"Six Feet Under"
HBO "Six Feet Under"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the first time you've played a gay character since "Six Feet Under," right?

[He thinks for a second.] Yes.

Now you're straight. How do you get into a gay man's mindset?

I don't know, I mean I can appreciate that Dane DeHaan is beautiful, and I can appreciate and give over to the power of his persona and magnetism. I mean, I was thankful that he was someone who was so inherently magnetic, given that I had to be so magnetized by him. And you know, I don't know that it's was a relationship that in any physical intimate way was consummated, I don't if that kind of expression came to past between these two. You do whatever kind of internal alchemy you need to do to to make something connect to your own inherent sense of truth. I can certainly relate to my associations with self-destructive obsession, or unrequited love, or forbidden passions, or envy, or projection of vitality that you yourself long to possess.

I first became familiar with your work via "Six Feet Under." You were no doubt thrust into the LGBT spotlight thanks to that show. What was that experience like of having to be a spokesperson?

Yeah, I think whatever kind of spokesman-ship I did was just in playing the part. I wasn't interested in standing behind any podiums, but I did recognize when I read the pilot script of "Six Feet Under" and got the part that I was called upon to play a character that was up to that point unique to TV, and maybe even to film, in as much as he was a fundamental part of a human fabric. He was not incidentally gay, he was not comic relief. He was a very complex character who had a very complex connection to his sexuality, and I definitely felt charged with a sense of responsibility to do my part to get it right. So yeah, I felt a sense of responsibility.

Michael C. Hall and James Remar in 'Dexter'
Randy Tepper/Showtime Michael C. Hall and James Remar in 'Dexter'

I remember being surprised you signed onto another series ("Dexter") as soon as "Six Feet Under" wrapped. Were you wary about getting involved in another TV series so soon after ending your run on one?

I was, I mean I think I announced in interviews like this when "Six Feet Under" was ending, "I will never do another television series." I've learned to never say never. Yeah, I moved back to New York and was hoping to pursue opportunities on stage and hopefully in film. But I was coming to appreciate that while people loved "Six Feet Under," in the industry their imaginations began and ended with David Fisher when it came to me. I was very proud of the work, but I felt somewhat bound by that. When the "Dexter" script came along, it fell into my lap because Bob Greenblatt had been a producer on "Six Feet Under" and was the new head of original programming and Michael Cuesta was directing the pilot and he'd done several "Six Feet Under" episodes.

It took a while for me to come around and actually watch you as Dexter. I didn't initially want to accept you as anyone other than David Fisher.

I had a lot of people tell me that they didn't. And you know, I probably will deal with that from "Dexter" fans now. Occupational hazard, I guess. But I realized it was, like David Fisher, a character unlike I had ever encountered, and an opportunity to stretch my own muscles and broadened the spectrum in terms of people's perception. So I took the leap, and I did it for eight seasons. I felt like if we got the tone right we would develop some sort of cult audience and do it four three or four seasons. The fact that we did it for eight, and it became this sort of worldwide thing, was beyond my wildest expectations or dreams.

What's it like to find yourself back at that stage in your career with "Dexter" coming to a close?

Yeah, it's interesting. I definitely feel like I have a bit more substantial footing at this point after eight seasons of "Dexter" that I did after five seasons of "Six Feet Under." But once again, it's time to reboot the system, and I try to think of it as a new beginning as much as an ending. It definitely is, and I'll never say never, but I'm excited about the opportunity to have jobs that have a definite beginning, middle and end when I go into them rather than an open-ended commitment to a character that could be taken in places I can't even imagine. But it's funny, be careful what you wish for, be careful for what you avoid. You'll find yourself right back there.