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[This story contains spoilers for Dexter: New Blood, episode four, “H Is for Hero.”]
This week’s Dexter: New Blood took on questions fans of Showtime’s serial killer series have been pondering for 12 years. In December 2009, Dexter‘s season four finale shocked audiences when the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow) murdered Rita Morgan (Julie Benz), leaving her and Dexter’s (Michael C. Hall) infant son, Harrison, in a pool of his mother’s blood.
Both Dexter and the audience have wondered ever since if Harrison might have Dexter’s compulsion to kill. Or, as crime podcaster Molly Park (Jamie Chung) so indelicately asks in this week’s New Blood, “How fucked up is that kid now?”
Among those grappling with the implications of the episode is Jack Alcott, a Tennessee native who stepped into the role of Harrison Morgan with New Blood, the 10-episode limited series that picks up ten years after Dexter‘s series finale (2013) and finds serial killer Dexter living under an assumed identity in upstate New York.
In “H Is for Hero,” Harrison falsely claims his bullied friend Ethan (Christian Dell’Edera) stabbed him after revealing plans for a school shooting. In fact, as Dexter’s bloodstain patter analysis reveals, Harrison attacked his friend from behind before stabbing himself to cover his tracks. What’s more, Dexter discovers a straight razor among his son’s possession, the same weapon the Trinity Killer used to kill women in a bathtub. Dexter realizes his son, born in blood, also has the Dark Passenger.
For Alcott, New Blood was his biggest acting challenge yet, as he crafted a nuanced character while having to keep track of where exactly he was in the story at any given moment, as the 10 episodes were shot simultaneously. (On day one, he shot a scene from episode three, changed costumes and found himself filming something from episode six.) Along the way, Alcott took comfort working with Hall, who earned multiple Emmy nominations during his initial run as Dexter Morgan. The duo formed a close bond, with their final day of filming together happening to be the episode one bus stop scene in which Dexter acknowledges he is indeed Harrison’s father.
In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Alcott, who came up doing theater in Tennessee before booking roles on The Black List and The Good Lord Bird, reflects on the revelation that Harrison has a Dark Passenger and looks back at that tearful final day on set.
Before filming, you had watched season one of Dexter. Then the team told you not to watch more. Now that you are done, did you ever go back and watch season four, which ends with baby Harrison in a pool of his mother’s blood? That scene is referenced in New Blood, with Harrison listening to a true-crime podcast describing it.
Throughout the show I debated with myself whether or not I wanted to watch it. I didn’t watch it at all while I was shooting it. I chose not to. I got very, very close one day. I pulled it up on my phone and then put it down. “No, I shouldn’t!” When we were shooting that particular scene it was later and I had sat in the character long enough that I had the thought, “I think maybe this will hit me harder if it stays in my imagination and don’t put a different image to it.” I’m still in season four now. I’ve been watching the actual show.
It’s public record that Harrison’s mother, Rita, was killed by the Trinity Killer. Harrison likely had read much of this before and was aware of how his mother died. Is that how you played the scene in which he is listening to Molly’s podcast?
He definitely knew his mother was killed. It’s definitely reasonable to assume he has heard from someone else the grizzly details. But not described in the disrespectful way [it is on the podcast]. In that way, I think it’s definitely a first. It was general common knowledge that I’m sure he suppressed and then to have it flaunted in his face, that’s a wakeup call. That’s a really, really disturbing wakeup call.
Did you have a recording of the actual podcast to act against?
Thankfully I had the recording. I remember not having that realization until maybe three or four hours before. “Oh my god, wait? Has Jamie [Chung] recorded the podcast? Or will somebody read it?” They said, “Don’t worry, she’s already recorded it.” I was listening to what you hear in the show.
As an actor, I imagine it’s a gift when you have small characters who are so well cast, as was the case with Ethan and his parents (Danielle Perry and Shawn Fitzgibbon). What do you recall about working with those three?
Christian is so, so awesome and such a gifted actor. It’s a unique relationship they have for the brief amount of time that they do. I met him and we started talking about TV. Very quickly, it was, “We like the same stuff. This is going to be so fun!” We were instantly buddies. And the number of times I said to both of our directors, “Gosh, I hate myself right now” and knowing, “This is going to go so bad for you [Ethan]. Harrison kind of sucks right now.” [The scene with Ethan’s] parents, we shot that in one day. Anything that is good about my performance, they are responsible for. Every take. My coverage, their coverage. It was 100 miles per hour, balls to the wall, every single time. They were lovely people in between every take. They absolutely murdered it.
