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March 05, 2010

'Dexter'

Hall carpenter benz dexter paleyfestBy Lesley Goldberg

Thursday’s “Dexter” PaleyFest panel wasted no time in jumping into one of TV’s best-kept secrets: Moderator Kristin Dos Santos from E! was sensitive to the massive spoiler in getting things under way and immediately asked if everyone had seen the bloodbath that was the drama’s Season 4 finale.

Julie Benz (Rita) was the only one in the Saban Theatre who raised her hand.

“I don’t know what happens, please don’t spoil it for me,” joked Benz, whose character met her maker at the hands of Season 4’s central villain, the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow).

Benz went on to share her first reactions to learning of her character’s death, as the panel -- the show’s second appearance at the festival -- got under way.

“My first response was, ‘Oh God! I just lost my job! How am I going to pay my mortgage,’ ” she said to laughs from the packed house -- which included fans who lined up early in the afternoon to get into the sold-out event.

Executive producer John Goldwyn perhaps summed up Rita’s death best: “(Fans) felt punched in the gut.” Added executive producer Sara Colleton: “After they processed their surprise, (Rita’s death) felt right,” she said. “If it’s possible that a death can be earned, it was. It wasn’t a plot device or a cliffhanger.”

 

With such a shocking season finale, the bulk of the panel was spent addressing what every fan of the show is clamoring to find out -- what happens to Dexter (Michael C. Hall) now? -- and Colleton reassured everyone that the show won’t jump ahead.

 

“I think the death of Rita is so awesome that it needs to be honored,” she said. “We’re not going to jump ahead; we’ll actually process that.”

Exec prods dexter paleyfestOutgoing showrunner Clyde Phillips pointed out that each year Dexter asks himself a question that becomes the theme for that particular season, and that Season 4 really addressed sacrifice -- a “Can I have it all?”-type look at whether Dexter can make the adjustment to being a husband, living in the suburbs, being a new father and step-father while still honoring his Dark Passenger.

 

"Dexter, who is newly married, has two step-children and a newborn meets this man who has been doing this for 30 years and thinks, ‘Maybe I can do it all.’ ” Phillips said.

Hall -- who noted that Wednesday marked his second-to-last round of chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma and that his final round will be March 17 -- said that filming scenes opposite fellow Golden Globe winner Lithgow’s frighteningly creepy Trinity was actually the most fun he’s had acting with anyone.

“The darker it was, the more hysterical it was (to film),” Hall said. “John is infectious. It really became about finding reasons to keep him alive. But yeah, he (Dexter) should have killed him sooner.”

Co-star Brando Eaton, who played Trinity’s tormented son Jonah, agreed.

“At some points I almost wanted to laugh (at Lithgow), but then he got so damn creepy,” he said to laughs. “He could definitely be a scary guy.”

Addressing Dexter’s relationship with his foster sister Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), Phillips noted that the series made the key distinction to not follow the path of the Jeff Lindsay books on which it is based, thus keeping Deb unaware of Dexter’s Dark Passenger.

“It would burden the character and take away what Jennifer has created,” he said. Added executive producer Scott Buck: “Deb is very smart and every year becomes a better detective.”

Carpenter, meanwhile, played it neutral when pressed if she’s looking forward to finding out the truth about brother: “Whatever you write, I will do,” she said. “I’m overwhelmed with the possibilities of what might happen.”

Looking toward Season 5, which begins production in June, Hall said he's looking forward to learning how Dexter responds to Rita’s death and the accompanying grief.

“We pick Dexter up where we last saw him and what his psychological mindset is and what his journey has been that year and then that takes you forward,” Colleton said.

“We drive ourselves so hard in the writers’ room to make it different, to make it a surprise, to get ourselves in trouble and figure out how we’re going to get out of it,” Phillips added.

“But it’s always based on where Dexter is and where his character is,” Colleton said. “It’s never about what’s going to be an exciting plot idea that we can put Dexter in or any of our characters through; it comes from where he is and what he’s experiencing. It’s very real what he’s going through.”

Dexter cast paleyfest Hall added that some of his favorite moments are comedic scenes he has shared with C.S. Lee’s Vince Masuka and the richness that adds to the drama.

“Dexter’s cluelessness sets things up for comedy and hopefully now that this traumatic thing has happened to him, he’ll find himself in situations that are inherently comedic because he’s going to have to learn about what it means to be someone who everyone’s treating as if he’s … been through something traumatic,” Hall said.

“Grief is a thing he’s never felt before. So I think it’ll be, uh, funny,” he joked. “He’s in hot water. I think there’s a way out of it, but that’s what we’d like to see. He’ll figure his way out. His capacity for stress management rivals his capacity for straight-up killing.”

Colleton, meanwhile, addressed a fan’s question about what happens to Rita’s kids, Cody and Astor.

“Cody and Astor are somewhat insulated from Dexter’s world, but it is something that is going to haunt Dexter,” she said. “That’s a very provocative issue that we are going to explore.”

Addressing a fan’s question about the elephant in the room -- Hall and Carpenter’s marriage and if it was “weird” to for them now to play brother and sister -- Hall was ever the gentleman: “To us it doesn’t actually seem weird.” He then paused and looked at Carpenter, who warned him to “Keep this short.” Colleton then interjected that Deb is Dexter’s foster sister and that fans “have to remember that. Dexter said (in the pilot) that ‘If I could love anyone it’d be Deb.’ ” Awkward groans and laughter ensued.

Other panelists included Desmond Harrington (Joey Quinn), Lauren Velez (Maria Laguerta) and David Zayas (Angel).

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