Dexter Was Never Meant To Be A Crime-Fighting Hero

Jeff Lindsay

“Don’t be seduced by Dexter”, says Jeff Lindsay, creator of the charming police scientist who hunts down and slices up serial killers in his spare time. He was never meant to be a crime-fighting hero.

“Some believe that Dexter cares about justice. Dexter doesn’t care about justice, he cares about killing,” said Lindsay. But then again, “he’s attractive because he’s dangerous.” Lindsay came to this Mediterranean port city to attend Marseille’s Semaine Noire book festival, a week-long gathering dedicated to the thriller genre.

“Double Dexter”, the sixth book in his series, comes out in the US this week. “It’s a mistake to think that Dexter is nice,” he said. “He’s not nice — people romanticise him. He’s a serial killer. “We like him because he has a code that makes us feel better about him.”

Dexter’s code, the hook for the whole series, is that he only kills other serial killers. Lindsay got the idea while being stiffed by an unappreciative audience – businessmen who hired him to speak on “why you should really try to read at least one book before you die,” he said. They were more interested in wisecracking among themselves, exchanging visiting cards – anything but hear him out. “The idea came into my head that serial murder is not always a bad thing,” he recalled devilishly. “So I started writing notes on the napkins.” He locked himself away for three days to create his monster – and the outline of a story. But it took nearly five years to wind up the first in the series, “Darkly Dreaming Dexter”, in 2004. “It’s only because my wife threatened me that I finished the book.” He also credits his spouse, writer and filmmaker Hilary Hemingway – niece of American writer Ernest – with getting him started and contributing some key elements to the series.

Lindsay was born Jeffry P. Freundlich in Miami, Florida – which is also his famous creation’s hunting ground as an analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. With hindsight, the Dexter formula seems a sure-fire winner but when Lindsay first tried to sell it, he got nowhere. “I didn’t expect any success at all. I was rejected by every publisher in the world and every agent in town.”

He was astonished when he finally closed a deal. “Writing a book about a sympathetic serial killer, what kind of sick horrible person will want to read something like that?” But readers did. In eight years, the Dexter books have sold millions of copies in 38 countries around the world.

The actual writing can still be a struggle. While his fifth in the series, “Dexter is Delicious”, was finished in six weeks, the about-to-be-released “Double Dexter” was a “year of agony”, a “small piece of hell”, said Lindsay.

He had his doubts when first approached about the television series, admitting he originally hoped for a film. But working as a consultant on the first season, he is more than happy with the results. “They kept asking ‘What do you think?’ and I usually said ‘Don’t forget it’s funny, too’.”

As a writer, Lindsay says his character – normal by day, killer by night – was designed to look at the world through a distorted lens. “I wanted to show life and to see ourselves and our behaviour through an outsider’s eye …from the point of view of someone who knows nothing about being a human being … He doesn’t have the feelings that the rest of us do. What my research told me is that a psychopath cannot change. You’re born like that,” Lindsay said.

To whet the appetite of fans, he lets slip that he’ll be killing off a member of Dexter’s family in the series’ seventh book.


Michael C. Hall in ‘Big Fish’

Michael C Hall

Michael C. Hall is eyeing a return to Broadway in the Susan Stroman-helmed musical adaptation of Big Fish, according to Featuring a score by Andrew Lippa and book by John August (based on his movie adaptation of Daniel Wallace’s novel), Big Fish is expected to open in the spring of 2012. Based on the 1998 novel of the same name, Big Fish follows the troubled relationship between Edward Bloom and his son Will. On his deathbed, Edward recounts adventurous tall tales from his life as a traveling salesmen. Hall would reportedly play the part of Edward, which was played in the 2003 Tim Burton film adaptation by Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney. The movie also starred Billy Crudup and Jessica Lange.