During the scene in the bleachers, where the other teens are clapping for Harrison, we see just how bad he feels about what he did to Ethan, who may have had some violent fantasies but as far as we know, was not going to act on them. What was going on for you there?
Harrison is such an absolute hurricane of emotions and states of mind. There is a piece of Harrison that wants to hurt people. But then there is the very human, self-awareness and empathy that his father doesn’t really quite have. Michael is so brilliant with his two-faced character. Obviously its way more faceted than that. But he is balancing in between interacting with people and how he really thinks and feels. Then to get to play a version of that and then add the feeling of guilt and a self-hatred, which Dexter also has, but in a different way. It was such a cool piece to add to the puzzle. Similarly, the scene after I’ve been “stabbed,” how distraught Harrison is. Where is the distress coming from? It’s so many different places. One of those places is remorse.
You shot this out of order, so you knew the whole story when you shot these scenes. The key line of episode four — and maybe of the limited series — comes at the end, when Dexter says that Harrison has his Dark Passenger. That answers a question lingering ever since the season four finale. Did that jump out to you when you read it? Or are you focusing on your own stuff when you read the scripts at first?
In terms of reading, I definitely focused more on my own stuff. There are pieces Harrison knows earlier on. It’s what he’s been scared of this whole time. It’s him asking, “What is wrong with me?” Because he knows there is something wrong with him. But in the last few weeks, watching it, that was when the moment landed for me. Watching [Dexter] unfold the knife and then saying it, and then that little smile. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the episode, but every time the smile gets me. I get the shivers.
Ten years from now you’ll probably be asked in interviews what it was like working with Michael C. Hall. Are you any closer to understanding how he does what he does as an actor?
A lot of the time when you think of Michael C. Hall, you think of Dexter. If you’ve watched much more of his stuff, or even know about his career, he is so versatile. He did Cabaret on Broadway. The dude is a monster. He’s such an actor’s actor. I mean that in a totally good way. He’s a brilliant listener. He’s the great combo of someone who brings so much to the table, interesting choices. You can tell he’s really worked on the character and on scenes and just brought a wealth of talent and choices and charisma to every role he approaches. Then on the other side of that coin, he’s also such an open listener. He’s always able to be spontaneous. He’s always able to be generous in a scene and give. He makes every person he works with better.
Was it as cold as it looked filming in Massachusetts?
The story didn’t take place over a super long period of time and as a result, we had to get all of our exteriors first. That’s one of the reasons we shot so out of sequence. We spent the entire month of February, March and some of April outside. There was three feet of snow on the ground for a good chunk of the show. Which sometimes was fun. Conversely, we couldn’t get all of the exteriors done in those months. The scene of episode 1, when Dexter comes and picks me up at the bus stop, that was my last scene and it was like 85 degrees. There were bugs everywhere.
What was it like saying goodbye on a momentous scene like that for Dexter and Harrison’s relationship?
I don’t think there’s a better scene that we could have ended on. That day was unbelievable. It was a full shoot day, and I was just at the tail end of it in this really, really quick scene. Michael and I gave each other gifts and notes to read. Then we went to do the scene and a couple of the other actors showed up to watch, which was really sweet. We did the scene a couple of times. It’s such a great scene. It’s so simple. There is so much said without words. We did masters. We did my coverage. It was all wonderful. We are finishing on Michael and we do a couple. We do what feels like the last time. Michael is like, “Love you man.” I’m like, “Love you too man.” And we do one more and we sort of sit there. We cut. There’s this long silence. I’m not really sure what is happening. I feel frozen. And [director] Marcos Siega yells out, “Alright guys, one more for y’all. I’ve got what I want. Action.” And it just all hit me. Instantly I’m holding back tears because this is the last time I get to have this relationship and this moment with Michael. He will always be my friend, I love him very much. But this was the ending of a story for me. And I was just so overwhelmed with emotion and I sort of don’t really look at him for awhile in the scene and by the time he says that Miami line, I look at him and there’s already tears streaming down my face and I just smiled at him really big. And he sort of struggled through the end of his scene and they cut. And we just hugged really hard. It was a wonderful, wonderful moment.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Dexter: New Blood airs Sundays on Showtime.
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