The only thing as equally exciting as the return of “Dexter,” is that of Phillips. One of television’s absolute finest, Phillips is the mastermind behind the original run’s first four (and best) seasons. Recipient of the prestigious Peabody Award and nominated for three Emmys, as well as BAFTA, WGA, and PGA awards, Phillips has been a part of creating such series as “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose,” “Get Real,” “Suddenly Susan” and “Feed the Beast,” served as showrunner for “Nurse Jackie” and “Goliath”, executive produced countless others, and is a national bestselling crime novelist.
It’s safe to say that there would be no “Dexter” without Phillips. And as we eagerly count the days until the premiere of “Dexter: New Blood” on November 7 at 9 p.m. on Showtime, Phillips has graciously agreed to answer some questions to tide us over in the meantime.
[WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD]
Hi Clyde, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Before we dive into the revival, can you please take us through how you originally became involved with “Dexter?”
CP: I got a call from Showtime in the show’s first year asking me to take a look at the pilot, and, if I liked it, would I be interested in coming to Los Angeles and doing the show [Phillips was living in Connecticut at the time]. I looked at the pilot, and it was terrific, but I had some notes. So I flew to LA, met the brass at Showtime to say that I was interested, and listed the changes I would make. They agreed to let me rewrite and reshoot some scenes, and what I just found out recently, while doing a podcast with Showtime President Gary Levine, was that there was huge competition with the show. There were a lot of big showrunners up for it, and, ultimately, it went to me.
Do you have an episode, scene, or moment from the first four seasons that either you’re particularly proud of or had to fight to get on air?
CP: I’m particularly proud of the last half of the last episode of the fourth season, where Dexter takes out Trinity (John Lithgow), and, unbeknownst to the audience, Trinity has already murdered Dexter’s wife, Rita (Julie Benz). It was a shocking and heartbreaking and moving and beautiful moment. I had already decided to leave the show by then, and there’s a moment when Dexter comes home and kicks over some LEGOs. As he starts to rearrange and put them back together, he says, “Wait a minute. It’s okay. Life doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be lived.” And that was really me, talking to myself, saying it’s okay for me to go back and live my life.
When you left, did you feel that your “Dexter” journey was over, or was there a part of you that believed you had more, or another story to tell and that your involvement would somehow continue?
CP: I did continue as a consultant for a number of years, but that was not so much in story, but to help whichever showrunner was taking over the writing room that I had hired and how to deal with the network and other executive producers on the show. Later on, I did give an interview to E! about how I would’ve ended the series, but, since it wasn’t my show anymore, that was just in my head. But if it had ended the way I wanted it to, we wouldn’t be doing this show right now because Dexter would’ve been dead.
How did this revival come about? Did Showtime come to you, you to them, you and Michael to them?
CP: Two years ago, in July of 2019, I’m on Martha’s Vineyard, and my phone rings. And it’s Gary Levine saying, “I’m going to be in New York next week, want to have lunch?” I said, “You have two daughters in New York, you want to have lunch with them not me, so something tells me that this is business.” And he said, “Yes, it is, we want to do ‘Dexter.’ Michael Hall is ready, and enough time has passed that we want to do an entirely new show. Not ‘Dexter‘ Season 9, but we’re going to acknowledge that ten years have passed.
He’s living in the fictional town of Iron Lake, New York — which is upstate, cold and icy… the exact opposite of Miami — and are you interested?” I asked for two weeks and just really sat and thought about it for those two weeks, bouncing around ideas with my writer’s assistant. After that, I flew back to New York to meet with Michael in his apartment, and, by the time I finished talking, he was in. On my way back to the airport, I called Gary who said, “Great, go hire a writers’ room.”
The upcoming theme is fathers and sons, but, interestingly, Dexter’s sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) is now his Dark Passenger, rather than his father Harry Morgan (James Remar), who was the linchpin to Dexter’s humanity for the previous eight seasons. How did you come to choose Deb to take his spot?
CP: Dexter would often say that if he was capable of love, he would love his sister, and she really is an incarnation of his conscience… a part of his thinking. She’s a figment of his imagination, so they can’t touch or share a cup of tea but is there to be the voice of reason and doubt that we all have in the back corner of our minds. And she is that voice personified.
So far, it’s been confirmed that Jennifer Carpenter and John Lithgow are reprising their roles as Debra Morgan and the infamous Trinity Killer, Arthur Mitchell, respectively. Will the revival feature other familiar faces? If so, is there anything you can share?
CP: Here’s what I can share: yes.
Speaking of returns, “Dexter: New Blood” is also a reunion behind the scenes with Marcos Siega, the Emmy-winning director of several of the original episodes. Are there any other crew members, from your previous tenure, that you absolutely had to bring back?
CP: We brought back Scott Reynolds, who I originally hired in the first season as a writing assistant and is now an executive producer and my number two. From day one, Marcos has been indispensable to the show and is a close friend of Michael’s and mine, and we couldn’t have survived this year without him. We shot 119 days in a row in the middle of a pandemic in 52 locations all over Massachusetts while chasing the snow, which we needed.
We shot completely out of order, and there was a scene we filmed on February 10 and the very next scene we shot on July 10, but since we had already established people in heavy winter clothes, the cast had to be in those same heavy clothes. Another returning member, and absolutely crucial to the show, was Eric Weiler, who was a production designer on “Dexter,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Feed the Beast,” and again on “Dexter: New Blood.”
Is there anything else you want to share about the show or what to expect?
CP: Expect to be surprised, satisfied, and for the show to be redeemed. And expect to have your minds blown.
And finally, what’s next for you?
CP: I can’t share much except that I’m in active negotiations with Showtime.
“Dexter: New Blood” premieres on November 7 at 9 p.m. on Showtime with ten new episodes. The revival also stars Clancy Brown, Julia Jones, Johnny Sequoyah, Alano Miller, Jack Alcott, and David Magidoff.
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