It was a bizarre coincidence, made all the more resonant by the fact that Hall had long connected the age 39 to his own feelings of mortality.
"I think I've been preoccupied since I was 11, and my father died, with the idea of the age 39: 'Would I live that long? What would that be like?' " Hall tells The New York Times. "To discover that I had the Hodgkin's was alarming, but at the same time I felt kind of bemused, like: 'Wow. Huh. How interesting.' "
Hall turned 39 this past February. His cancer is in remission, and he feels completely revitalized. If anything, he says, he felt extra energy after the effects of the chemotherapy wore off.
As the fifth season of Dexter premieres this Sunday on Showtime, Hall looks back at his career so far and sees a pattern of playing repressed characters – not just Dexter Morgan but also David Fisher on Six Feet Under. Perhaps, says Hall, that's another legacy from having a father who died young.
"The fact that I've been called upon to play these characters is probably not a complete coincidence," he says. "I have my own repressed people in my life that I've drawn on, and had my own tendency toward repression. Maybe it has to do with not knowing quite what to do with the storm of feelings that accompanied my father's death. Maybe it's a learned behavior."
He adds with a smile: "Now, I'm taking it to the bank."