How does a man charged with helping to solve some of Miami 's most heinous crimes by day commit the same brutal acts by night? What happens in a city where serial killers have a stalker of their own? Where does the line between serial killer begin and vigilante-style hero end? DEXTER, the new SHOWTIME original drama series premiering Sunday, October 1 at 10 PM ET/PT, is a twisted story of a police department forensics expert, who spends his off-time pursuing killers who have eluded justice. Is it possible to root for a serial killer? DEXTER will test audiences' ethical resolve over its 12-episode run.
Based on the acclaimed novel, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, and executive produced by John Goldwyn, Sara Colleton and Clyde Phillips, DEXTER is a thought-provoking crime drama that tests the extremes of situational ethics and upends the concept of right and wrong. “It's not your mother's CSI,” says Robert Greenblatt, SHOWTIME's President of Entertainment. “This is a complex and fascinating look at serial killers which, up to this point, have been marginalized and made two-dimensional.”
The title character, DEXTER, is played by Michael C. Hall (best known for his Emmy®-nominated role as “David Fisher” on Six Feet Under ). Hall takes on the task of playing a complex character whose personal moral code and actions may seem shockingly sadistic to some – yet impossible to dismiss as totally unjustified to others. Contends Phillips, “We work very hard at exploring the various emotional journeys he takes in making the decision to take somebody's life, and he doesn't do either sadistically or flippantly.”
On the surface, Dexter is good-natured and charming. By day, he is a blood splatter expert who works closely with the homicide division of the Miami Police Department and fastidiously goes about his business of solving murders. His job is the ultimate cover for his real occupation, that of a serial killer, who was taught to harness his lust for blood and murder into killing those who have escaped justice.
“What I love about Dexter is that he could be real,” says Michael Cuesta, who directed the pilot and will helm four additional episodes and also serves as a co-executive producer. “He's sort of abhorrent, but at the same time, you're drawn to him.”
The audience soon discovers the origins of this behavior: Dexter was raised by his foster father Harry Morgan (JAMES REMAR), a street-wise Miami police detective, who recognized early his son's homicidal penchant and helped him channel his obsessive urges into a more constructive pursuit – justice. Harry's unusual indoctrination teaches Dexter to conceal his true nature and suppress his emotional feelings – all in the name of justice. Lindsay continues, “Whatever it is that made Dexter a killer is not something you can argue with, and he would be like a lot of sociopaths, a killer, in any case. But because he has the code engrained in him by his foster father, he's an extremely moral individual as long as you take situational ethics seriously – which is to say that he has earned the right to kill because he follows the rules that he has learned to live by. They're very definite rules, and he follows them very definitely.”
“I think he takes some satisfaction in the fact that he has been presented with an opportunity through his foster father to take unique responsibility for his darkness,” adds Hall. “I think the flip side of that is he, maybe on some level, wonders what or who he would be had he not had that person shine a light on his darkest secret and tell him that he still had the potential to be good.”
Shot on location in both Miami and Los Angeles , the series captures the unique vibe and scenic vistas of South Florida . Gone are the pink flamingos, neon stucco and pastel suits of yore – this Miami is a character all its own. South Beach 's inner-city alleyways and outer-limit swamps and hovels create the ideal setting for Dexter's subversive world.
“We are trying to show the Miami that you haven't seen,” declares Phillips. “We say that we are shooting this on location in Los Angeles and in interesting parts of Miami, but this is a show that's filmed on location in Dexter's soul, and it's all through his eyes that we are watching his own home movie.”
What's equally interesting, from a psychological perspective, is what everyone around Dexter sees. As audiences traverse the city with Dexter, they will truly begin to understand how serial killers can seem so normal on the surface while meting out the most heinous pain to their victims below ground. Like all infamous serial killers, Dexter's dark complexities are kept out of sight from the people with whom he spends most of his time, especially loved ones. His unsuspecting sister Debra (JENNIFER CARPENTER), a tough, determined cop, often seeks his advice on personal and professional matters – from new boyfriends to a current string of prostitute murders. Unconditional love from his emotionally challenged, yet loving girlfriend, Rita (JULIE BENZ), a working-class single mother, grounds him in the realities of normal, day-to-day life and provides a respite from the anguish-filled dark corners of his mind.
During office hours, Dexter's ‘Regular Joe' front is in full force while working alongside the ill-tempered Sgt. Doakes (ERIK KING), who makes no secret of his distaste for Dexter, and Lt. Maria LaGuerta (LAUREN VELEZ), the head of the homicide division, who pursues Dexter sexually as forcefully as she would any criminal. Dexter does find some balance while working tough cases through his interaction with Angel Batista (DAVID ZAYAS), a homicide detective with a similar attention to detail and taste for forensics.
“Every week, Dexter explores a part of humanity – that very human bit of behavior,” concludes Colleton. “The show is purposefully provocative, and hopefully, it will force the audience to look at their own behavior when they examine his behavior.”
His ability to juggle these complex relationships and internal struggles, while maintaining such a perfect façade, made Dexter a challenging character to imagine on-screen and off-page for everyone involved, including his own creator. Said author Jeff Lindsay of Michael C. Hall, “The first second of shooting, I went, ‘Oh my God, that's Dexter.' He absolutely nailed it. He's terrific – everything an author could hope for.”
DEXTER takes us deep inside the mind of a killer and forces audiences to grapple with the ethical dilemma of determining right and wrong. Vigilante-style justice and murder are put on trial and the verdict may be shocking. “The show very much aspires to moral ambiguity,” says Hall. “It's not black or white. Dexter is a cowboy who wears a 10-gallon grey hat. I think people should be torn. It fosters a sense of conflict – I'm rooting for someone who is doing something that I, along with pretty much everybody else, would on paper suggest is reprehensible.”
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