Dexter: New Blood showrunner Clyde Phillips isn’t shy when looking back at his work on the series proper. When we mention that Season 4 was “arguably the show’s best season,” the executive producer interrupts the declaration with a laugh and an exclamation: “Inarguably!”
Phillips left the original show following a fourth season that saw Dexter take down the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow), shortly after Trinity left wife Rita (Julie Benz) dead and bloodied in a bathtub. Now, Phillips is back to reclaim the reins in Showtime’s new limited event series (premiering Sunday at 9/8c).
It’s been eight years since the series whimpered off the air (read what star Michael C. Hall had to say about that finale), and when the story picks back up, we find the serial killer with a code living and working in upper state New York under the fake alias Jim Lindsay. Having remained abstinent from killing for 10 years, the re-emergence of his now-teenaged son, Harrison (along with some local bad guys he’s forced to contend with), triggers Dexter’s urge to kill again. (Spoiler alert: And that he does.)
Ahead of its premiere, TVLine spoke with Phillips about how New Blood got off the ground, why Jennifer Carpenter’s Debra was “the perfect candidate” to return and how Lithgow’s very-dead villain will resurface.
TVLINE | You left Dexter after what is arguably the series’ best season. What brought you back to the table for another go-around?
CLYDE PHILLIPS | There had been various iterations of attempting to revive the show. One of the executive producers had written a script that neither Showtime nor Michael wanted to do, and there had been other conversations. Whenever Michael would make an appearance or do publicity for Safe or The Crown or whatever, he would always be asked about Dexter, and he’d say, “Well, maybe.” That would get pushed to me, and I’d call him up and he’d say, “Eh, I’m not ready.”
On July 1, 2019, my phone rings. It’s Gary Levine, the president of Showtime. He says, “Michael C. Hall is ready to come back, and we want you to do it.” I said, “Give me 10 days to think about it, come up with a theme and an arc.” I’d write a draft and send it to my writing assistant. He’d clean it up and we’d bounce it back and forth.
Then, I flew to New York to meet with Michael, and had a great reunion. For about 30 or 40 minutes, I pitched how I saw the season laying out. He said, “I love it. I’m in,” and gave me a hug. I called Gary, who’s a reasonably busy guy, and he snatched up the phone right away and said, “Well?” I said, “Michael says he loves it. He’s in,” and Gary said, “Go hire a writing room.” He didn’t say, “OK, go figure out the pilot.” He said, “This is happening.” It was the best possible news. We put together a great room and wrote the hell out of the season.
TVLINE | Despite her character’s death in Season 8, Jennifer Carpenter is back. When did the idea to include Deb come into play?
There was no question. The answer to when she should be back was right away. She’s foul-mouthed, aggressive, takes no s–t from anybody, a brilliant cop, a sympathetic character. As Dexter said in a Season 1 episode: “If I was capable of love, I would love her.” She was a perfect candidate to come back.
She comes back as that little conscience in Dexter’s head. She’s not Harry guiding him. They’re a very well-lived-in couple when we first meet them. She doesn’t want him doing what he does best. It would always come up in the writing room, “Wait a minute. Deb can’t do that she’s not real. She can’t throw this at Dexter. Dexter doesn’t have to open a door for her.” We’d have to remind ourselves all of the time about that. As the characters, storytelling and directing evolved, we broke some rules we set up just to make it more dynamic.
TVLINE | It’s also been confirmed that John Lithgow is reprising his role as the Trinity Killer. What can you tease about his appearance?
It’s a flashback, obviously, because Dexter took him out in Season 4. I got him to come back with one phone call. John and I are friends. We presented together at the Creative Arts Emmys, and we’re in contact all of the time. So I called him up and said, “You want to come back? One day [of shooting].” He said, “You bet. Let’s make it happen. Just give me a week’s notice to put stuff in order and I’ll be there.”
When he came, the whole crew, the whole set, all of the actors — everybody was just elevated. Actors who weren’t working that day came by to watch him work. We were shooting in this studio in Massachusetts, and it was almost like a stage play, with everybody standing around watching. They just wanted to be in his presence, and he nailed it. He was just great.
TVLINE | So much has been said about the series’ original finale, but how do you think fans are going to react to New Blood‘s ending?
It’s going to be surprising, inevitable and it’s going to blow up the Internet. It is, I personally think, the best thing I’ve written. Our director Marcos Siega, who could not be more experienced and a better friend of the show, thinks it’s the best thing he’s ever directed. I haven’t seen it yet, by the way. I only saw it get shot. We’re editing Episodes 7 and 8 right now, so I haven’t seen 10 yet. I can’t wait, to tell you the truth.