Dexter’s Producer Promises “Big Change Up” To Formula

Dexter TV Show

IGN talks to Dexter Executive Producer Manny Coto about Debra’s new feelings, the twist that many saw coming and what’s next for the show.  


Scott Buck, your fellow EP on the show, said that he was surprised by how many people were down on the story involving Deb falling in love with Dexter. How did this decision come about? What led you guys down this path? Did it feel like it was the natural thing to do?  

   In many ways as writers, when we write the show we’re living with the characters. And we’re in their heads and we’re following their lives and their own souls. Somewhere along this season we began to reflect on Deb and her relationships. And the relationships she’s had and how they’ve all ended in terrible ways. The first relationship we saw was with a serial killer and she didn’t even know it. So it led us to question whether there was some underlying psychological bedrock to her choosing people who she was never able to have a successful life with. One, obviously, was a mad man. And even that came into play. Why did she choose him? Why was she attracted to this person? So what was subconsciously emanating from her? And because she is not a biological sibling to Dexter it occurred to us that maybe she might have some kind of feelings there for her brother. I mean, we know it happens. In fact one of our writers, I can’t remember who, grew up in a family where there was a very similar situation to Dexter where there was a relationship. And it happened. So it occurred to us that she sees something in her brother that she’s attracted to. Something dark. A reason why she continuously chooses the people who are not available to her. Who are dangerous. All I can say is that we got inside her head and that’s where we came out.

 Do you think that these feelings are something that could ever be reciprocated by Dexter? Or will this remain a one-sided thing?  

 It’s hard to tell. We’re not going to begin writing until February 1st so it’s impossible for me to speculate at this point where it’s going to go because we haven’t even talked about it. We have talked about certain possibilities of where we could go though. Don’t forget though that the very moment that Deb began to show her feelings she discovered he was a serial killer. So that’s going to color her feelings.  

That was a big way to end the season, but will that revelation squelch Deb’s feelings for Dexter? Will it put an end to them?  

Again, I can’t really go into it because I don’t know where we might go. But I can tell you that it will affect it. I mean, if I found out my spouse was a serial killer that would affect my feelings for her. It would be the same for anybody. So it’s not going to be the same.   

        Dexter TV Show

 Each year, Dexter’s ratings grow as more and more people catch up with it on DVD and Blu-ray. Is it a big challenge to keep the show fresh and vital after six years seeing as how most shows don’t even last that long anymore?   

Oh, it’s a terrible challenge. It’s the hardest thing there is to do. The only way to do it is to overturn the apple cart every once in a while. And let the characters grow and progress and have their lives get overturned. Which is why, at the end of this past season, we had Deb discover – or at least see her brother make a kill – and it will affect their relationship from now on. It’s not going to be the same. It will be a different show. Which is a way to refresh and remain creatively alive. And that is to change the dynamic. And change the show. Now it’s about a serial killer who has a sister who’s a detective who has found out that he’s a serial killer. She has a big decision to make this next season.   

 As part of the lead-in to each new season, we hear a lot about how the season is really all about whatever Dexter’s specific emotional journey is this year. But the most fun for a lot of viewers really are the guest stars and the “big bads.” Is that a fun part for you guys as well?  

 Oh, it’s great fun. And it’s part of the discussions at the top of every season. Who is he going to face this year? Who is the “big bad?” Next year? Who knows? We’re going to do it fresh. We’re always trying to come up with new things. There may be a big bad, there may not be. Debra might be the big bad. We don’t know. Or Quinn. We try to change things up. This is all speculation of course. But I can tell you that next year will be a change up to the formula. And the “big bad” may take a form that we’re not used to.  

I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the twist that happened towards the end of the season. When you guys were writing the Edward James Olmos character, did anyone think “What if someone figures this out after, say, three episodes?”  

