Jennifer Carpenter is ready for a laugh. After six years of playing serial killer Dexter Morgan’s (Michael C. Hall) tough, foul-mouthed sister on “Dexter,” the thirty-two year-old says she’s looking forward to lighter fare once the show ends its run in Season 8.
“I feel like I’ve been in the womb for far too long, and it’s time to give birth to something else,” she tells XfinityTV.com. “I’m ready.”
While Carpenter admits the prospect of life after “Dexter” is “terrifying,” she’s hoping to break new ground in comedy. “I’ve got a lot more to do as an actor,” she says. “I feel like I’m really good at the math of comedy. This plus this equals people laughing.”
Still, she has mixed emotions about saying farewell to Lieutenant Debra Morgan and the Emmy-winning series. “The show has been a trailblazer in a way, and I don’t want us to lose that sort of momentum or admiration [from the audience],” she says. “We did something new which is a courageous thing to do.” But, she adds, “It’s also a courageous thing to leave.”
With filming on Season 7 of “Dexter” underway, Carpenter has simultaneously been plucking away at developing a comedy vehicle for herself. The details of the project are vague, but Carpenter says she’s enlisted the help of “Dexter’s” writing staff to help plot her next move. “There are a lot of amazing resources on ‘Dexter.’ We have [executive producer] Sara Colleton who brought the books to Showtime and the whole idea of the project here. I’m in her ear all the time. I want her opinion on everything. And the core writers, too. I want to take advantage of all of them.”
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Despite Carpenter’s eagerness to move on, she still has to finish what she’s started. When Season 7 opens on Sunday, Sept. 30, Deb will be grappling with the effects of discovering her brother’s long-kept secret. What will that do to Deb, whose identity is so wrapped up in being a good cop? Will her life be in jeopardy? Could she become the latest convert in the cult of Dexter? Below, Carpenter discusses what to expect in this explosive new season.
Where do we pick up this season?
It’s the next breath after Dexter’s, “Oh God” in the finale. So we’re right back in the church.
This discovery obviously compromises her entire moral code as Lieutenant. How is she going to deal with that conflict?
At the end of the last season I went to the church to tell Dexter that I had feelings for him, and immediately they shift — or at least are questioned. The house of cards falls. Everything crumbles. My life as I know it doesn’t exist anymore, and this person that has been influencing my life as much as my inner voice is all a lie. And a bad one! [Laughs] I think it’s the first time that she sort of turns the mirror around and looks at herself and what’s in front of her. It’s the first time I’ve thought, Okay, I’m a lieutenant. If nothing else, I have my job. But my life is s–t so I think for the first time she becomes a real threat to Dexter. And in a way a real threat to the audience because I could take their show away. No one’s going to watch him live and breathe in a cell.
Does she fear for her own life?
I think you see real fear in her early in the season about that. Then at the end of the day, there’s a part of me that thinks, Why wouldn’t this character think, Oh f–k it. If you want to end it, end it. She doesn’t even have a cat at home. What does she have to live for? But that’s not her. That’s what’s so amazing about her. She never gives up on anything. Look at how hard she beat the walls of Dexter. That’s the part where the character and I deviate. It is such a wonderful but taxing job on so many different levels to show up as the actor. But can you imagine if the stakes were as high to be responsible for public safety?
What kind of struggle is going to ensue between Deb and Dexter?
Every sentence is a struggle with Dexter. I can’t even tell you how hard it’s been to go to work. For the run of the entire series, my scenes with Michael have always been the hardest because he’s the person who can give nothing. So it doesn’t matter how hard I punch or how loud I scream or how many f-bombs I drop, there’s never a reaction. So it’s the loneliest experience to act with him. Now I have this knowing about him and I don’t know if I can trust a single word he says. I don’t know if he’s plotting it for me or against me, if he’s an enemy or a protector.
Is it possible for Deb to be recruited by Dexter? To become another disciple?
No. I will not. At the end of the hiatus, I said to [executive producer] Scott Buck, “I need you to help me sleep at night and tell me that I’m not going to be Lumen [Julia Stiles] or Jimmy Smits’s character.” We’ve seen the boy and the girl version of his disciples and I don’t want to do that. It was really important to me that what they have told me is true is going to be honored. Up to this point I feel like I go in and I tell the truth. If I start lying I’ll feel too small to drive to work. I wouldn’t be able to go out in the world for fear of running into somebody who watches the show. I just don’t want to lie to the audience when they’ve kept this on the air for as long as they have. If it starts to go that way then I would have a very big problem.
What would you say is the major theme of this season?
I think what I like about this season is that there’s such an emotional underpinning that it’s almost like a huge sheet has been laid out. A nice, clean, plastic [laughs] sheet has been laid out for the whole cast. And if that’s the theme we all get to dive into it. Every character has a stake in it. The show is a slice of life this year. Everyone represents some part of the human experience but for some reason it was all stirred in the same pot. Everybody is in the midst of a big change and every character arc feels important. I live in the world with the supporting cast and they’re doing a lot of heavy lifting this year. There’s no filler.
Yvonne Strahovsky joins the show this season. What can you reveal about her character?
I don’t have any scenes with her yet but we will later on. She gets up in all of it. She comes in in the third episode. I watched that recently, and ooh, she’s good. She’s so good. There’s something like, you know how a flame burns and it looks so enticing and you can get so close to it and it still feels good, but if you put your hand in it, you get burned? That’s what her character sort of feels like. And she’s so much fun to have around. It’s so nice to have the girl energy around.
Season 7 of “Dexter” premieres on Sunday, Sept. 30 at 9/8c on Showtime.