Jennifer Carpenter talks dead Deb’s killer issues

November 8, 2021
(L-R): Michael C. Hall as Dexter and Jenifer Carpenter as Deb in "Dexter: New Blood."
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Deb Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) was definitely dead in the September 2013 series finale of “Dexter,” after her brother Dexter (Michael C. Hall) removed her from life support and dropped her lifeless body into the ocean. 

But Deb is just as definitely back, eight years later, in Sunday’s Showtime revival, “Dexter: New Blood.” And dead sister is so over her brother’s serial killing.

In the ninth-season return, a 10-part redo of the critically panned 2013 ending, Deb serves as Dexter’s increasingly agitated inner voice. Unseen by the citizens of his new upstate Iron Lake, New York, home, long-suffering Deb is not letting her murderous brother cause pain in her afterlife.

“This time I get to drive a nail into your side. This time I get to suffocate you; I get to make you hurt,” says Carpenter, describing her character’s feelings to USA TODAY. “That was very satisfying. For once Deb has control.”

Here’s what you need to know about Deb’s bloody return:

‘Dexter’ returns:Michael C. Hall on his serial killer ‘rustiness’ after eight-year gap

Carpenter believes Deb’s death was too ‘cold’

Deb always believed, since discovering her brother Dexter’s homicidal compulsion, that she could help him stop. 

“She always thought it was a choice, or a bad habit,” says Carpenter. Clearly she was incorrect, and the impact Dexter’s continued killing had on her life was profound.

For her own mental health, Carpenter says she advocated for her loyal character to die in Season 8.

“She was such a visceral part of me, we needed to part in the healthiest way,” says Carpenter. “And that seemed like the healthiest way.”

But in a lament voiced by the show’s fans post-finale, Carpenter did not appreciate her sibling’s approach to putting her to rest in the ocean grave.

“It felt so cold that I felt like an idiot that (Deb) had looked for love there. It’s absurd,” says Carpenter. “I wish he had shown that he was sad for me.”

Dexter didn’t stop deceased Deb from RIP-ing

Carpenter started her acting preparation imagining Dexter robbing his sister from heaven after her traumatic death by bringing her to his frigid new home. 

“It’s the idea of her ascension up to this white light, finally a softer place, and then she’s brought to the cold that burns where Dexter has brought me,” says Carpenter. “But I realized that it was his hell, not hers. She’s resting in peace.” 

Ultimately, she sees the return as “Deb’s reward for the suffering that she endured” supporting Dexter.

Deb’s first “New Blood” scene shows her in a comfortable robe talking with her brother. Her presence is “comforting, even soothing,” says Michael C. Hall. But when Dexter begins killing again, while allowing his teenage son Harrison (Jack Alcott) back into his toxic life – against Deb’s wishes – it pushed her behavior to frenetic anger. Deb literally gets in Dexter’s face and intimate space. “She lets him have it from all kinds of different angles,” says Hall.

Deb enjoys turning into a “fun house” mirror reflecting her brother’s brain, which she can now “manipulate at my discretion,” says Carpenter. 

The Season 9 from-the-water-grave appearance was a secret until John Lithgow revealed earlier this year that both his Trinity Killer and Deb would reappear.

“Up to that second, Jennifer Carpenter was a secret,” says executive producer Clyde Phillips. “We tore our hair out and then realized, it’s better for the show. People have more anticipation.” 

The bloody bullet scene was Carpenter’s idea

The scene in which Deb pulls a bullet out of her side to powerfully demonstrate to Dexter how everything he touches turns to blood and death is a season premiere power moment.  

“That was my idea,” Carpenter says proudly. “It was just to viscerally remind him of the gore. I thought, ‘Deb is not real; let’s play with that and just rip the bullet out.'”

In Season 8, it was serial killer Oliver Saxon (Snævar Darri Ingólfsson) who shot Deb in the abdomen that put her in a coma. But it was Dexter’s homicidal tendencies and life choices that tragically put Deb in the line of fire. At one point, the actors entertained having Deb shove the bullet down Dexter’s throat, “that she should choke him with it,” says Carpenter. Less bloodier heads prevailed, but the bullet removal “became a symbol of the show,” she says.

In another madcap moment to show Dexter’s mental deterioration, Deb gleefully throws human limbs into a bloody wood chipper. Carpenter loved shooting the gory scene. But as fake blood spurted from the machine, she had a pang of sadness knowing that her 1-year-old son Isaac (with musician husband Seth Avett) would not be able to watch Mommy at work. “Standing behind the wood chipper, I thought, ‘Will I ever do something that my son will be able to watch?'”

Carpenter insists she had no stated preference for Deb’s  final destination in the new season. She’s leaving that in the hands of the show’s producers, including co-producer Hall, her husband from 2008-11. “I trust him, especially when it comes to this character,” she says.

She has already taken one major lesson  from the season, the fake blood is realistic.

“It’s an amazing tool because it looks and feels so real,” Carpenter says. “And it’s really hard to get off.”

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