  No, we didn’t. I guess we thought that, yes, someone was going to figure this out. Or a small percentage would figure this out. I guess what I didn’t figure was that, on the internet, a small percentage will blog about it and then suddenly everybody knows. On the internet anyway. But then we did think that some people would figure it out ahead of time and then decide to just go with it. But most people would not. And that was our feeling. And it was kind of a fun and challenging thing to see if we could stretch it as long as we did. For nine episodes. It was interesting because no one in the cast or crew had the first clue. Except for Olmos, who was the only one who knew ahead of time. But Colin Hanks didn’t know. And nobody guessed. Until we announced it. And it’s interesting to see, in the world of the internet, when one person says “You know what? Maybe… This looks like it could be…” and suddenly there’s a theory. And you can see it mushrooming, with people floating theories around. And then you start looking for it on the show. It’s the same thing as if in The Sixth Sense if someone had walked in and said “You know, I think he might be dead.” And then someone says “Naw,” but then they look for it and say “Yeah, he’s dead!” However, all my friends who are not bloggers and are not on the website and the chatrooms didn’t have the first clue and were all shocked. But I enjoyed it and it was fun. It was a fun thing to do. It was particularly fun because it was a parallel to Dexter and Harry. We’re always trying to find something that connects the big bad to Dexter and in this case it was a guy who had his own “Dark Passenger” who was informing him. In a different way from Harry, but he was in his imagination.   


Scott Buck: “We’ll Most Likely Be Picking Up Exactly Where We Left Off”

Dexter Season 6

Was Deb developing romantic feelings for Dexter always part of the show’s grand plan? 

It was something we realized very early on. It was not necessarily a plan, but it was something we all felt was in the DNA of that character. It just sort of made sense when we started to examine why she was the way she was. It wasn’t necessarily something we were always working towards, but when we examined it it seemed — at least on some sort of subconscious level — like that’s the direction it had always been going. 

 Was there a debate in the writers room about whether to go there? You must’ve known it would be controversial. 

It came up several years ago. We thought about it, then dismissed it, but it would always come up again year after year after year. So it just felt like there was this big story there that we were denying. 

And why now?  

 It just seemed so inevitable. There was no particular reason why this year, except that it felt like we had been ignoring it.  

The fact that Deb knows Dexter’s secret — well, part of his secret. She only saw him killone person. And one murder does not a serial killer make.  

Correct. But Deb has absolutely without a doubt seen Dexter commit a ritual kill. We’re not teasing the audience or jerking the audience around.  

Deb came close to discovering Dex’s “dark passenger” in the Season 5 finale. Why not pull the trigger on it then as opposed to postponing it for another season? 

 I wasn’t running the show at the time so I didn’t have the opportunity to pull the trigger. But again, it was because of things like that that it felt like we had teased the audience to a point that was not quite right anymore. It felt like time to be more honest with the situation. 

The episode hinted at the possible departure of Desmond Harrington’s Quinn. Will he be back? 

 Yes, absolutely.  

Do you pay attention to what critics are saying and writing?  

I’ve seen some but not all. 

So it probably doesn’t come as a shock that it was a polarizing season. I wanted to throw out some of the bigger criticisms. First off, many felt Travis  wasn’t a scary enough villain. He seemed almost cartoonish at times. How do you respond to that?  

We never meant for him to be cartoonish. We meant for him to be complicated in a way so that you might have mixed feelings for him. You would generally feel sympathy or empathy for this man before fully realizing who he was. And once you do realize who he was, does that really make the issue that much different? Is he really that much more in control then if Professor Gellar had been real. 

Do you feel like your villains are doomed to disappoint after Trinity?  

 I don’t feel that way. Obviously, John was fantastic and set a very high standard for us. But there are all kinds of villains out there. They don’t need to all be scary in the same way. 

There were a fair number of viewers that saw the Gellar twist coming. Was that ever a concern?  

 I really wasn’t that concerned, because if people guessed the twist, it really wasn’t the major arc of the season. Dexter has always been a show much more about character. It was always more interesting to see how this revelation affects Dexter, rather then, “Oh, I guessed it.” It didn’t seem that important an idea that it had to be so completely hidden from the audience.  

Finally, the reaction to a possible Deb-Dexter romance seems more negative than positive. There’s a genuine ick factor there. Will that impact how far you take the storyline in the final two seasons? 

No. I’m not aware that there’s an ick factor, but that’s certainly not going to affect where we go with that story.  

Safe to say Season 7 will pick up right where Season 6 left off? 

 I think we’ll most likely be picking up exactly where we left off, or somewhere close to there. 


Dexter’s Showrunner Scott Buck: “We Finally Pulled The Trigger”

Jennifer Carpenter Dexter

On Sunday night’s Dexter TV show finale, Debra confessed to having non-brotherly love for Dexter Morgan, then caught him in the act of ritualistically murdering the Doomsday Killer. Showrunner Scott Buck talks to EW about the sixth season, that game-changing final scene and what it might all mean for the final two seasons.  

 Please tell me that final scene wasn’t, like, a dream or something.  

No, we finally did it. It was a long time coming and we finally pulled the trigger. 

