Michael Simon Hall stars in the upcoming independent noir thriller “Women”, releasing on May 28th!
From Gravitas Pictures, “Women” is about a small-town detective while investigating the disappearance of a local woman comes across an unassuming Sociology Professor (Michael Simon Hall) who leads a double life.
Initially starting off in the theater, Michael recently broke out on screen, having several short films in Tribeca, Sundance, MoMA, and on PBS, as appearing on several HBO and Netflix shows like “I Know This Much is True,” with Mark Ruffalo, Season 2 of Netflix’s “The Politician,” HBO’s “The Leftovers,” and “The Life and Death of Robert Durst,”, and a feature film called “The Dark End of the Street,” from Kevin Tran. Michael continues to perform on stage, currently, he is workshopping a new musical called “Henry Box Brown”, playing the pivotal Reverend
James Smith, which has been nominated for Best Musical and wind Best Play for Social Change from the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.
In the film “Women”, Michael plays Bradley Gilmore, a Sociology professor who kidnaps, tortures, and murders women from his class. After a mutilated body is found, the local detective throws his suspicion towards Bradley in his investigation to find the culprit for the kidnappings and murders.
We got a chance to speak with Michael about his lead role in “Women”, check it out below!
The Knockturnal: How do you feel about being in your first lead role in a movie?
Michael Simon Hall: It feels great. It was a long time coming. I’ve been in the biz for a minute, but after years on stage, film has been only a few years now. I feel fortunate, it’s such an interesting character that Anton created, with the challenge of dancing on that very fine line between sanity and insanity…One moment he seems like the smartest, kindest teacher you could have, and the next it’s like, oh my God.
The Knockturnal: You did a lot of TV shows before this, what were some challenges stepping into this movie set as a lead role?
Michael Simon Hall: Hmm, well, probably one of the challenges as a lead is to trust your instincts ongoingly. The choices you make affect the whole story, and you are living out the entire journey on camera, so every moment is important, and you need to be able to constantly work from that place of truth, ten hours a day. So there’s a kind of a broader mindfulness that needs to be maintained, regardless of the demands of the scene you are shooting at any particular moment. Also, as a lead, it’s not only doing your work as an actor, but I feel it’s important to set a good example, to help set the tone for the set, which actually every actor on a set should contribute to, but as a lead, it’s more so. So that’s another kind of mindfulness you could say, but for the group, not just yourself.
The Knockturnal: The character of Bradley is terrifying, how did you approach the character?
Michael Simon Hall: For the most part, I simply tried to live in the circumstances that I got from Anton’s script, which include him witnessing his mother being killed by his father. And then the imagination takes over to connect the dots, the little things that may seem insignificant, and may not be on the page, but actually can communicate a lot, like which songs Bradley likes to play on the piano…you get to see me playing two different pieces. It was important to me also that Bradley fully expressed his true passions, his ideas on society, his love of music and literature, that in those moments, you see a real, sane person, no matter how brief those moments may be. And I also did my own research on the psyche of someone who actually does violent things habitually. I’ve had an intense interest in trying to understand people and their behavior since I was quite young, and this wasn’t the first time I’ve tried to understand what makes someone violent or psychopathic, so my own past research helped also.
The Knockturnal: What effect did playing this kind of character have on you?
Michael Simon Hall: Well, I couldn’t help but start to feel a little crazy myself. I’ve learned I don’t need to go to the extremes of living a character 24/7. For me, working on the script for a few months prior to the shoot, I came on set with a fully developed person and world, in my mind and body, so even when I try to put it aside at the end of the day, it’s still with me to some degree regardless…I don’t feel the need to push that further, especially with such a deeply toxic personality. I had the experience of feeling detached, and at first, it concerned me, I thought that it was a sign I wasn’t clear on something, that I didn’t know what I was doing with Bradley, but then I realized that Bradley IS detached…he is completely compartmentalized and has justified his behavior for decades, pretending to most of the world to be a good guy, while actually being the extreme opposite, it’s as if he has a split personality, and I started to have that experience myself. He has a tremendous inner conflict going on that he can’t communicate to anyone, even to himself. He knows what he’s doing is wrong, but he can’t help himself, and I felt that. I’ve learned over the years that I naturally start to take on the traits of the characters I play when working on a script, sometimes without really being aware it’s happening, it’s to some degree an organic process, and I’ve learned to be able to trust that. So when I started to feel that way, after checking in to make sure Michael the actor wasn’t actually going nuts, I just went with it.
The Knockturnal: What is coming up next for you?
Michael Simon Hall: I’m going back on tour this summer with this amazing musical I’ve been a part of the past few years, HENRY BOX BROWN. After we were at the Edinburgh festival with amazing reviews, we went on tour in the US pre-Covid. Covid ended up being a great time for development, we used the time to complete a recording of some new music, and I just returned from a three-week workshop in a “covid bubble” for a new version of the script. It’s set in 1840’s Virginia, where I play Reverend James Smith. He’s is a very moral guy in deep anguish for supporting a slave society his whole life, and he eventually gets the courage to become an emancipator, helping Mr. Brown to escape to the north in a crate, via the underground railroad. He’s basically the complete opposite of Bradley Gilmore, ha!