“Teenage Wasteland” Submited To Emmy Judges

Dexter Teenage Wasteland

Dexter Teenage Wasteland

Dexter Teenage Wasteland

Michael C. Hall surprised many Emmy watchers when it was revealed that his submission to Emmy judges this year would be “Teenage Wasteland.” It was widely expected that he would submit the fifth season premiere, “My Bad,” which focuses on the immediate aftermath of his wife’s shocking murder. Hall has earned three previous nominations for Best Drama Actor for “Dexter” and he was considered a strong contender to win last year when he submitted “The Getaway,” the fourth season finale, in which Dexter had one last confrontation with the Trinity Killer, only to return home to find his wife murdered. But Hall’s hopes were dashed, once again, by Bryan Cranston, who won his third consecutive Emmy for “Breaking Bad.”  In “My Bad,” Dexter, after discovering his murdered wife, expresses guilt over her death and also shame for his inability to mourn her properly, until the climax, in which he finally experiences a catharsis, killing a man who taunts him about his loss and then screaming out of grief. The hour ends with Dexter arriving late to his wife’s funeral and delivering a moving eulogy.

The episode presents a complete emotional arc and gives Hall’s murderous character an opportunity to be sympathetic, penitent about his homicidal ways. Reminding voters of the previous year’s acclaimed storyline couldn’t hurt either, especially after a season considered a disappointment to many viewers. But Hall elected to submit “Teenage Wasteland” instead. The ninth episode of the fifth season, it also gives Hall the opportunity to show a softer side of Dexter, who is surprised by the arrival of his rebellious stepdaughter while also trying to help a young woman (Emmy nominee Julia Stiles), identify the men who raped her. It’s a rare episode in which he doesn’t commit a murder, perhaps helping to endear him to voters, and he demonstrates fatherly protectiveness in dealing with his daughter, whose best friend is a victim of abuse.

Dexter Teenage Wasteland

Dexter Teenage Wasteland

Julia Stiles: Murder Scenes Were Surprisingly Enjoyable

Michael C Hall Julia Stiles

The part of Lumen, a torture and rape victim rescued and protected by Dexter, went to Julia Stiles, who turned in a performance that would net her an Emmy nomination for guest star in a dramatic series. On a more serious note, it also netted her cases of depression and insomnia. “I never think of myself as an actor who takes work home with them, but I was surprised, especially toward the end of the season — around episode 10 — when some of the details of what Lumen had experienced became really harrowing, and I started to realize that it was affecting me outside of work,” Stiles told The Hollywood Reporter. “One scene in particular, in episode 10, when the detectives have found DVDs showing what has happened to the victims — it was really dark. It made it more difficult for me to sleep.” That, in many ways, came from the amount of research she did on trauma and rape victims, and the subsequent internalizing she did to make it real for herself.

“I read about torture victims and people who were abducted and rape victims, but that all felt very intellectual to me. I needed something that would make me connect emotionally, so the most helpful thing was details, specific memories, or smells or sounds,” she told NY Magazine last November, after filming the finale. “I would elaborate on those in my imagination, almost like meditating, I would sit and imagine those horrible experiences and eventually your muscles connect to your brain and it settles in. In a certain way, characters become people and you don’t want to do a disservice to them. I wanted to be as dark as I could about what the reality of that experience would be. I felt like I had to do that to do justice to anybody who had an experience even close to that.”

Michael C Hall Julia Stiles

It may have been cathartic, then, to participate in her killing scenes, which she talked about with THR. “I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the kill scenes and the sacredness of them,” she said. “As a fan of the show, I felt very privileged to be a part of them.”

“There was also a nice moment of collaboration where the set designers had put up pictures of all the other victims on the wall, and I remember saying to the director that I felt like it was important that Lumen acknowledge the other girls and say that it was for them, too. We did a separate shot of that, and it ended up in the final edit, which I was really pleased about. It’s a great example of how collaborative the show is and what a nice environment it is to work in.”

Michael C Hall Julia Stiles