Dexter doesn’t return to Showtime until early fall, but it’s never too early to peek behind the clear polyethylene curtain and see what the hit serial-killer drama is plotting for season 6. Exec producer and new showrunner Scott Buck gives Entertainment Weekly an exclusive preview of the new season, which will feature a return to the confident Dexter of years past, as well as a few high-profile additions like Edward James Olmos, Colin Hanks, and Mos.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s the overriding theme of season 6?
SCOTT BUCK: What does it mean when a serial killer goes on a spiritual search? Dexter (Michael C. Hall) has always known what he doesn’t want to pass onto his son — his “dark passenger” — but now he’s beginning to ask what he does want to pass on. So that’s forcing him to look around to see what else there is in life.
We’re not going to see a New Age-y Dexter, are we?
Please, no. (laughter) [It's] a very strong, sure-of-himself Dexter, which would be the difference from the Dexter of last year, where Dexter was questioning himself about everything. A year has passed since the end of last season, so Dexter has put his life in order. Things are good for him. He’s very centered, strong and focused, much the same way he was in season 1, but now he knows so much more. He’s a much more self-assured person. A more evolved serial killer.
Let’s talk about the new characters. What can you say about the religious studies professor played by Edward James Olmos?
Professor Gellar is someone that all of Miami is seeking out. He becomes a big person of interest in some crimes that are being committed in Miami.
What kind of crimes?
They are probably the biggest crimes we’ve ever seen on this show. We’re going toward a different kind of serial killer than what we usually see. This is someone more in line with the Zodiac Killer…. He kills people with great conviction. This is probably the first serial killer we’ve had who thinks he’s in the right.
And Dexter feels that he has something in common with this guy?
Professor Gellar definitely feels like he’s killing for a reason, and Dexter is very, very curious to know what exactly that reason is, and to try to understand it in some way. It’s very intriguing and baffling, and it doesn’t make sense to Dexter.
Colin Hanks was an interesting casting curveball. How does he fit into the story?
Travis Marshall is a close acquaintance of Professor Gellar. The two of them work together. Professor Gellar is a character with tremendous charisma, and Travis has very much fallen under his power…. Travis has absolutely no interest or inclination to hurt anyone, yet he’s also someone who’s strongly driven by a belief system that compels him to do things he doesn’t necessarily want to do.
And Mos is playing a religious ex-con?
He’s a former street thug who found God while in prison, and now we call him Brother Sam rather than Father Sam, because he’s not so much a preacher or a minister — he’s someone who is trying to live what he believes is a righteous life by helping others. He runs an auto-body shop and he hires ex-cons, trying to help them get their lives straight. One of them becomes a suspect in a crime and that leads [Brother Sam] to cross paths with Dexter.
Dexter’s son, Harrison, has a new nanny named Jamie (Aimee Garcia), who is the younger sister of Angel (David Zayas). First of all, what happened to Sonya (Maria Doyle Kennedy), the old nanny?
She was such a fantastic actress but we had kind of wasted her in a way that she wasn’t given enough to play, and it felt that by this time it was already a lost opportunity, unfortunately. We thought it was best to move on in a new direction.
What should we expect from Jamie?
She’ll bring in a lot of vitality to Dexter’s life. This young, sparky, upbeat, bigger-than-life charismatic personality is suddenly in Dexter’s world, which is not always going to be a good thing.
Should the fact that a new nanny has been cast lead us to wonder if she’ll be more important to the story? Last year fans were speculating about Sonya…
She’ll be important to our family world, but there will be no big reveals or twists that the audience will never expect.
Any other new characters?
[We’ll meet] Mike Anderson, played by Billy Brown, a hard-ass detective from Chicago who does not fit in well with the others and only survives because he’s such a good detective. He frowns upon their casual ways of doing things…. Molly Parker is playing Lisa Marshall, who is Travis’ big sister. She helped raise him, so she’s very protective of him.
You were promoted to showrunner, replacing Chip Johannessen, who came aboard last season. Why the switch?
It felt like it was time to change directions and return to the creative foundations of the show…. It’s not just the showrunner who’s changed. We also lost Bob Greenblatt [who left his post as Showtime Entertainment president to become NBC Entertainment Chairman], and brought in [Imagine Television president] David Nevins. One of my first meetings with David was him talking about how change is good: “We’re going into season 6 — let’s not be afraid to break some of the rules that we’ve so highly respected over the years.”
Last season, the show featured multiple villains instead of a season-long adversary. Will this season mark a return to the old formula?
It’s a little bit of both. Last season, Dexter went down a very dark path and we’re trying to find our way back to the Dexter we knew in season 1. So we’re going back to our original format in a lot of ways, but also trying to absorb what we’ve learned along the way.
Coming off the high of season 4, some fans were disappointed by season 5, though it ended up as the highest-rated one yet. What was your take on last season?
It was a very strong season in showing exactly how human you could make Dexter. To me, that was all very interesting and intriguing. For all the years that he was married to Rita (Julie Benz), we were never quite sure about how he genuinely felt about her — if he ever actually loved her — because the idea of love was something he always struggled with. But Lumen (Julia Stiles) came into his life and he was suddenly open to that possibility for the first time. That was a very new and different Dexter, so that was the most interesting thing about last season.
On the flip side, what could have been better?
Just the fact that it was Dexter on a very dark path. It became so heavy and brooding at times that we really wanted to brighten up Dexter’s world a bit…. You couldn’t kill Rita and not have Dexter go to that place, but we spent a season there and now we’ve turned him around. Life is good now.
Any chance that some of the loose ends, such as the Kyle Butler story line, will be revisited?
Absolutely. We’ve got a lot of loose strings. We’re going to try to tie up some things this year, but hopefully in some surprising and very fun ways.
What’s going on with Quinn this season?
This is not going to be the happiest season for Quinn (Desmond Harrington). He’s going to hit some dark days, but we’re going to have a lot of fun with him. We’re going to be further exploring his relationship with Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter). When we come back, they will still be happily living together. But it may not always be that way.
What else is in store for Deb?
I’ve already seen people online guessing what they think Deb’s story is going to be, and so far everyone is completely wrong. They always look at the guest cast and [wonder], “What wrong person is she going to fall in love with?” and we’re just not going in that direction at all this year. It’s a journey of a very different nature this year for Deb. There are big career changes as well as big personal changes for her.
In the season 5 finale, Deb came extremely close to discovering the truth about Dexter. Will this be the season she finally does? And at this point, isn’t that almost as big of a deal as Dexter being caught?
When that happens, obviously it’s going to be a very huge deal. And I will never tell you when that’s going to happen.
Is there a moment early in the season that fans will be talking about?
From our opening scene, we begin with Dexter in a place of great danger. Within seconds, you’re going to see Dexter in a place you haven’t seen him before.