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Hamish Linklater on playing a priest in Netflix show ‘Midnight Mass’

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He’s a holy terror.

Hamish Linklater stars in the Netflix horror series “Midnight Mass” as a priest whose arrival to a small island community triggers a series of mysterious events. 

Linklater, 45, said he was attracted to the project because of creator/director Mike Flanagan.

“I’m not a horror person. I have a lot of trouble being scared, it disagrees with my constitution,” Linklater told The Post. “But I had watched [Flanagan’s other show] ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ because I kept hearing such wonderful things about it. And it worked in such a deep psychological way on me.” 

The seven-episode series (now streaming) is set in the isolated fishing town of Crockett Island, which locals affectionately call “the crock pot.” The place is only accessible by ferry, and its sleepy atmosphere is shaken up by the arrival of Father Paul (Linklater, “The New Adventures of Old Christine”) a charismatic new priest who’s supposed to be there temporarily while Crockett Island’s usual priest recovers from an unspecified ailment.

Hamish Linklater wears an elaborate robe and walks down a church aisle with his hands in a prayer position
Hamish Linklater as Father Paul in “Midnight Mass”
COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Prodigal son Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford, “Friday Night Lights”) is also a new arrival, returning back home to live with his parents as an adult after serving four years in prison. He left home as an altar boy but returned from his stint behind bars as an atheist — which causes tension when his parents insist that he attend church while he’s living under their roof. 

His teen crush Erin Greene (Kate Siegel) has also recently returned to town, pregnant and alone after fleeing a bad marriage. Soon enough, odd supernatural events start to occur — such as hundreds of dead cats strewn on the beach and a figure in a trench coat spotted wandering around in a storm — as the locals increasingly become captivated by Father Paul. 

“I was raised by an agnostic mother,” said Linklater. “But my grandmother was Episcopalian, and when I was a wee baby, and my mom brought me to meet my grandmother in the Orkney Islands in Scotland, she stole me away in the night to be baptized and save my everlasting soul. So, I guess I consider myself half-Episcopal but 100 percent questioning and curious. Fortunately, I had the best technical advisor in the world on set all the time in Mike [Flanagan], because he was a former altar boy. We also had a local priest telling me what to do. I thought I was an actor [who worked with] props before, but I guess I had never encountered the Catholic Church. There’s a lot of stuff to learn there.”

Hamish Linklater leans against a wall looking afraid in a dim room.
Hamish Linklater in “Midnight Mass.”
EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX

The main prop he was surprised by was his costuming, he said. 

“I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll get to wear black and that collar, that’s very [austere]! Because of the genre, do you want me to look like I’m hungry all the time?’ And [Mike Flanagan] was like, ‘No, you’re going to be in this enormous robe, you can eat carbs!’”

Linklater turned to a few other fictional priests for inspiration, though his performance isn’t based on anyone specific, he said. 

“I was really into Raul Julia’s performance in [1989 film ‘Romero’] which is a lot more fiery but has such a moral core. I felt like it was essential to have this real moral clarity even though it turns out to be perhaps a little bit misguided. But I wasn’t stealing anybody else’s performance — though I did have ambitions to be as [attractive] as Adam Scott’s priest in ‘Fleabag.’”

Although Linklater started off not inclined towards horror, starring in “Midnight Mass” gave him a better appreciation for the genre, he said. His partner, actress Lily Rabe, is a frequent star of scary shows, often appearing in the “American Horror Story” franchise. 

“This past season of ‘American Horror Story,’ I had an easier time watching it because you know how the sausage gets made,” he said. “And this is good for our relationship if I can watch my partner’s work.

“I can now go back through Lily’s seasons — I was too scared to before.”



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