Eight seasons and almost 96 episodes after he made viewers empathize, and even love, serial killer Dexter Morgan, Golden Globe winner Michael C. Hall and his castmates are about to send the Showtime drama off into TV-land history.
In Sunday's series finale, "Remember the Monsters?" Dexter Morgan makes his biggest attempt yet to have a real life, with girlfriend Hannah and son Harrison the focus of his world, and his "Dark Passenger" left behind in Miami. We're spoiling nothing to say that his plans don't go off smoothly, and not everyone close to him will end the series alive.
When the actor was asked during a recent roundtable discussion with reporters in New York City to describe what kind of ride fans can expect from the finale, he playfully answered, "A roller coaster ride ... all aspects of all the best roller coasters. Loops, hills, unanticipated turns, tunnels, upside down sections."
Hall, who, during the series' run, married and divorced co-star Jennifer Carpenter and survived a battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, said he's "sad in some ways that it's ended, but at the same time, I don't think I'd have it any other way. I think it's time to let go."
The "Six Feet Under" alum said he plans a return to the stage next year and has roles in the upcoming movies "Kill Your Darlings" ("'Kill' is in the title," he joked) and "Cold in July" (in which his character kills an intruder in the opening scenes), so he won't be putting his killer career on hold post-"Dexter." He might like to tackle a comedy next, though.
"It doesn't have to be a broad comedy," he said. "I just want to do something where nobody dies. Seriously. Though I'm obviously attracted to themes of life and death, and fathers and sons, and all that stuff ... Musicians, painters, writers — I think a lot of people revisit the same themes over and over again, and if that's a part of what I'm doing, I'm OK with that, though, yes, I'm definitely open to some lighter material."
More highlights from the roundtable discussion, including his predictions for how fans will react to the finale, the possibilities of a Dexter Morgan happy ending, and the actors he'd like to see in a "Dexter" spinoff:
1. How does he think fans will react to the series finale?
"I don't think the ending will leave any huge questions in the air like 'The Sopranos' did, in terms of, What was the next frame? or, Where were we headed?" Hall said. "There will be some interpretation left for people to debate about ... but I think there'll be a pretty broad spectrum to the response. I think some people will be satisfied. Some people will wish that it had gone down differently. Some people will be both of those things."
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2. What would a happy ending for Dexter Morgan look like?
"I think the happy ending would be that he somehow finds himself released from his compulsion," said Hall, who was nominated for six Emmys as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for "Dexter." "I think Dexter has, at different points over the life of the show, found himself entertaining the idea that he could be rehabilitated, or that he could live a life that isn't primarily in service of his Dark Passenger.... But things have happened that have taught him, at least temporarily, and maybe more and more permanently, that that's not a possibility. But yeah, I think a happy ending ... my mother suggested, she thought it would be nice if he just ended up joining a monastery or just living a contemplative, nonconfrontational life."
3. There have been rumors of a "Dexter" spinoff ... whom would he feature in a spinoff series?
"I think there could be a Batista and Quinn show, like 'Starsky and Hutch,'" Hall joked. "Or like, 'Masuka's Sexcapades.' [But] when I directed the second episode [of Season 8], one of my favorite shots in the whole thing was this dolly shot where Batista and Quinn were just walking down the street, because both of them have such distinct ways of talking and moving. I'd watch that show."
4. Did he keep anything from the set after the final episode was shot?
"I actually have a meeting with the prop guy when I get back to L.A. He's going to give me Dexter's lanyard that he wore at work, and his watch," the actor, 42, said. "There are some blood spatter images that were in [Dexter's] lab that I took. I'm not sure if I will display them ... Actually, his main kill knife, the main prop kill knife, I understand, has been put in a display case. It'll probably go in the back of a closet somewhere ... you know, 'In case of emergency, break.'"
Several "Dexter" props will also be on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where, he joked, "I can go visit them."
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5. Ultimately, does Dexter end the series as a hero or a villain?
