Jennifer Carpenter on the End of ‘Dexter’: “I’ll miss the fear of playing Deb”
Sunday not only marked the 65th Annual Emmy Awards, it was also the series finale of Showtime’s groundbreaking show Dexter. Jennifer Carpenter spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the conclusion of her storyline and what lies ahead. [Warning: This article contains spoilers about the show's finale.]
For any actor, ending a long-running series can be traumatic, especially when the final script is handed to them. What is the fate of their character that they so closely identify with?
Carpenter revealed exactly when she found out about her character’s death.
“I found out when hiatus was coming to a close. [Showrunner] Scott Buck had me in his office and we talked a bit about it. He wasn’t sure how it was going to spin. There were three different scenarios that they were playing out. The only thing I didn’t want was for Dexter to kill her,” she said. “In a strange way, I wanted her [death] to be a suicide. I wanted Deb to take the one thing that was totally alive in his life away. But how it played out was much better. Deb deserved to die an organic death. Yes, she was shot, but it was something that she signed up for long before she ever joined the force. I was really satisfied. It was incredibly cathartic for me as an actor to set it down in such a way. The way Dexter sets her body in the water is how I felt like I was able to let it drift.”
Saying goodbye to Debra Morgan wasn’t easy though. The 33-year-old actress talked about her final moment on set with co-star Michael C. Hall.
Carpenter shared, “My last scene with Michael is when he leans over in the hospital and says, ‘I love you.’ When I knew it was one of the last takes, I said to him, ‘Say it like you mean it.’ Because I knew it was the last time that she was going to get it. When I knew it was the last take and that they had it and were going again just to go, I sent her away. I asked her to leave and imagined her floating out of me and up into the rafters of the soundstage and far away. It was like an eight-year meditation.”
Her role on the show was complicated and playing out the strengths and frailties of Deb wasn’t easy. However, the Showtime star explained what she will miss most about the homicide detective.
“I’ll miss the fear of playing Deb, getting the script going, ‘That’s great. Oh God how do we do it?’ Everyone kept saying Dexter was my first shot at TV and the cast, crew and producers stressed that it doesn’t always happen this way. I guess I won’t know what they meant until I go somewhere and an actor doesn’t know his lines. Or the work isn’t as hard as you want it to be,” she said. “These have been some of the best years of my life. If you asked me in the middle of it if I ever thought I would say this on the other side, I would have said absolutely not. But it truly was. There were so many gifts, not just as an actor but I’m better for navigating my own life from what I learned on this show.”
After eight seasons on the show, most actors are ready for a long vacation, but for Carpenter, she’s ready to dive back into work.
The actress told THR, “I’ll always do theater, and since I’ve been cast in darker stuff, I feel like I’ve been invited less. People have seen me less in comedy and lighter parts but I’d like to get back to that. I never meant to fall in love with TV quite like I did, but I love television, and what’s on cable right now is really challenging. I’ve been off for eight weeks but now that I’m off, I’m ready to go back to work. I want to find something great, but I’m daring and patient enough to find something that I can give everything to.”