When “Dexter” ended, Michael C. Hall wanted a new challenge … and found one that took him not only far away from that series, but also from home.
The actor went to Bangladesh as one of the celebrity “correspondents” for “Years of Living Dangerously,” a Showtime documentary miniseries offering on-location explorations of the impact of climate change around the world. Starting a four-week run Sunday (April 13), the program also enlists Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Jessica Alba, Ian Somerhalder (“The Vampire Diaries”), Olivia Munn (“The Newsroom”), America Ferrera and “60 Minutes” journalist Lesley Stahl as reporters.
Schwarzenegger is an executive producer of the miniseries as well, as are filmmaker James Cameron — who directed him in “The Terminator” and “True Lies” — and entertainment impresario Jerry Weintraub (“Behind the Candelabra”). Drought, carbon emissions and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy are among the topics within the larger subject, also seen being covered by author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, political commentator and MSNBC host Chris Hayes, and others.
Hall’s social concerns are demonstrated by his ties to such organizations as the Somalia Aid Society’s Feed the People initiative and the Waterkeeper Alliance. He tells Zap2it his “Years of Living Dangerously” involvement “started with Showtime contacting me about the project and letting me know a couple of slots that were available for correspondents. One of the two was Bangladesh, and I saw that it coincided with the [end of the] work on ‘Dexter.’
“I think there’s a growing collective awareness surrounding this issue,” Hall tells Zap2it, “but I also jumped at the chance to kind of reboot my own system when the series ended. A trip halfway around the world seemed like just the thing, and it was a different way of telling a story, not with any fictionalized characters or a script. I was compelled by that, and the fact that I would be surrounded by people who had a great deal of experience doing that kind of thing.”
The bottom line for Hall was that he felt “excited and honored to take part in something I thought was probably long overdue, creating something that people would pay attention to and maybe give a greater appreciation of how immediate an issue this is.”
Though he had vacationed in Southeast Asia, Hall never had visited Bangladesh before. “We flew over there, I took a short nap, then we started our first day of shooting. It was definitely a matter of jumping right into the deep end, but I was always briefed about what was coming next. I enjoyed it; it was about being open to wherever a conversation might lead you, but with a certain plan in terms of what you wanted to encourage people to talk about. I think it’s something I would even consider doing again.”
Given the subject of “Years of Living Dangerously,” Hall adds he felt a true “sense of responsibility” while doing his part. “I’ve taken the experience with me, for sure,” he reflects of the 10 days he spent in Bangladesh. “I think that as much as anything, I was just so inspired by the spirit of the people there. It’s a very dire situation, but what I took away was their resilience as much as any kind of straight catastrophic thinking.
“I was aware, intellectually, that I would be going to a place that had very few of the creature comforts that I take for granted,” Hall says. “The first time I stepped back into my house or turned on my shower, I was really aware of what a world away that all is. The preoccupations of people in the context in which I live [are] about things that don’t even necessarily exist for the people of Bangladesh. As much as I enjoyed getting back into my bed, I missed the unveiled openness I experienced from so many of the people there.”
Being part of a cast — in the broad sense of the word — that has dedicated the time and effort to “Years of Living Dangerously” also gives Hall a sense of pride in his industry: “I can imagine people who have the means and the might to make something like this happen talking about how they should, but the fact that they saw it through is something else entirely. It’s very encouraging.
Currently starring on Broadway with Toni Collette (“Hostages”), Marisa Tomei and “August: Osage County” writer Tracy Letts in the Will Eno play “The Realistic Joneses,” Hall owns Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Television Critics Association awards for the “Dexter” work he did after his run on HBO’s “Six Feet Under.” He also plays a revenge target in the movie drama “Cold in July,” slated for a late May opening after its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
While he’s enjoying his new horizons as an actor, Hall is personally satisfied to be among those who have lent their skills to “Years of Living Dangerously,” which a just-released United Nations report on climate change has made even more timely.
“This certainly helps me appreciate more, and hopefully will help anybody else who watches it appreciate more, that climate change is very much a human issue,” he reasons. “It’s not just about lifestyle changes but about life and death.”