Cast, Creators Let 'Dexter' Find His Own Way - PaleyFest Report
by John Scott Lewinski, posted Mar 5th 2010 10:30AM
The most pressing concern for fans of Showtime's 'Dexter' at the show's Thursday night PaleyFest 2010 panel was touched on only briefly -- as if spending too much time on the topic was bad form -- or, worse, a jinx.
When series star Michael C. Hall took to the stage to a standing ovation -- it was impossible to miss his stocking cap. With the other stars and creators dressed to the nines across the Saban Theatre dais, that modest piece of headwear served as the uniform for an individual undergoing cancer treatment.
When it was pointed out to him that his reception might be the first "standing O" in PaleyFest history, Hall smiled, shrugged and pointed to his cap -- as if saying, "Well, it's the cancer treatment."
But, the sizable (slightly less than capacity) crowd made their affection and enthusiasm for one of TV's darkest drama series obvious. While not as raucous as the previous weekend's 'Lost' crowd (and certainly less fanatical than those headed to next week's Seth MacFarlane panel), the assembled throng hung on every word as cast members commented on the shocking events of Season Four and gave tiny glimpses into the possibilities for Season Five.
The series episode 'Hungry Man' kicked off the night -- featuring a Thanksgiving Day battle between Hall's title character and John Lithgow's Trinity Killer. Sadly, Lithgow was not in attendance for reasons not announced at the event.
But Hall was joined by Jennifer Carpenter (Debra Morgan), Lauren Velez (Lt. Maria Laguerta), David Zayas (Angel Batista) and C.S. Lee (Vince Masuka), along with executive producers Clyde Phillips, John Goldwyn, Sara Colleton and Scott Buck.
(Spoiler Alert) Apart from Hall, the guest who generated the biggest audience response was Julie Benz, whose Rita Bennett Morgan character died violently at the hands of the Trinity Killer as Season Four wrapped. Audience members poured out their sympathies and wondered how the actress dealt with her character's sudden end.
"When I first got the news, it was really shocking," Benz said. "My first response was 'Oh, God, I just lost my job. How will I pay my mortgage? But, I realized it's aggressive storytelling. That's why we watch Showtime. Then I thought, 'But she has a baby. What's going to happen to her baby?' I forgot it was television."
Goldwyn, Colleton and Phillips all agreed that the move to kill Benz's character was "a punch in the gut" to fans, but it felt right.
"If it's possible for a death to be earned," Colleton said, "it was. It made sense to us and to the audience. It wasn't just a story stunt or a cliffhanger. Now, Rita's death needs to be honored," Colleton added. "And how Dexter deals with it will help the audience deal with it. So, we'll go through that process on the show."
The show's creative team said they knew where Season Four's Trinity Killer storyline would go. "The theme of the season was allowing Dexter see Trinity and think he could have it all," Goldwyn said. "He saw he could have a family, a friend. And now he lost it."
Producers are currently holed up breaking out story lines for the Fifth Season, with production kicking off in June. While they offered no plot points for the next outing, the producers stressed the season will pick up where the show left him after his journey of last season and carry him forward.
As for Hall, he's eager to see how series writers forge his character after the loss of his happy family: "The landscape has changed. The foundations are gone. How strong is he now? He'll have to cultivate a new reality with new relationships. He's going to be someone now who has experienced tragedy, and will now have grief projected onto him. We'll see how he deals with that, because the guy remains a whack job."
As for Hall's cancer treatment, he made sure to put the crowd at ease before the night was over: "I just had my second to last treatment, and my last one is March 17. It's going well."