Jennifer Carpenter on returning for Dexter: New Blood: 'I wanted to come back and haunt him'
Debra's burial in the series finale of Dexter was a sad (and very wet) moment: Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) threw his sister (Jennifer Carpenter) into the churning waters off of Miami before disappearing off the grid. Maybe she'll get a chance to register her complaint when Dexter: New Blood premieres on Nov. 7.
That's right: Deb is coming back! But how, exactly? Here, we talk to Carpenter about how difficult it was to say goodbye to her character eight years ago and what we can expect from her mysterious return.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: After Dexter ended in 2013, did people ask you about the possibility of a reboot?
JENNIFER CARPENTER: It felt open-ended enough that that possibility remained. But conversations didn't start in a real way until much later. I think the impression I got was that number one, Deb was dead and that Michael needed a moment away from it. So it was never something that I actively took the temperature on unless the conversation was brought up to me.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: And when did you first hear from anyone about bringing Deborah back in some form?
JENNIFER CARPENTER: Well, it actually didn't happen that way. Michael and I have stayed in touch and throughout the years and he would bring it up with what would seem like simple questions, but are actually very difficult. Should we? Could we? How would that look? Would you want to do it? Around May of 2019, it started to get quite real. I was in Los Angeles doing some press and I went over to Showtime's offices to have a conversation about whether Deb would be involved. Some things I felt inspired to say on her behalf. I also just wanted to listen about what it would look like. Dexter was around when cable TV was starting to raise the bar of what content could look like. Fans have been so loyal and enthusiastic. So I wanted certain things from it on their behalf before I was ready to go back.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Had the show ended differently, do you think Michael would have been having those conversations with you about revisiting the show?
JENNIFER CARPENTER: I can't speak for him. I think it's well known that I did want Deb to die. I didn't want to live on in the darkness that way. At the time I was happy to just sort of disappear into the abyss and disconnect. I hate that [people found it to be] a disappointment. It's the most personal investment you can make, playing a character. It was incredibly hard to hear, but I hope that the spotlight wasn't on Deb.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you feel about the way Deb died? Did you want something a little more dramatic?
JENNIFER CARPENTER: When I watched it, it broke my heart. He sort of whisked her up, her hair dusting the bench of the boat, the engines have cut off, Dexter putting his cheek next to hers, and he literally slams her into the surface of the ocean only to descend into the graveyard of the other people who meant nothing to him. On behalf of my character, I thought that he vandalized her and disfigured her entire being. But we are talking about a serial killer who is deranged and prone to hurt others. Everybody wants to look at him like a real boy or a real man. The story always seemed to have this sympathetic attitude about him wanting to be a neat monster. But he's sick and it made me realize what a dead end he was.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how will you appear in New Blood? As a voice in his head?
JENNIFER CARPENTER: I don't think it's as simple as that. That's part of what those conversations were about. What purpose would I serve coming back? I thought the only reason to bring the show back was so we could see what would become of an unmedicated, unchecked, unpunished, decoded, serial killer. What would the dark passion passenger look like if it had an all-access pass to this man? I wanted to come back and haunt him, comfort him, console him, encourage him, love him, hate him, and ruin him. So, it's such a difficult thing to speak about because I'm not even sure how it happened. We never shot anything in order. It feels like this sort of encased season happened on a four-lane superhighway. [I] just sort of barreled down the highway, but I'm this strange, weird spooky kind of side road that goes somewhere totally different. It almost felt like the story exists on two campuses. We're under the same University of Dexter, but I never had to really track what was going on the way the actors did. It was really about visceral taking the temperature of the room and deciding how I want to manipulate it all.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you think Deb believes her brother should have to pay for his sins?
JENNIFER CARPENTER: One hundred percent of the regret she held was that she should have put bracelets on him. She should have put him in prison and he should have suffered in prison. Not that he would have suffered because I feel like shame and guilt are and will remain strangers to him. But that would have been the right justifiable thing to do that would honor her truth.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can we take a brief jog down memory lane? Remember when Dexter was such a big hit at Comic-Con?
JENNIFER CARPENTER: I don't think that I understood and I still don't. But it was always the gasoline that I needed to fill up my tank and go back and burn with everything that I had because I knew another Comic-Con would be coming up and I wanted them to be louder than the last time.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did it feel to say goodbye to the show in 2013?
JENNIFER CARPENTER: I felt a lot of ways. I felt relief. I felt dead and I felt revived. I felt privileged and I felt like I needed repair. And in some ways, I felt like an addict. I still wanted more of it. I did the scene with Michael and I started crying like crazy. I got back to my room and my eyes were so red. It almost scared me. I couldn't believe that my body was telling me how much this meant to me. It was sort of out of my control, how much I cared about it.
For more on Dexter: New Blood and our Fall TV Preview, order the October issue of Entertainment Weekly or find it on newsstands beginning Sept. 17. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
Eight years after the much-maligned 'Dexter' finale, Michael C. Hall's serial killer reemerges for a new event series on Showtime.