Jennifer Carpenter Dissects 'Dexter' Premiere
"Are You...?" was not only the title of tonight's season seven premiere, but also the two words that preceded the most important question Dexter has ever faced: Are You A Serial Killer?
But unlike the people who've seen his Dark Passenger before (Doakes, Lila, The Trinity Killer, Lumen), there is no doing away with Debra Morgan. Both the show and the character will be forced to address, head-on, Dexter's truth in a long-awaited storyline that clearly ignites an end game for the series (Showtime has renewed the series through season eight).
TheInsider.com caught up with Jennifer Carpenter to talk about tonight's game-changing episode, what it was like filming the final scene and where Dexter takes this dysfunctional duo in the coming weeks.
TheInsider.com: I was thrilled to see Debra come to this conclusion by episode's end. Were you glad this whole season wasn't about her coming to this realization?
Jennifer Carpenter: I thought it was a really believable timeline, and, truthfully, it was something we couldn't ignore for too long given how we left everyone hanging at the end of last season. We had to pick up from that next breath. I'm glad I wasn’t hunting him. I'm glad it just sort of happened. And, honestly, in the real world, that's probably how most family members of serial killers find out. They just find out. There’s no search. One day, you just know.
Insider.com: What was it like to finally be holding Dexter's slidebox?
Jennifer: When we rehearsed that scene, the director told me the room would look like Deb had just torn through it, so I actually tore through it. It was so liberating to reach into that box and throw the slides over the table, knowing what it would do to Dexter. We shot that scene at 4 a.m. and did all of Michael's coverage first. Then we turned the camera around to me and Michael was right behind it -- I couldn't see him. Then I say, "Did you kill all these people?" Somewhere between "Did you kill all these people?" and "Are you a serial killer?" Michael fell asleep! [laughs] By the time we woke him up, I was like you mother f*cker! It did nothing but make me feel Deb so much more in that scene.
Insider.com: Does episode 2 pick up right away?
Jennifer: Yeah, pretty much. It's where reality sets in for Deb. And Dexter. It's no longer about piecing together the moment of truth at the church, and what she initially thinks is one kill, it's about realizing that every word is up for debate. Every thing he's ever told her is questionable. Every ounce of support is all up on trial now. Deb begins to feel like he's manipulated her for her entire life and she knows it now.
Insider.com: Beyond the shock, there are clearly feelings of hurt and betrayal -- but also the inability to mourn this loss.
Jennifer: I keep waiting for there to be some sort of numbing effect where she can't be penetrated emotionally given all the pain she's gone through. But that hasn't happened. Sometimes I question what is it about her that keeps showing up. As the actor, I experience such fatigue because of what the dynamics of this show call for -- all the places I have to take myself are so taxing. It just makes me fall in love with Deb even more. She's not a fighter, she's a warrior. But I think she still holds out hope that he can be good.
Insider.com: Last season dealt a lot with her potentially romantic feelings for Dexter. Will those come into play again?
Jennifer: I think a lot of people fall in love with someone's potential, and that's what she's done. But she's realized he's not that person at all. Deb now knows she was in love with a fantasy. So at any moment, if she ever gets fed up, she can grab her gun and take the show away from the audience by sending Dexter to prison [laughs].
Insider.com: Does this revelation mean more or less scenes between you and Michael?
Jennifer: It's funny because we've never had more scenes together. I work with him constantly – which is why I didn't sleep for the first five episodes. We were there all the time. The show doesn't retreat after this realization.
Insider.com: Looking at the huge journey Debra has gone on over this series run, what's the one thing you haven't gotten to do yet?
Jennifer: I feel like I haven't quite convinced everyone that Deb is a superhero. Dex calls it a Dark Passenger, [but] I call it an addiction. The hardest thing to do isn't to kill people, it's to change. When you look at every mountain she's had to climb, that's admirable, heroic and I don't think that's quite been nailed yet. I want to see her use that power for good in a way that makes the audience shout, "Hooray!" There's a way to bust ass and kill evil without sliding a knife into their ribcage.
Dexter airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.