Michael C. Hall: The Next Hedwig
The actor discusses his latest role.
Perhaps unbeknownst to his legions of television fans (for series like Dexter and Six Feet Under), Michael C. Hall also has a thriving stage career. This past spring, he received raves for his performance in the Broadway production of Will Eno’s dark comedy The Realistic Joneses and he has played Billy Flynn in Chicago. He also replaced Alan Cummings as the emcee in Cabaret in 1999.
Hall is once again “jumping onto a moving train,” as he puts it, starring in the current production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Belasco Theatre through January 4th, following star turns by Neil Patrick Harris and Andrew Rannells. Here, the actor chats about high heels, tucking and carwashing.
This is such a physical show. How far in advance did you start preparing and what was the preparation like?
There were probably about 22 proper days of rehearsal leading up to the performance. And there are so many learning curves: the fishnets and heels and bra learning curve. And the mike cord learning curve. And the German accent learning curve. And the choreography learning curve. And the gymnastic climbing the set stuff. It just goes on and on.
Only 22 days? You must have been in amazing shape to begin with!
Certainly before rehearsals proper started I was, you know, thinking about those hot pants. They definitely got me to go to the gym to run. You want to look good in a dress, so I dropped a little weight.
Well, I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you this, but you have a great pair of legs.
Thank you. I really don’t know that they’ve ever been featured in this way, so that’s been a nice thing to discover.
Were the heels the hardest part to get used to physically?
I guess they were early on. My feet definitely were in a state of shock during the first week of rehearsal. But I had the heels before I started rehearsal, I was walking around the apartment doing the dishes in heels. It definitely helps me appreciate the trials of being a fashion-conscious woman.
Do you have a recovery process you do after every show?
I have these yoga toes things I use. They’re these jelly things that separate your toes and you put them in the freezer so they simultaneously reduce swelling and spread your toes out. So I wear them for 20 minutes. And if you get on the floor and put your legs up on the wall and just let the blood drain from your throbbing feet as they’re stretched out, you’ll see some swelling reduction.
I am totally going out and buying those, thank you! Did you pick up any other tips you can pass onto us ladies?
No, but if any guys want lessons on how to tuck, I can do that.
Was that a self-taught thing or did you get advice?
I got some pointers from people who do cross-dressing. To make the line of some of the costumes work it seemed like a good idea to figure out where to put things.
What’s going through my head seems awfully painful.
You put one thing between your legs and the other things from whence they came, sort of up in you. I think ninjas do it, too, when they fight.
I have no use for that tip, unfortunately, but it’s great to know. And the makeup is amazing, did you get a lesson in how to do it?
It is applied by professionals and it takes about 45 minutes. When it’s all done it looks pretty fantastic, but there are stages along the way where I catch myself in the mirror and it’s pretty scary. It’s like Norma Desmond on a bad day.
Do you carry any of Hedwig with you when you’re off stage?
Not really. I still stand up when I pee.
That’s good to know. The show also involves some audience interaction: you “carwash” (dance above a person’s face in a fringed skirt) one person and kiss another. How do you choose your subjects?
Sometimes I’ll spot someone early and go, okay, that’s DEFINITELY who I’m going to carwash. But it’s really more fun to just decide in the moment.
Have you ever had a bad reaction from someone when they’re chosen?
I did it to a 16 or 17-year-old kid who turned to stone. He was absolutely horrified. But then I got flowers from his mother thanking me. I guess she felt like he needed to be shaken up a little bit. So, you’re welcome!