Will the next season start, I hope, right where this one left off? 

We’ll certainly start somewhere very close to that point addressing all these issues. We started this season one year later and we’re certainly not going to do that.  

Let’s back up: Debra having romantic feelings for Dexter. How did that story idea come about? 

 It’s actually an idea that’s been discussed in the writers room years ago, like starting in season two, because it always felt it — that this character was in love with her brother. And like Debra, we ignored it for a long time and it just kept coming back until we were all in agreement that it was just in the DNA of that character of why she was the way she was. It felt like it was finally time to tackle that issue.  

It’s tough to imagine Dexter feeling the same way about her.  

   I don’t think Dexter has ever even considered those feelings. I don’t think he’s ever had those feelings for anyone, except, perhaps, a little bit for Lumen. But as far as Dexter being in love with someone, that’s just not the kind of person he is. I don’t think Dexter believes he’s capable of love like the way Debra feels.  

Since Debra is a detective, did you toy with the idea of having her gradually figure things out over the course of a season instead of finding out all at once?  

 It feels like she’s been gradually finding out things for years except not willing to look at them. She is a detective, she is very smart, but I don’t believe she believes he might be a killer in this way. But there was always something tugging at her mind that there was more to Dexter than she realized. So let’s get it over with and pull the curtain off on that. It just seemed like a more fun and interesting way to go. 

Dexter trying to keep the Doomsday Killers himself. He’s often done that to some degree, but we spent a lot of time with Debra this season so it made him seem more obstructionist than usual. Were you guys conscious of that?  

      Yes, it was a very specific storyline for one episode that there might be chemical weapons involved that this was bigger than what he could ever deal and he had to wrestle with whether to give it up or not. So we saw a progression in the character of Dexter, that he was willing to step away from his own need for the greater good. Of course, it all came back around and it fell back in his lap once again. 

 David Nevins told us the last couple episodes sets into motion a storyline that take us through the show’s end game. Do you pretty much know the major beats — including the ending — at this point? 

Our ending, no. There’s only several ways we can end this show, and we all have our feelings about how it could end. There’s quite a few people involved at this point and it’s a matter of us sitting down and figuring out how this show should end. We’re all clearly heading in one direction, but that grand finale has not been decided yet. 

Will next season have another Big Bad, or will this move change the show in some fundamental way and the format of the show will feel different?   

One advantage we have is we most likely have two seasons and then we’re out, so we can start working toward the end game. We haven’t even begun to consider who the bad guys are, but we are open to changing formats. We don’t feel like we need to stick to something just because we did it in previous seasons, though at the same time we don’t feel like we can’t do something just because we have done something similar before. 

What are the storytelling goals for the next couple seasons?  

Dexter is always a show that’s less about plot twists and much more about characters. Our allegiance is always most strongly to the character of Dexter Morgan. What’s the most satisfying, honest place to take Dexter over the next two years. 

The creepy computer guy. I’m assuming he mailed the hand because he’s infatuated with serial killers and Dexter, or is there something more I should be reading into that? 

Well, he had no idea Dexter is a serial killer — at least, not to our knowledge. I think he’s just got this weird love-to-hate thing for Dexter and has latched onto him and is seeking his approval. But to send the hand like that, we have no idea what kind of message he’s sending. At this point, it’s just to arouse our suspicion about who is this guy and what are his intentions.

In the finale on top of the skyscraper, are we to assume Dexter had a dummy needle prepared, so that’s why he wasn’t unconscious after injecting himself? 

 It was not a dummy needle. We didn’t answer that question, but we had an answer for it. It was just a little awkward to slip it into the footage. We showed him emptying the needle seconds beforehand, but it didn’t look right [in post-production]. We tried to address it in voiceover, it just became awkward and cumbersome. 

There were no Harry scenes in the finale. What’s the right amount, how much is too much, in terms of having those in the show? 

It’s a fine line. We feel like we need him. I’m a huge fan of James Remar, though it’s a character you have to be very judicious with as it’s a fine line. Sometimes it’s too easy to cut to Harry and have Dexter explain what he’s thinking or feeling when there are sometimes more artful ways of doing that.  

Anything that’s been wondered about on the comment boards this season that you’d like to address? 

I find it kind of interesting that people are uneasy about Deb’s love toward her brother. That on a show about serial killers, it’s the idea of love that makes people more uncomfortable. We did some research on that among adopted siblings: It does exist and it does happen, and it does create a very awkward situation.