Celebrities are often enlisted to boost a brand’s profile during the Super Bowl. After all, it’s the one day all year when people aren’t actively eye-rolling, avoiding, silently seething, or openly dry heaving at the prospect of sitting through a TV commercial. Long-time Dexter star Michael C. Hall is using the occasion this year to appear in his first ad of any kind, and it just happens to be Skittles’ most ambitious act of major event advertising yet.
Which is saying a lot coming from a brand that made a Super Bowl ad last year for just one person.
For 2019’s Super Bowl 53, Skittles is playing with the format even more and producing a full-on Broadway show.
It’s not Hall’s first time on Broadway–he’s starred in The Realistic Joneses (2014), and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2014)–but it’s definitely his first candy and advertising-themed production. Fast Company caught up with Hall to find out why he decided to Broadway the rainbow, his favorite Super Bowl ad ever, and more.
Fast Company: I’ll start with the central question of the Skittles Super Bowl ad teaser. What made you want to do this?
Michael C. Hall: I think it was the same thing that inspires other things I do, to be honest. There’s a combination of intrigue, excitement, and fear.
It was undeniably unique. Not just to me, but in the landscape of advertising in general. Certainly not just for America’s big game, but not in any context have I seen a performed Broadway musical ad. But I also was excited about the people I knew I’d be collaborating with. I’ve worked with Will Eno, the writer for the past several years. I’ve done his plays and a couple of readings of his, and when I heard the music, it’s sort of an invitation to not take yourself too seriously. Obviously Skittles doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and makes fun of themselves, makes fun of brand advertising, makes fun of the society in which we live in referencing all of those things.
And amid all that, it’s also a chance to poke fun at myself, which is something that’s nice to be invited to do, in a way. I’ve never done an ad before for anything, so I decided for the first, and potentially only, time to do it–that instead of showing up for an afternoon, I’d rehearse and perform a full-on Broadway show! [laughs]
FC: Obviously details about the musical have been scarce so far, but the approach appears to be pretty meta about advertising itself.
MCH: I’ve always found Skittles advertising to be refreshing as a consumer, to not be asked to pretend that I’m not watching an advertisement. Yes, there’s something self-referential, even self-lampooning about what they do generally, and everything about this piece is that. It’s why we’re having so much fun putting it together. We’re laughing a lot putting this together.
FC: How does it compare to your own views on advertising’s place in entertainment and culture?
MCH: I don’t spend a lot of time consciously thinking about trends and the way advertising has changed, but certainly have had the experience on film sets, holding a certain product, get curious about it, and realize they’ve paid to have their product subtly featured in the show or movie I’m doing. But I don’t know, I think this Skittles commercial Broadway musical thing is its own singular and unprecedented animal. There is a complete fusion of the entertainment and the advertising. It’s not like an ad that’s somewhat entertaining or a piece of entertainment with subtle advertising elements. The Venn diagram for this is one circle. It’s one in the same.
FC: What’s your favorite Super Bowl ad of all-time?
MCH: I’d say the kid in the Darth Vader suit starting the car.
FC: Do you remember what brand it was for?
MCH: [Laughs] No, I don’t! . . . [long pause] . . . Volkswagen!