From show creator Jessica Goldberg (Parenthood), the Hulu original series The Path follows the Meyerist Movement as it struggles to make sense of Doctor Meyer’s mysterious departure. At the same time, Eddie (Aaron Paul) is tormented by strange visions he’s trying to understand while finding his way in the secular world again, and Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) and Cal (Hugh Dancy) have joined forces as the co-Guardians of the Light, which leads them both to do some dark things in the name of the Movement.
During this 1-on-1 chat with Collider, actor Hugh Dancy talked about what he was most intrigued about with the second season, learning more about Cal’s history, the dynamic between Cal and Sarah, the danger that Eddie represents to the Movement, the fun of the fish-out-of-water situations Cal finds himself in this season, and what a possible third season could be like. He also talked about his unwillingness to let go of Hannibal, his hope that it will still return, at some point, and why he thinks the distance might work to its benefit, if it did.
Collider: When you found out that you’d be returning for Season 2, what were you most anxious and excited about?
HUGH DANCY: Obviously, the thing hanging over the end of the season and hanging over Cal was Silas’ death. What Jessica [Goldberg] made clear to me was that they had to find a way to not lay that to rest, but to have Sarah learn about that, so that the story could move forward. If you’ve still got Cal hiding that, five episodes in, you’re getting into some pretty repetitive territory. We’ve got load of other crap to deal with. It wasn’t necessarily something I would have anticipated, but the fact that Jessica chose to have him really try to explore his own faults and try to atone was interesting. And Cal being Cal, he’s trying to atone, but he’s not going to tell anybody. In a way, he’s acknowledging the fact that he can’t ever properly atone, so he’s just doing good work. I found that really interesting.
With a guy like Cal, does that kind of behavior come from ego, or does it come from insecurity?
DANCY: I don’t know that he’s rife with insecurity, exactly. You learn a bit more about his relationship with Steve this season, which is a somewhat darker vision of how his early childhood was. Even when he got away from his alcoholic parents, he was thrown into a maybe worse situation. I think there are some deep fault lines, but it’s not insecurity. I think of insecurity more as someone who doesn’t have confidence in themselves. I think he has great confidence in himself, but he has this deep fear. What I like about Cal is that you can’t separate his arrogance and his ambition from those fault lines because he’s trying to build something and keep it together to help everybody, but also to hold himself together. What I like about that is that his selfish acts and his selfless acts overlap.
Would you say that Cal really believes that Sarah is way more on board with their relationship than she actually is?
DANCY: At the end of Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2, she’s standing over him, accusing him of doing these awful things, but he’s still in the position of saying, “But I had to do that stuff. Sorry to say it, but that’s leadership.” I feel like that’s his position. He’s basically saying, “Wake up and smell the coffee, and how about you take a little bit of that responsibility yourself and see how you like it?” And once you start getting further into the season, Sarah has taken that ball and is running with it. She’s facing some really hard decisions of her own, and she’s also having to swallow the fact of Silas’ death. It turns out that Cal can’t stand that. He hates seeing the woman he loves, who he’s always placed on this pedestal, stepping off the pedestal. He’s saying to her, “No, once you start on that road, you can’t stop. You’ve gotta preserve yourself.” I thought that was really interesting. It’s a really interesting flip in their dynamic.
Does Cal feel some sense of satisfaction, seeing Sarah do things she wouldn’t do, if it weren’t in the name of the Movement?
DANCY: I actually think he feels no satisfaction in it, at all. Maybe he’s glad to be able to go to her, and it’s gotta be a relief to have somebody you can unburden to, but I think actually seeing her start to make the same compromises that he’s made is very painful to him. It’s almost like they have the portrait of Dorian Gray in the attic. Cal can do these terrible things ‘cause he knows that Sarah is there, as this pure beacon of light. Now, she’s got her feet in the mud, just like him, and I think that’s a pretty bad feeling.
Does it change what she represents for him, to see her go through that?
DANCY: Yeah, and I think that’s why it’s so upsetting to him. They had this relationship when they were teenagers, and ever since then, he put the whole thing on ice and just kept this unchanging vision of who she is. Even though she’s gotten married and had kids, he just thinks she’s that pure first love and perfect disciple of the light. In the first season, that becomes all the more valuable to him because of the path that he’s having to walk, which is so much more compromised. I think he hates seeing her make those compromises.
Does Cal have a full grasp on just how dangerous Eddie is to him and the Movement?
DANCY: Cal thinks that Eddie is done and out. He’s a denier. Yeah, he wants contact with his kids, but that’s the only indication that he has any interest in getting back involved. There’s obviously the jealousy of Sarah, but I don’t think he has any sense that Eddie might return as a more substantial threat, in terms of leadership of the Movement, at all.
If he had his way, would Cal rather Eddie just go away and stay away?
DANCY: Yeah, I think he would. I think he thinks that Eddie didn’t have the balls to handle the truth. He bailed on the Movement and he bailed on Sarah, and he’s damaging to her family. There’s a lot of rationalization there ‘cause Cal just wants to be the guy and have the field cleared for himself.
Does Cal really see something in Hawk, or is he trying to piss Eddie off by having a relationship with him?
