Dexter showrunner on what to expect from New Blood — and his thoughts on that controversial final season
True fans of the Dexter franchise can rest easy that New Blood — the revival of the Showtime drama, which premieres Sunday — has been in good hands since production fired up in January. Clyde Phillips, the executive producer responsible for the drama's first four seasons, is back to pick up where (the much maligned) writers left off eight years ago with that dreadful series finale.
We caught up with Phillips to ask him what we can expect from the long-awaited return of our favorite TV serial killer.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long has this Dexter revival been in the works?
CLYDE PHILLIPS: Since it ended? Look, it's no surprise that many people were disappointed with the ending of season 8, which I was not involved in. I left after the fourth season. It had always been in the groundwater that maybe there was going to be an attempt to do something about it. And every once in a while, Michael C. Hall would be interviewed and somebody would ask, "Are you gonna go back to Dexter?" He'd say, "I'm not sure, but I'm not closing the door." And then somebody would send me that interview and I'd call him and we'd talk about it. They tried a script with the showrunner who took my place, but that didn't work out. And then two years ago, Gary Levine, the president of Showtime, called me at my place on Martha's Vineyard and said, "We think Michael's ready." And part of it had to do with Michael just feeling it was the right time.
Why did you leave after season 4?
For a couple of reasons, but mainly [because] I was living in California while my family was living in the East. I was working my ass off to pay for a lifestyle I wasn't living.
Talk about what it was like to take Dexter to Comic-Con back in the day.
By the time we got to the fourth season with John Lithgow, we had Hall H [at the San Diego Convention Hall]. I mean, Iron Man gets Hall H. It's 8,000 people. To look over all these people, and they're all wearing Dexter T-shirts of their own creation, it was thrilling. It was a privilege. I grew up in Dorchester, which is like the poorest neighborhood in Boston. To have gotten to the point where I was doing that? I was the luckiest guy in the world.
Did you ever wonder why Michael became such a sex symbol? I mean, he played a serial killer.
Well, he's a sexy guy. It really was no wonder. It wasn't even a surprise. He's so smart, and he's got a great soul.
You left, but are you the type to maintain some kind of ownership of the show?
I watched the show out of habit. I would call my producer, who stayed with the show. I would watch every Sunday night, then call him up and fire him again and again. I knew most of the writers. They were having their struggles.
What were your thoughts about the final season?
The show went off the rails. The show was untethered, and the character was untethered. I wasn't in the room, so I can't really criticize anybody for that. Many factors go into what happens between executive producers and network influence. But as an audience member with a vested interest, I thought the show lost its way. I mean, there were videos of people watching the final episode and yelling at their television.
Had the series finale gone differently, would there be a Dexter: New Blood?
Well, if Dexter had died in the final season, we wouldn't be here.
Would you have killed him?
My personal ending for the show was that he was going to be executed for his crimes. He's lying on the table and outside the window are all the people he's killed. That was just in my own head. I never pitched that to anybody.
So is this a do-over?
I wouldn't call it that. We call it a revival. We're not doing it as if it's Dexter season 9. We're acknowledging that almost a decade has passed. We were in a fictional town in upstate New York called Iron Lake. We actually shot exteriors in Shelburne Falls, which is in western Massachusetts. It was important to show the same old Dexter. We're just not picking up where we left off. We're acknowledging where we are. We've been chasing the weather since the beginning. We started shooting at the end of January on a frozen lake.
For those who didn't watch the first eight seasons, do you have some exposition at the beginning of this revival? An explanation of who Dexter is?
It's explained basically in his head and in his conscience. People will be pretty familiar pretty quickly.
There are questions you will have to answer, like where is his son Harrison and is he going to have the same pathology, right?
Those questions get asked and answered.
So is there one big baddie this season?
It's traditional for the show to have what we call the big bad. What's interesting is that he's living in this tiny town freezing his ass off, because he feels there'll be less temptation. But wherever you go, anywhere in the world, there's somebody who is worthy of his form of justice.
What can we expect to happen between Dexter and his son Harrison, played by Jack Alcott?
Harrison feels abandoned and has felt the pain of that every day. It's a big, long, difficult bridge to cross for both of them. Dexter doesn't really know how to be a parent, and this kid has been deeply hurt by his father having left him.
What if this revival is so good that Showtime asks for another season?
I can't tell you how it ends!
Dexter: New Blood premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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