Jennifer Carpenter talks Deb, “Dexter” and destiny


No one could confuse Dexter with a comedy. But without light moments, the series would be too dark to endure. And that’s where Jennifer Carpenter’s character Deb Morgan comes in.

Deb is serial killer Dexter’s half-sister — with no idea of her brother’s hobby — and her mixture of butch mannerisms, potty mouth and soft heart make her an favorite. Her tendency to say what’s on her mind without a second thought delivers much of the show’s humor. But Carpenter has succeeded in conveying Deb’s growth over the years and this season shows her to be a confident, talented detective.

The Los Angeles Times caught up with Carpenter last week and talked to her about her horror-film roots, Dexter and her hopes for life after Deb.

Carpenter trained at Juilliard and wanted to act from childhood. She got her start on Broadway in The Crucible, followed by small parts in several films, including D.E.B.S. (she played “Hysterical Student”).

Her breakthrough performance was in 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, an incredibly intense (and scary) movie in which she plays Emily, a schizophrenic with epilepsy who asked for an exorcism when medical treatment failed.

Carpenter is proud of that role, but refuses to discuss Quarantine, a zombie flick she did a couple of years ago. (I haven’t seen the movie, but this screen cap makes me want to.)

In between those films, along came Dexter, which Carpenter calls a “guilty pleasure.” “It takes you out of your life for a minute,” she told the Times, “and you have to relocate your moral center.”

The part not only boosted her career, it also changed her life. She and Michael Hall (Dexter) met on the set and fell in love. When they got married, fans were afraid their off-screen relationship would alter the dynamic between Dexter and Deb. It didn’t. “Looking in Michael’s eyes when were doing a scene together is different when he’s relaxed,” Carpenter said. “I’m relating to Dexter.”

Deb’s relationship with Dexter is a study in contrasts — he is repressed and cautious; she is completely without filters on her words and her emotions. Their interactions are intense, especially since we know how devastated Deb would be if she discovered Dexter’s secret life. And Deb’s love and concern for Dexter are part of why we find ourselves rooting for a serial killer.

Carpenter is thrilled with Dexter’s success, but hopes she can shift gears in the future. “I just really want to do a comedy, even a dark comedy,” she said. “My dream would be a Woody Allen comedy where I could sing.”

She has two projects coming up: an off-Broadway, two-person romantic drama, Gruesome Playground Injuries and an independent comedy film, Ex-Friends.

For now, though, her fans are most obsessed with what will happen with Deb in the final few episodes of this season’s Dexter. Deb has come to some conclusions about this season’s murders that make her dangerously close to discovering what Dexter is up to.

Deb’s fiery determination to solve the case gives Carpenter a chance to show every side of the character. But she gives the credit for Deb’s fortitude to the writers, saying:

Deb has a resilience unmatched by any superhero. She just keeps coming back again and again. There’s so much to be admired with her; she walks into every scene with Dexter with her heart fully exposed. I am fascinated by her. I love her, I need her, and I’m not finished with her yet.

I am certainly glad to hear that — I’m not finished with Deb Morgan yet, either. And I can’t wait to see what happens in the next few episodes of Dexter.

What about you? Do you think Deb will discover Dexter’s hidden side this season? What will happen if she does? Any wishes for future roles for Jennifer Carpenter?

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