,000 in the world.” Goldberg spawned the series after going through a divorce and suffering the loss of a parent. “I was interested in how people deal with these types of crisis,” said the creator.
“Those who are in a cult take their beliefs very seriously, no one cynically lures you in,” said Dancy. Paul mentioned that Goldberg literally created a bible for the show’s cult, down to “incredible details” which were laid out in pamphlets on the set. Paul quipped how it’s often under a pop guise that a cult will spring up; that anyone could take the show’s cult, the Meyerist Movement, seriously if they wanted. Paul came to the show soon after Breaking Bad. “There were two scripts on my desk, Michelle was attached to one of them. I breezed through the first two episodes on my cell phone.”
The three-time Emmy-winning actor added, “I grew up in a very religious household. By father was a southern Baptist minister. I was always fascinated by religious movements and how they provide answers.” – Source
I have added two portraits of Hugh from The Contenders Emmys to our photo archive.
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
posted on april 08, 2016 over at nytimes.com
by Hugh Dancy
For his bookshop and website One Grand Books, the editor Aaron Hicklin asked people to name the 10 books they’d take with them if they were marooned on a desert island. The next in the series is the actor Hugh Dancy, who shares his list exclusively with T.
“The Pickwick Papers,” Charles Dickens
When I need to read something that I know will fill my imagination, lift my spirits and also be effortless, I go to Dickens, and this is the most preposterously, comically overflowing of them all.
“Women in Love,” D.H. Lawrence
Nobody has ever written like Lawrence (except bad imitators, and nothing’s more embarrassing than knockoff Lawrence. Sometimes he’s pretty embarrassing, too). This novel transports you.
“Sabbath’s Theater,” Philip Roth
The most anarchic, provocative, lewd and brilliant Roth novel. It feels like it’s on fire.
“Lucky Jim,” Kingsley Amis
I was recommended this when I was a teenager trying to figure out how to start reading “serious” books. Great recommendation, because on the surface it’s nothing of the sort, but it is brilliant.
“My Struggle,” Karl Ove Knausgaard
In part because reading the first two gave me the unsettling sensation of knowing what it’s like to be someone else better than I know what it’s like to be me, and in part because including it might force me to read the remaining four.
“Tristram Shandy,” Laurence Sterne
You could spend years on the first chapter alone, in fact people have. But in a good way. There’s so much going on and so much reinvention it’s bewildering.
“The Big Sleep,” Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler is one of life’s great pleasures, ideally in a bath with a drink to hand.
“The Left Hand of Darkness,” Ursula K. Le Guin
Forced to pick a single sci-fi novel, I’ll go with this because, in ways even beyond most sci-fi, it is so far ahead of its time. You’re left believing entirely in the worlds she’s imagined, including a better version of this one.
“The Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology,” P.G. Wodehouse
I know that on and off I’ll be reading this until I die.
“The Tremor of Forgery,” Patricia Highsmith
I could pick almost any of her novels — “Deep Water” would be another. This one is typically masterful in the way it measures out information and suggestion, laced with a growing sense of dread. And a great title.