Disclaimer: This story contains spoilers for the closing scenes of “Midnight Mass”.
On his first day of filming âMidnight Mass,â Hamish Linklater slit his pants.
The 45-year-old star of Mike Flanagan’s Netflix series (premiere Friday), about a dark force stalking an isolated island community, was already worried about having to turn nine pages of monologue on day one. âI was in a pretty searing panic, but I was so excited to finally be able to get back to work and it was so emotional,â he said.
âMy jeans split from the crotch to the knee. It was just a reminder of the times we live in. You can do all of your best shots, but it’s one foot in front of the other with a lot of wind blowing where you probably wish it wasn’t.
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In the series, which adds to Flanagan’s growing portfolio of genre projects for the streamer (including “The Haunting of Hill House” and “The Haunting of Bly Manor”), Linklater plays Father Paul, a charismatic priest who mysteriously moves to Crockett Island and manages to convince his downcast parish to believe in miracles. Filming took place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and “thanks to luck but also a lot of preparation and diligence on the part of the cast”, the production made it through a four-month shoot unscathed.
âIt was just that massive outing, finally talking to people and laughing and really screaming and screaming,â Linklater said. “We’re doing this show about an island community, and an island community spirit has kind of overtaken us due to the circumstances we were filming in.”
The Times sat down with Linklater to talk about gender storytelling, delivering monologues and the similarities between Catholicism and drug addiction.
What has attracted you to genre storytelling lately, and what do you think genre storytellers appeal to you?
âMidnight Massâ just happens to be a genre show. Mike’s writing was so beautiful and had such an evangelical beat. And that was lucky because my ever-growing kryptonite is memorizing lines. I had the first three scripts and nine monologue pages to audition, and then the day before they gave me another five monologue pages. But when there is this good rhythm, it comes in like a rhyme or an earworm. The earworm dialogue is the best.
What drew you to this role in particular?
I mean, the scale of the role was really what was so exciting. Learning to use this beautiful language and having these beautiful sermons to deliver was exciting. And what I hadn’t really planned, and no one of course could have foreseen at the time, was that we were going to go into this lockdown and be in our homes. I am a theater actor. I grew up in a theater group sitting outside watching plays. I have a certain extrovert inclination, but I had no idea [if] I was going to be able to perform in front of people. Having a parish and a congregation, doing these exquisite monologues, was like stepping out of a cave. It was such an amazing gift.
Have you chosen artistic hobbies to fill the void left by comedy?
I actually did a lot of cooking. I’m the cook of the house anyway. But for a short time, I actually became a chef. I was like, âWhat are the ingredients that we have here today? Google, what do you think I could do with this? ‘ And then all of a sudden it’s coconut edamame rice instead of Mr. Box’s pilaf. And I became a nursery artist. I have three daughters so it was a wonderful skill to hone.
What do you think religion and the Catholic Church in particular feed them for so many genre stories?
The show operates on two levels: One, this terrible peril that I think a lot of people [feel] going to church on Sunday like, âOh my God, will I stay awake? “ The way Christian churches keep you awake is hell. You get a lot of hell. And you also get a lot of hated devils and demons. So there is a cross over there, that’s for sure.
And the other way is that this show is so much about faith but also about addiction. There are two different ways of dealing with addiction and one is the threat of succumbing to those cravings and cravings. If you do this you get hell, and if you don’t you get heaven. There is so much negativity and shame that comes with addiction that is often used to heal [it]. Like, âYou’re out of control. You have to surrender to [a higher power]âBasically saying that you are a sinner. But then there is another way to deal with the addiction, which is like, âThings are going to be really positive if you don’t give in. You are going to really feel better, you are going to have a fuller day to-day. If you strive for the light, the light will return to you. “So I think heaven and hell are also great in terms of therapy for dealing with addiction.
Are you a Stephen King fan? And what was it like working with super fan Mike Flanagan?
Yeah, totally. I was like a huge “Gunslinger” fan, I wasn’t so much into the horror side of things. i am not an eyesore [fan] because it scares me too much. But I had seen “The Haunting of Hill House” and he does something, which I think he also does in “Midnight Mass”, which gets you under your skin, but then it also gets under your ribs and touches his feet. your psyche. With âHill Houseâ, you talk about brothers and sisters. You talk about family and the horror of family.
Your character is extremely charismatic. Did you base your performance on someone or something in particular?
I based my performance on my ideal of my best version of myself. And I also watched RaÃºl JuliÃ¡. I watched âRomeroâ and then I started to watch RaÃºl JuliÃ¡ more and more and I was like, âWell, I’m not going to be that excitingâ, but I love him so much. It’s nice. It’s a mind-blowing performance.
Your partner, Lily Rabe, has been a part of the “American Horror Story” series for so long. So what’s it like to be part of a horror super couple?
I think we both consider ourselves very lucky to find ourselves supporting such remarkable storytellers. Gender is a bonus. But what’s great is that we both come from theater circles and they don’t ask you to mumble, they don’t ask you to just think about it, you play great emotions and you play wonderful challenges. So this is really an exciting part. But there’s a huge amount of my partner’s work that I’ve never seen because I find the genre so scary.
Warning: Major spoilers on the end of âMidnight Massâ follow.
Do you think Father Paul really looked at this creature and believed it was an angel, or was he just desperate to get a second chance with Mildred?
Father Paul’s confession and his exposition of the experience of encountering the angel is so visceral – and even sensual – that it seems the experience made sense to him as a holy and miraculous encounter. And then he’s got all this writing in his head that clicks like, Every time an angel of the Lord appeared, they were so afraid. It was my experience, it must be an angel of the Lord. I think it wasn’t until the angel really revealed himself to be an agent of another force that the veil was lifted and he saw what his personal motivations might have been.
Would you one day be ready to reprise the role to flesh out Father Paul’s illicit romance with Mildred?
I’m always told not to use dry humor in prints, because I was [thinking], ‘Well, I would go back for the illegal.’ I would like to play this guy forever. I mean, my God, if I get direction from Mike and [Michael] The cinematography of Fimognari and this language … it’s so much fun.
Since being transformed doesn’t fundamentally change who you are as a person, why do you think so many people in the city went mad that last night and went on a murderous rampage?
I wonder if there is a metaphor there. There is this dry humor that I am not allowed to use on paper. I mean, my God, the crowd mentality isn’t just alliterative, it’s a real psychological syndrome. We would all like to believe that we would be the vampire who once said to himself, âThat’s it. I am fasting.
Is it safe to assume that there is no pre-existing media portrayal of vampires in this world, just like there are no zombies in the universe of “The Walking Dead”?
It’s like when they do an adaptation, like in âSuccessionâ, does âKing Learâ exist in that universe or do they just cut out what they adapt? I don’t think we ever use the V word. Maybe [âDraculaâ author] Bram Stoker was never born in this universe.
If that was the case, maybe Bev would have had the idea of ââgoing to the ground earlier like in “True Blood”.
Totally. Yeah, she doesn’t know the rules of the genre. It just becomes full of ostrich.
When: At any time
Evaluation: TV-MA (may not be suitable for children under 17)