Hugh Dancy didn’t think he’d return to series TV so quickly after the cancellation of Hannibal, but he found he just couldn’t say no to HULU’s The Path. The new dramatic series was created by Jessica Goldberg and Jason Katims and is set to premiere on March 30, 2015 with Dancy, Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan, and Rockmond Dunbar in starring roles. The story follows a “family at the center of a controversial cult as they struggle with relationships, faith and power. Each episode takes an in-depth look at the gravitational pull of belief and what it means to choose between the life we live and the life we want.”
Following HULU’s presentation at the Television Critics Association’s 2016 winter press event, I sat down with a few other journalists to speak with Hugh Dancy about his role in The Path, the research process, music, and why he was so attracted to this project.
Hugh Dancy Interview:
Were you ready to jump right into a new series?
Hugh Dancy: “I didn’t expect to. I literally had just found out that Hannibal wasn’t coming back so, no, I wasn’t looking for it at all. But sometimes events just conspire to be undeniable. I read it; I almost tried to find reasons why it didn’t make sense. I couldn’t think of a single reason. And then I spoke to Jason [Katims] and Jessica [Goldberg]. I had some questions about the script. They preempted all of my questions. They said, ‘We’ve already rewritten all of that stuff.’ They described what they wanted to do with the show and I said, ‘Okay, I’m in.’”
What in particular did you have questions about?
Hugh Dancy: “It’s hard to say specifically and nothing that you would recognize from the show. It was more like character stuff so I had questions which I now recognize as being quite superficial questions. Their responses were so much richer and considered, I thought, ‘Okay, these guys are trying to make the very best version of the show that they can make,’ and I just wanted to be a part of it.”
Where are you filming the series?
Hugh Dancy: “We’re still shooting the show and it’s in New York, mostly around Nyack in Upstate New York and Mount Vernon.”
Has religious music been informative to you?
Hugh Dancy: “I wouldn’t say for me music from other religions or pre-existing religious music has been. I grew up singing in church and so on, but specifically to this role, no. But, there is a fair amount of music in the show and songs that were written for the show. We imagined…I should say Jessica and Jason imagined that they would have their own culture in that respect and that comes into play.”
Are you singing in the series?
Hugh Dancy: “In the background. [Laughing] Deep background.”
Can you talk about the research that you did for the role? Were there preaching styles that you looked at?
Hugh Dancy: “No. Actually for the preaching, not so much. I tried to think about what it would be, what qualities someone in that leadership position would have to have, and I considered one of them to be humor. I don’t think you follow anybody who isn’t fun and a little unpredictable, dangerous in that respect. I read about various movements, religions, whatever you want to call them that have undergone that moment when they have to transition from the beginnings into a second generation. That’s basically when most such movements vanish is they don’t survive it, when they lose their leader or whatever it is. And every so often circumstances conspire for the right person to be there at the right time and somebody kind of pragmatic, etc. etc. So I read about various versions of that.”
Is preaching like acting? It’s kind of a performance.
Hugh Dancy: “For sure. I think teaching is acting and preaching is a kind of teaching. I mean, it’s an interesting kind of acting because there’s a fair amount in this show that I learn. I mean, there was talk about me not having my sides but that’s because a lot of this stuff is not dialogue. I’m just speaking to crowds or addressing people, and that stuff you have to have really down properly because you can’t kind of bumble your way through it. So, yeah, it’s considered it’s performative.”
Your roles have gotten more complex over the years. Is that a pushback for your earlier career that had less complicated characters?
Hugh Dancy: “I think that you work with whatever opportunities you have, right, in the hope that you’re going to get to keep working and that eventually your interests will kind of come to the fore. I never felt any burning need to prove myself. I think that the things that I found interesting, slowly, the more I worked and was lucky enough to still be around, the more I got the opportunity to actually do the things that came my way. Not big things, like small movies but if they go well, then somebody else sees that and so on. I think that’s probably a pretty normal trajectory.”