Michael C. Hall Discusses Playing David Bowie Character on Stage In Lazarus: 'There's Been a Potent Sense of His Presence'
Hall reflects on Bowie's death and what it means for the production of Lazarus
Michael C. Hall was already anxious about playing the role David Bowie played first in The Man Who Fell to Earth in the musical Lazarus, but the music legend’s death put even more pressure on the Dexter star.
In an interview with The Guardian, Hall discussed his feelings about playing Thomas Newton, a man who can’t die, and how the play and Bowie’s death follow a lifelong pattern for him.
“I did feel that a part of my work was to empty myself out and let it move through me,” Hall said. “As is often the case when you’re performing, but in this case, all the more so. Since he has passed, there’s probably been a more potent sense of his presence.”
Bowie, who was 69, died on the morning that the show’s cast was scheduled to record the soundtrack, turning the session into a memorial for the singer.
Even outside of the play’s soundtrack, Bowie’s music has served as a sort of mourning mechanism for Hall, who told The Guardian that he’s spent the days since the passing, listening to Bowie’s music, specifically his final album Blackstar.
“This is what he gave us so I’ll take it,” Hall said of the music. “It’s heavy but soothing. So much of what I love about him characterized what I loved about doing the show [opening night] – it was simultaneously heavy and light as air.”
The actor admitted that Bowie’s dying mirrored other defining moments in his life, like the death of his father when he was only 11 years old. Hall added that when receiving the news – which he learned through “25 or 30” texts – he felt a familiar “internal fist clench.”
“Some sort of old survival mechanism kicks in,” the 44-year-old said. “I think it’s about holding on, it’s about mirroring what I see to not be victimized by trauma. To not be a pitiful, fatherless son.”
More than playing his character and having other personal encounters with death, Hall can relate on another level. At 38, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. Like Bowie – who Hall said told no one in the cast of Lazarus about the extent of his illness – he told none of his coworkers on Dexter about his own diagnosis. Rather, he waited until the day after filming had wrapped on season four of the series and discreetly began chemotherapy.
“The language surrounding cancer is not language I’m particularly comfortable with,” he said, although he is now in remission. “This idea of ‘bravely succumbing’ or ‘successfully fighting’ or ‘winning the battle against’ I didn’t want to do anything to encourage that language. People say: ‘You beat cancer.’ And it’s like: ‘No, a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs beat cancer.'”
“When people go get chemo, they’re not injecting themselves with will – I have lost various loved ones to cancer, and I certainly don’t feel that I am any stronger or braver than them.”