This week, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with a Broadway and Hollywood notable also known around the world as the star of Showtime's hit serial killer series, DEXTER - the eminently gifted Michael C. Hall - all about his new feature film THE TROUBLE WITH BLISS, co-starring a colorful assortment of theatre and film actors including recent GOD OF CARNAGE star Lucy Liu, as well as Peter Fonda, Chris Messina, Christian Campbell and star-on-the-rise Brie Larson - with the film giving Hall a rare chance to show off his slightly softer side in more ways than one. Hall candidly comments on his experiences filming the NYC-set dramedy directed by Matthew Knowles and based on a book by Douglas Light, in a story that follows his neurotic, stasis-plagued character, Morris Bliss, who, at the ripe age of 35, embarks on a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment spurred on by his relationship with a girl half his age - who also happens to be the daughter of his former schoolmate. THE TROUBLE WITH BLISS showcases not only Hall's considerable comedic expertise and his unique ability to portray contained madness and neurosis with lilt and humor, but, also, his charismatic presence as a romantic leading man, which, we can hope, will be exploited in future entities - on screens and stages large and small - in the future, near and far.
East 5th St. To Broadway To 5th Ave.
Commenting on the prospect of playing such an irrepressibly idiosyncratic lead role in a film that also presents a rich coterie of performers as only could be assembled for a dark indie film comedy such as THE TROUBLE WITH BLISS, Hall related, "Well, what first attracted me was the material - the character; the relationships. I just thought it was a great, great script." Reflecting on the impact his theatre background has had on his approach to a new film project such as THE TROUBLE WITH BLISS, Hall says, "As far as my theatre background, I think, yeah, certainly having started out acting onstage and approaching things from that place, initially, has served me well as I transition to the small, and, now, big screen." And, what a marvelous transition it has been to behold for fans of his stupendous essaying of lead roles in Kander & Ebb's CABARET and CHICAGO on Broadway - as well as his unforgettable work on Alan Ball's HBO series SIX FEET UNDER - since then.
How does Hall view his fellow theatrical cohorts on this film in particular and how does he place their overall contribution to the project? "Working with people who have experience both onstage and in front of the camera is really nice - there is just a serenity, way of working and a work ethic that is just there that wouldn't be there otherwise, I think." What about shooting in New York City? "My grad school years were spent living in the East Village - I actually lived on East 5th St. - so, I was very familiar with all of these locations and it really felt like a real homecoming, you know, coming back to that neighborhood where I started out and not wondering what they were shooting down the street, but, actually being in the movie, and, instead, getting to work," he punctuated with a jovial laugh. Obviously, he is appreciative of his huge success, to say the least!
Moving from theatre-based actors in the film to stars on the rise, Hall shared that his palpable onscreen rapport with 21 JUMP STREET co-star and fellow member of the Showtime family due to her featured role on THE UNITED STATES OF TARA, Brie Larson - who plays the young paramour of Morris in THE TROUBLE WITH BLISS - was a result of mutual admiration between the performers and an overall respect for talent, young or old. "I think that it was such a great group of actors on this film - and, I think Brie is so talented and so smart and, I think, so capable as an actress and I really look forward to see how her career continues to unfold." Would he enjoy sharing the screen with her again? "I would love to work with her again. I think a short film she directed, actually, was recognized at Sundance this year, so she's got all kids of stuff going for her!" he states with a slightly incredulous laugh. He adds, "And, yeah, I'd love to work with her again." Describing the incalculable effect Larson's character has on Morris as a man and a protagonist of THE TROUBLE WITH BLISS: "His relationship with this girl is sort of the crack in the pavement that leads him out."
So, what about re-teaming with THE TROUBLE WITH BLISS co-star Chris Messina - also known for his recent DAMAGES scene-stealing performance and VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, who also shared the screen with Hall on the final season of SIX FEET UNDER? "Chris Messina is a guy who I first met working with on SIX FEET UNDER," - as Claire's ideal boyfriend finally realized in the concluding episodes of the hit HBO funereal series, of course. "And I think he's such a phenomenal actor and he has done so many different kinds of things already and worked with so many amazing directors. I am sure that that will continue." May they collaborate again soon, too! What other BLISS co-stars did Hall particularly enjoy? "I think Brad William Henke is great - really funny, really talented in the movie, but, also really grounded in a way that, you know, easily could not have been." Anyone else? "Oh, really, it was an incredible group, in terms of not just their talent, but, also, their presence as people. Lucy Liu was so great and Peter Fonda is really sort of a legend." He takes a pause, "Everybody was just really, really great, I have to say."
It was a fantastic place to go to work everyday on this low budget indie, then? "Oh, yeah! Absolutely." And Hall is poised to conquer the cinema just as he has with his roles onstage and on the small screen so far, no doubt - absolutely.
View the trailer for THE TROUBLE WITH BLISS below.
THE TROUBLE WITH BLISS opens in select cities today. Visit the official site for showtimes and further information here.