"I think an argument could be made for both. He certainly has, after gaining the audience's trust or affection, done things to challenge that affection and has behaved in ways both heroic and villainous," Hall said. "As you can tell, I'm reluctant to come down on either side. I think part of the fun of the show is that it creates that question [for] people who watch it. But I do think he has, independent of 'the code' or anything else, an inherent desire to, within his obviously way-outside-the-box context, do the right thing. Yeah, it doesn't always work out for him, but ... I would hope for there to be some third choice between hero and villain."
6. Did "Dexter" make him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams?
"As far as wealth goes, I think I've been lucky that the things that I've done that have been the most artistically viable have also been the most commercially viable," said Hall. "That's a lucky position to be in, to have been in. I finished 'Six Feet Under,' and that was five seasons. When I signed on to do ['Dexter'], I knew that I was making an open-ended commitment to something that might last five years. I don't think I imagined that it would last eight. Couldn't have imagined the twists and turns that my life took within the context of those eight seasons. Yeah, I think it was beyond my wildest dreams, my wildest speculations."
7. Why end the show now, after eight seasons?
"Looking back, I think this decision was in the works from the beginning, to not have 'Who's Dexter going to kill this week?' be the primary question, but how and when and why will Dexter emerge as a more complicated ... ambivalent human monster? And then once the big ball dropped and Deb found out the truth ... obviously, there's sort of a magical world in which all of this exists, a world without alarm systems, for example. Nobody has an alarm," he joked. "You can break in. I can pick any lock. We always wanted to be headed somewhere, and to be ultimately saying something about this other than, 'Isn't it cool that he keeps getting away with this?'"So I think once Deb made that discovery, the conversations I had with Scott Buck and other writers were that we didn't feel like we could honestly continue it indefinitely, and we're also ... it's eight years. I wouldn't say that we were burnt out, but we were anticipating a sense of burnout."
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8. Does he worry that people will think of him as Dexter Morgan forever?
"If ['Dexter' is not] written on my tombstone, then it'll be in the obituary in the first paragraph, and that's cool," Hall said. "I definitely, moving forward, am not making choices completely based on a desire to distance myself from darker material. I don't want to play a lovable serial killer again, but at the same time, I don't want to limit my options to things that are diametrically opposed to the world of 'Dexter,' because it's a multifaceted world. I can't really say for sure what the future holds. I couldn't have imagined 'Dexter' before it presented itself, so I'd like to think that there are unimaginable things on the horizon. I'm cool with it being a part of my legacy. I think that's inevitable."
9. Did he initially think "Dexter" would be a hit that would run for eight seasons?
"'Dexter' was "presented to me as a potential opportunity," he said. "Bob Greenblatt and Michael Cuesta, who was directing the pilot, had both been involved with 'Six Feet Under' and had thought about me, I think, independently, for the part. I had to meet with other heads that made up the many-headed creative monster that made the show and convince them that I wasn't a funeral director. My initial thought was, 'This will never work.' But I was really seduced by its aspiration to work and its chance of working, given the tone that it was going to attempt to set. I was intrigued and challenged, and it was a lot of fun."
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10. How has playing serial killer Dexter affected him?
"I can't really say for sure ... But if you spend that much time and energy deeply pretending that something is real, I feel it has to have an effect," Hall said. "That's all I can say for sure. I'm not sure exactly what the effect is. Hopefully, I won't ... discover that I crave some sort of other outlet now that this one's gone. Maybe I've exorcised some demons. I don't know. But when you spend that much time in another character's skin and considering things from their totally imagined perspective, I think it probably has some sort of effect. Just like in the same way you probably would be affected if you had a recurring dream for eight years."
11. What is the show trying to say?
"I think what the show is ultimately trying to say is something that people can debate about once all is said and done and the finale airs, so I'm reluctant to say definitively. [But] it's only when he tries to have a more authentic sense of himself ... that he and everyone else start to get in trouble. That's maybe the tragedy of the character, that as he really starts to try to live a real life rather than simulate one, everything starts to fall apart," Hall said, before joking, "That's a rough message."
Watch a clip from "Dexter":
The "Dexter" series finale airs Sunday, Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. on Showtime.
- Dexter Morgan