“It was a lot of death. It was a lot of meditation on death for five years. I’ve probably left it more than it’s left me,” Krause, who played rebellious Nate Fisher, told IndieWire.
Hall, who played Nate’s brother David, had no trouble remembering some of the great scenes from the show: “It’s really about those moments. You know, it feels like one long freeflowing slice of these people’s lives.”
We asked Hall and Krause to share their favorite episodic memories (which they always generously credited to the writers and directors working behind the scenes). Below, find out what moments were the most profound for them — and also, the toughest.
“Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)
Writer/Director: Alan Ball
Summary (from HBO): In the series premiere, Nate Fisher returns home for the holidays to the shattering news of his father’s death.
HALL: I’d never really done anything of any significance in front of a camera when I shot the pilot, so it was all pretty unknown and new to me. But I would say with “Six Feet Under,” as much as with anything I’ve done, the vivid experience I had in terms of what I imagined when I read it and what as it translated to the experience of shooting it, as it translated to the experience of watching, was about as cohesive as anything I’ve done. It really- it looked how it felt, which is a part of I think why it was good. Alan as a director, in that pilot, was able to capture what he had written, and what we were conveying with our performances, in a way that felt so in sync with our sense of truth.
KRAUSE: I would say the pilot certainly was a really magical piece of writing when I first read it, and I think that it holds up as a short film. Without the rest of the series, I think that the pilot is in and of itself a really great short film. And it certainly kicked off the series in a beautiful fashion.
“The Room” (Season 1, Episode 6)
Writer: Christian Taylor
Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Summary: An ornery widower camps out in the Fisher Funeral Home; sparks fly between Claire and Billy; Ruth spurns Hiram and is later wooed by a Russian florist; David is pursued by a pushy parishioner while performing charity work; and an examination of the business’s receipts uncovers some interesting secrets.
HALL: Nate discovers that Nathaniel has this room over a restaurant that he kept secret and David himself finds out about it. There’s this great scene between the two of them in the room. Two very different points-of-view processing the idea that their father had a secret life, and you know it relates for David at that point to his own secret life. There was just something really beautiful about that episode.
KRAUSE: There’s something about not knowing entirely who your parents are and discovering later that they have secrets of which you were unaware. It’s very fascinating and of course, that goes beyond our parents to everybody else in the world. We never can fully get to know anyone. The closest we can get is the knowledge of ourselves and even then, sometimes we surprise ourselves. But I love that episode.
“Falling Into Place” (Season 4, Episode 1)
Writer: Craig Wright
Director: Michael Cuesta
Summary: In an attempt to honor Lisa’s last wishes, Nate finds himself at odds with her family.
KRAUSE: When Nate buried Lisa. The first episode of Season 4? That was a really hard episode. It was a beautifully written episode by Craig. Michael Cuesta directed that one. There’s some cool shots in that episode. Michael Cuesta did some really nice visual work. That was really hard. That was hard work as an actor to go through what that was. And the whole series was difficult for us actors, I think. I think that the emotional challenges we faced. The writing was so good, but the emotional challenges we faced as performers, having to be in this place over and over and over again, was draining. It was exciting and challenging, but those seasons were hard. There was always a collective sigh of relief on the part of the cast at the end of each season. Like, “Okay, we get to let that go for a little while.”
“That’s My Dog” (Season 4, Episode 5)
Writer: Scott Buck
Director: Alan Poul
Summary: With Keith out of town on business, David gets taken for a ride by a hitchhiker.
HALL: The episode in which David is kidnapped, that storyline, was a real departure, a real challenge, and a lot of fun for me to shoot. It kind of shook David up, and shook the trajectory of the character up, in a way that was fun and really welcome.
“Time Flies” (Season 5, Episode 4)
Writer: Craig Wright
Director: Alan Poul
Summary: Nate comes home to an unpleasant surprise.
KRAUSE: Nate’s 40th birthday came before mine and so we had to film Nate’s 40th birthday over the course of many days. And so I wasn’t expecting that particular experience to lead me to be obsessed about my own 40th birthday, but it did.
“Ecotone” (Season 5, Episode 9)
Writer: Nancy Oliver
Director: Daniel Minahan
Summary: Nate brings the family together against their will.
HALL: The episode that ends with David waking up to discover that Nate has died — that includes the dream sequence in which we’re in the midst of Nate’s dream and over the course of the dream it sort of morphs into David’s dream. And then he wakes up to the flatline tone of Nate’s heart monitor. There’s just something really magical and beautiful and heartbreaking about that and that whole episode.
“Everybody’s Waiting” (Season 5, Episode 12)
Writer/Director: Alan Ball
Summary: In the series finale, David finally embraces a demon; Keith gives ‘tough love’; Nathaniel talks to his younger son; Brenda delivers and fights Nate’s negativity; Claire gets an exciting call; Ted inspires sexy photos; Margaret is impressed to see Olivier’s nurturing side; George’s limitations eclipse his intentions; and Claire drives into her future.
KRAUSE: I think Alan ending the series when he did, prematurely in the way he did, elevated the entire series into a work of art. Rather than try and milk it for all it’s worth, the themes of the program — death is certain and life is brief, the question what are you going to do with your life, how are you going to live it — I think all of that was elevated by the premature ending and to fast forward to each of the character’s deaths. It was a brilliant bit of writing. I’m pretty sure it was Craig Wright who suggested the basic idea in the writers’ room. Killing all the characters off.
HALL: It was [laughs] the experience of crossing the finish line in a marathon versus taking off at the starting gun. It was very gratifying and cathartic to simulate our characters’ demise, in a way. The ritual of shooting our characters dying was therapeutic, as far as saying goodbye to them. And I think, at that point it was really almost about getting out of it’s way. It had it’s own sort of forward momentum, and so much of what we were doing was happening on an unconscious level at that point. And we’d played those characters and had been telling that story for so long, and I think we really believed in the way the story was coming to a close, so we just had to show up and let it flow through us at that point.
KRAUSE: Nate was dead by then so I was making appearances like Nathaniel Sr. did as a figment of somebody’s imagination. I felt somewhat removed by the time we got there, as a performer, but I was really enjoying appearing to Claire, dancing in a white suit, lip syncing to “I Just Want to Celebrate.” But I was already missing everybody. We really felt like a family and think that the casting was great. I look back at it and I think as a look, that family looked like a family. Richard Jenkins and Frances Conroy, as those two…those are the kids they’d have. I thought that Michael and Lauren and I really looked like siblings from those two. It felt like a family.
HALL: As an actor you’re trying to do things or have things for the first time, so if you’re preoccupied with the fact that they’re all happening for the last time, it’s kind of tricky. Doing that final episode, it was like doing the final performance of a play, you know? All of the awareness you have of this being the last time that you’re doing a scene with this or that character, the last time that you’re doing a scene in the Fishers kitchen or what have you. It sort of sets it apart from the experience you’d have normally with any other episode, so it was sort of a rarified one.
A Final Thought from Peter Krause
At one point during our conversation, Krause paused to look up a quote he wanted to get exactly right: “‘There is no death. Only a change in worlds,'” he said. “We never got so dark on that show that there wasn’t some hope. It wasn’t an abundantly hopeful show, but I don’t think that the life of hope was ever lost and in some ways, at our best, I think we kind of treated death like that. There’s no knowledge of beyond, but death was final for human. It was still poetic and full of wonder, I think. That show.”
You can binge-view “Six Feet Under” now on HBO Now.