'Dexter's' Jennifer Carpenter: Deb May End Up 'Being the Superhero'
The actress talks with THR about how ditching the "big bad" formula has helped reinvigorate the series now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag on the Showtime serial killer drama.
Debra Morgan has finally eclipsed her serial killer brother.
On Showtime's Dexter, Jennifer Carpenter's Deb has honed her sills and become the lieutenant of Miami Metro's Homicide division -- aka Dexter Morgan's boss -- and now that she's privy to her brother's Dark Passenger, she's using those skills to help shield her brother.
With each new episode of the Michael C. Hall serial killer drama, Dexter's past comes back to haunt Deb, who most recently was tasked with helping to cover up yet another one of his murders when LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) opened up a batch of missing persons reports that she believes might be connected with the real Bay Harbor Butcher case in her quest to clear the late Sgt. Doakes.
It was the latest in a long line of Debra's moral erosion as she continues to pay the price for her brother's "sins," and prompted one of her best profanity explosions yet as she exploded with a stream of no less than six f-bombs in an elevator as she grappled with the extent of her brother's true self.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Carpenter to discuss what she says is Dexter's biggest kill, whether Deb could follow in the paths of those who have learned of Dexter's Dark Passenger and if her tortured character could eventually find a romantic love that isn't her foster brother.
The Hollywood Reporter: Will holding Batista (David Zayas) back from reopening Mike Anderson's case continue to eat away at her?
Jennifer Carpenter: Yes. Especially because Batista has been more like family to her than her own family. It's toxic behavior that she's taking on and it's going to start to feel like a disease. She's confused as it is and this is just going to make things dirtier and messier and make it tougher soil to till.
Considering Deb continues to save Dexter -- finding the wedding photo connecting him to a Bay Harbor Butcher case LaGuerta was investigating. How much is too much?
I don't think Debra is someone who's ever gone to the dark side, so to speak, but for the first time, it's like she's cracked a door and is peeking her head in a little bit and maybe it's partly rebellion. She spent her whole life doing things right, by the book, at least by the one that Harry gave her. So maybe this is her acting out a bit. Deb is in a position of power now and unfortunately the way that a lot of politicians have to work these days a decision has to be made and you have to choose the best of the worst.
Does Deb have a breaking point with how much she can handle when it comes to Dexter's "misdeeds"?
The scene in the elevator where she has a cussing marathon, I requested that. I thought that it was unfair not to show her in a moment of privacy struggling, so in the middle of the day, they just set the cameras up in the elevator and I just went off. That was useful for me to keep moving forward in the season. You watch that scene and think, "Wow, that would be a lot of fun to play," but it was pretty horrible because it was really necessary. I really needed it for the audience's sake to let everybody know that she's not a robot, she's not some sort of machine.
Is Deb losing trust in her brother after she learns that Dexter interfered with her cases?
The map is constantly being shredded and redrawn again, that's the nature of season seven. I don't think his work will lose creditability at the station because at the end of the day he's always been right. However, his motives are in question now. Deb has to wonder if he trying to mislead her or the department. That's why Deb puts Masuka on lead -- so she can watch Dexter and trust the results.
Will that create more of a rift between Dexter and Deb?
For sure. It's insane. Dexter has been able to engage in a way this year that I haven't felt like he's been able to in the past simply because he's made proclamations that's he's not a real boy, that he doesn't have feelings. Now that he's got what he's always wished for -- which is to be real and have feelings -- he is like the rest of us riddled with shame, guilt and regret. It finally feels like Deb is looking at somebody and there's something going on behind their eyes, like he's finally present. You know how sometimes you can look at someone and you just know without them really saying anything that they're crazy? It's that feeling, it makes you want to move in closer, but also it's just like this lake of crazy.
Earlier this season, Deb feels a sense of justice after she learns that a murderer who slipped through Miami Metro's fingers winds up in an incinerator thanks to Dexter. Could Deb ever take advantage of Dexter's skill set?
People are questioning if Debra will start to be more like Dexter because we've seen Prado (Jimmy Smits), Lumen (Julia Stiles) and Lila (Jamie Murray) do it. But that is not Deb. I refuse to go against everything we've told the audience is true about Debra. We have worked really hard to build a real person and she has been living, breathing and fighting in this show for the sake of the story and I will protect that. So I don't think that she's going to; I think she may end up being the superhero at the end of the day, but it won't be through actions like Dexter's.Deb is the one who's the superhero. Her fiancé tired to kill her, the love of her life was shot in front of her and she can't seem to get access to the one person in her life that is supposed to still love her. She does everything right and shows up again and again with as much conviction as the last time and because Dexter is who he is and does what he does, she fails. If you go back and look at all the instances where he could have saved her pain, he's cost her so much emotionally. He's been such an expense.
Deb and Dexter spend the night in a hotel together, does she still have romantic feelings for him or could we see her move on?
I don't think she was decorating a house or planning a wedding, but that Deb is someone who has been bankrupt as far as it goes with intimacy. Dexter is a narcissist and he's addicted to his struggle. He's happiest when he's in his pain because that's the place he knows the best. So, when someone who is so preoccupied with darkness when they swim to the surface and have a moment of respite, you feel angelic. There are moments when Dexter swims to the surface and meets Deb and she feels like a lot of women do when they're falling in love. While she knows she's not in love with him, she's in love with that feeling that she can make it better; that she's special and can save him and in return, that saves her. I think she'll have a hard time separating those feelings from romantic feelings, but once she sifts them out, I think she'll move further away from that.
Might we see Deb move on romantically this season?
Yes. I think when she's meets a man, it would be really cool to watch her be taken care of and fall in love. We have one more season and I feel like if we don't get a sendoff with this character that honors who she is it's going to haunt me forever. I would like to think that she's going to get her happily ever after and that would certainly involve a man with a capital M.
Would you want it to be Dexter?
How will Deb help Dexter as LaGuerta continues her quest to absolve Doakes as being the Bay Harbor Butcher?
She can do anything she wants -- she runs the entire department. LaGuerta and Deb butt heads, because they're so much alike: Deb's easily manipulated by her and she's easily manipulated by Deb so it kind of becomes this dance between like the two fighting fish in a fish bowl. It's certainly a delicate dance.
Dexter wants things to go back to the status quo, do you think Deb could ever do that?
Absolutely not. They cannot go back to the way they were. Never. He's always just been just out of reach, so it's almost like he finally walked Deb into that church and to see him drop that blade was like ripping the rest of a band aid off and exposing the relationship for what it was. Now Debra has the permission to live her own -- excuse me -- f---ing life, which I think she will. It's no longer about what Harry would do, what would LaGuerta would do; it's her department, it's her life and they're her rules. I've always wondered what would happen when Deb finds out and the answer was either she'll arrest him or she'll fall in line. And the writers didn't make her question it. It's a simple as that. It's become a fact-finding mission. Everyone expected to get their results off the top in the first episode of the seventh season and they may not get it until the finale or beyond. For the first time in a long time, the show's unfolding like real life, which is why it's been so satisfying to play and the easiest season to promote because I can't stop. I obviously can't shut up about it (laughs). I think the best kill we've ever done on this show is killing the big bad -- that whole formula -- because everyone really is operating without a map. There's no navigation to think that's going to take you through the season. You have to show up every week and hold on.
What do you think of Dexter's seventh season? How much more of a price will Debra have to pay? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Dexter airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.
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