DANCY: The thing with Cal is that you don’t really know. There’s a moment this season when, despite what Sarah has been saying, he realizes that maybe there’s still some connection with Eddie. You’ll see Cal do a series of things that are vindictive, one of which is to go to Hawk and say, “Come on, I’ll take you up the ladder.” But, he can always rationalize these things. Hawk is a leader and he does have something in him, but there are moments when Cal is just trying to teach Sarah a lesson. I think he also sees parallels between Hawk and himself. He’s not making up the fact that Hawk is somebody with potential, and he probably has seen something in him. I think he really does employ that skill, which he’s learned from Steve, that’s half hokum and half real, where he can look inside someone and say, “I see you and I see who you are.” That’s a very appealing thing to say to a 16 or 17-year-old kid who’s unmoored, but maybe there’s something in it, as well.
Was it fun to get to see Cal in situations, this season, that we haven’t seen him in before, including having to beg people for money?
DANCY: Yeah, I really liked that. It’s so interesting to see these characters, who are very sure-footed in their own enclosed world, having to step out into a bigger world. That’s always going to be the part of the second season of any story. You’ve gotta expand the limits, but it’s so unnatural to these characters. Suddenly, they’re uncomfortable, and I loved that. I love the fundraiser scene because it’s such a clusterfuck and Cal messes up so badly, but in a way that you can sympathize with. He looks around and thinks, “I hate this! I hate these people! I hate what I’m having to do! They’re all in it for the wrong reasons.” He basically tells them all to go fuck themselves, and you’re like, “Okay, I can get on with that!” It was really well written. It’s insane because he’s the one who’s trying to raise money, and I loved that. In the first season, you see Cal meet his mother and I felt weird during those couple of days with Kathleen [Turner] because I was having to play vulnerability. And then, that door closed and he went back to being a machine, in a way. In Season 2, I like that Cal’s fallibility and vulnerability is explored, to a degree. Not that I want to go down that way forever, but I enjoyed that.
How does Cal justify having a relationship with another woman while he’s blaming everyone else for their bad behavior and misdeeds?
DANCY: I think he’s doing some magical thinking, and I think he’s hoping that everything will just work out okay and he’ll compartmentalize everything. He can justify not telling anyone because he’s the head of the Movement and he has to be infallible, to a degree. It’s better that he cover it up. And he’s arranged for her marriage to Sean. He’s also replaying patterns of abusive behavior that he’s lived through, but he doesn’t quite see it as that. He doesn’t see the degree to which he’s acting out. I think he is fully aware of the power of his position, but he wouldn’t acknowledge the degree with which he’s using it to be abusive, ultimately. I think he thinks it’s all going to work out fine. He’s going to be able to keep juggling, and the Movement will take on velocity and he’ll be home free. I don’t know what he thinks.
What was it like to work with Melanie Griffith, this season?
DANCY: I love Melanie! I worked with Melanie, 10 or 12 years ago, and loved her then. We got on well then. I just love her. She’s funny as hell. She’s so giving, in the best way. When you think about her career and her history, she wouldn’t have to show up with the same generosity and even uncertainty about what she’s doing and honesty about that. It’s what you want from any actor. I can’t speak highly enough of Melanie. It was great. I loved seeing Cal in California. It was ridiculous, but so right, in some way. I loved the feeling of dropping this guy into another world. I feel like Cal could do a travel show, where you drop him into places around the world and he fails to fit in. That was wonderful and amazing. I felt very lucky that I got to work with Kathleen last year, and that I got to work with Melanie this year. Long may that continue.
Have you thought about or had any discussions about what a possible third season of the show could be like?
DANCY: I think a third season could look very different again. Not for the sake of it, but because of the way this season ends. If we imagine a future for the Movement, it’s going to have to be reconfigured, just to allow for that. I don’t really know what that would look like.
The fans of Hannibal refuse to let go of that show and of the hope that it could come back, in some way.
DANCY: Which I understand. I also am unwilling to let go of that show. I loved it. It was so much greater than the sum of its parts. That’s not to knock any part individually. I loved the experience and I loved the end result. I’m so grateful to Bryan [Fuller]. Also, I feel like I’m the recipient of this great gift, which is the community that’s been formed around it, and the sense of ownership that so many people have. There’s a feedback loop that I’m the beneficiary of, in some ways, and I’m very grateful for that.
Is it encouraging when you hear Bryan Fuller also not be willing to let go of the show?
DANCY: Oh, yeah, sure it is!
Are you still game for a return then?
DANCY: I’m totally game for that! I think if we were able to come back and make a fourth chapter, whatever that would look like and whether that would be another 13 episodes or a mini-series, or whatever, it would possibly benefit from everybody having stepped away from the show. Any show that goes on for three years, and into the fourth year, particularly when you’ve got somebody as uncompromising as Bryan, there are battles that are fought along the way and trenches that people get into. If we could come back fresh, with enthusiasm from every party involved – from myself I know, and Bryan, and I’m sure Mads [Mikkelsen] would be interested – then what could be wrong with that? I’d love it! Keep that hope alive.
There are new episodes of The Path available on Wednesdays on Hulu.