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EXCLUSIVE: Why Hugh Dancy's Knowledge of Fake Blood Comes in Surprisingly Good Use on 'The Path'

by Stacy Lambe 12:08 AM PDT, June 16, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

It's hardly a comeback, but having Hugh Dancy star in a new series -- The Path on Hulu -- so quickly after NBC canceled Hannibal has marked a welcome return to TV for the English actor. On the series, created by Jessica Goldberg (writer and producer of Parenthood) and co-executive produced by Friday Night Lights producer Jason Katims, Dancy slowly descends into madness as Cal Roberts, an ambitious leader within a fringe religious movement.

Though, he admittedly was hesitant about diving back into another series so quickly after Hannibal. "That made me doubly cautious, because I loved working on Hannibal," Dancy tells ET about signing on for the show, which co-stars Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Michelle Monaghan (True Detective). "Basically, lightning doesn't necessarily strike twice. You have to be really sure, because the odds are against something working out so well."

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After talking with Goldberg and Katims, the actor realized how seriously they were interested in the question of individual faith. "That's what made me want to commit to it," Dancy says.

While the script provided the ultimate blueprint for Cal, Dancy decided how heavily to lean on the fault lines that he says are running through the character. "I felt like he was struggling to stay afloat on top of a raging sea," Dancy says, factoring in layers of Cal’s ambition, alpha attitude and extreme pressures to lead against the tide. For Dancy, he enjoyed the span of the character's arc in season one and how Cal can focus very intently on an individual, but also has the capacity to preach to a big crowd. "It's a rare opportunity to flex all those muscles," Dancy says. "He is a performer. He is theatrical, so I got to indulge in those sermonizing scenes, particularly when he's recounting the story of Plato’s cave. I mean, it's daunting, but enjoyable."

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As season one progresses, it's clear that Cal is drowning as he slips up on his sobriety, preying on a former drug addict and new member of the movement, and attacking a Peruvian shaman who has concerns over Cal’s aggressive nature. The scene, Dancy admits, was the most challenging of the season. "Killing Silas -- I mean, spoiler alert -- was quite intricately built up to," the actor says. "I wanted to get to a place where all of Cal's buttons were pressed, such that you could believe he'd do this thing and believe that it was purely impulsive."

The moment led to a subsequent breakdown for the character, which "was a lot to pack into a scene," Dancy says, adding: "I wanted to make sure it was as rich as it could be."

The scene also resulted in a surprising amount of blood on Cal, which after his previous work, Dancy is quite used to. "I'm comfortable and familiar with different uses of fake blood," he says. "Truthfully, I will never be covered in as much blood as I was on Hannibal."

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