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Dissecting 'Dexter'

Dive into Showtime’s murderous drama, currently in its final season, on EW’s new Sundance Channel series, ”The Writers’ Room”

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On hearing the idea for the show for the first time
Sara Colleton (Exec Producer) Once I read [Jeff Lindsay’s novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter], you completely saw his character had this inner voice that was droll and observational. In his attempts to fake being human, he ends up being the most human.

Michael C. Hall (Star/Exec Producer) My initial general response to the idea of it was aversion — I didn’t want to make another open-ended commitment to a character surrounded by dead bodies…. [Hall starred as a funeral director on HBO’s Six Feet Under for five seasons.] I then took time to read the pilot script…and recognized that this was a singularly unique character, and I wasn’t gonna get another opportunity to do anything like it anywhere else.

Scott Buck (Exec Producer/Showrunner) It sounded like the dumbest idea I’d ever heard, and then I was told that it was starring Michael C. Hall.

On what makes fans root for a serial killer
Colleton We all have a dark passenger. We all have some aspect of ourselves which we are terrified of letting it see the light of day…and that is something that’s been very relatable, particularly in the early years, when Dexter really had to keep himself hidden.

Manny Coto (Writer/Exec Producer) I saw Dexter as [a] latter-day pulp hero from the ’30s — from the Shadow and Doc Savage on. All were vigilantes outside the law. He has a secret identity…. His serial-killing ability is a superpower.

On Dexter’s kill scenes and how they reveal his true character
Colleton It’s only at that moment when that person knows that he’s going to die that Dexter can drop the mask of pretending who he is and reveal his real self, that an actual conversation takes place. Sometimes there’s a nugget of understanding where Dexter can take away from the deathbed conversation that he uses in his real life.

Hall It’s like he extracts this golden nugget [from his victim], takes it for himself, and kills the rest of it.

On the shocking season 4 finale, in which the Trinity Killer murdered Dexter’s wife, Rita
Wendy West (Writer/Exec Producer I remember being in the room the day we came up with the idea, and it was like, ”Touchdown!” One of the writers came back from the restroom and she’s like, ”I got it,” and it was literally this image of [Dexter and Rita’s son] Harrison in blood…. It was a perfect way to bring that chapter full circle.

Colleton If that season was going to be about [the question of whether] Dexter can have it all and the hubris of thinking he can have it all — that he can have a family, and live in suburbia, and have a successful career, and keep the dark passenger — the gods always have a very special punishment for someone who lets hubris lead their life. The only punishment that fit was to take away the thing that meant most to him at that point.

Hall I think he’s been reeling ever since…. He started to have a more legitimately human life, and somebody paid the price. I think the tragedy of the character is it’s not his darkness that gets anyone in his life in trouble — it’s his appetite for light, or connection, or humanity.

On how Dexter’s creative process is ”an ongoing fight”
Buck Everyone believes they know exactly who Dexter is and what Dexter is going to do…. It’s my job to tell them to shut up when I think they’re wrong, or to encourage them. Because you want to hear every stupid idea that crosses their head, because one of those stupid ideas is suddenly going to be fantastic.

Coto I can throw out a really bad idea…. The great twist at the end of last season [could have been that] Harry [James Remar] walks out of the darkness [alive]. And the last villain for the last season of Dexter is father against son.

Colleton Michael [sends the writers] beautifully written, passionate three-page emails…. There have been times when we’ve gone off on a tangent, and [Hall is] great at saying, ”Whoa, guys, if you go down this road, this is what it does to Dexter.” And as soon as you say that…it brings us right back to where we should be.

On the pressure to deliver a perfect series finale Sept. 22
Buck It’s not like a sudden decision; it’s something that we’ve been thinking of for a long time, so that the ending that we are giving the show is very well-thought-out, and I think we feel quite strongly that this is exactly how the show has to end…. Some viewers will love it, and some will not, but we are writing the finale that we think the show deserves.

Hall I don’t get too preoccupied with what other people’s expectations or hopes are about what the character might be. I’m more preoccupied with what’s written.

On how much blood that finale will include
Coto A couple quarts.

West A gallon.

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