For all the delights offered by Showtime's Dexter, one of the most welcome must be Jennifer Carpenter's funny, profane, and occasionally heartbreaking performance as Dexter's sister Deb. A veteran of numerous horror projects, among them The Exorcism of Emily Rose and last year's surprise hit Quarantine, Carpenter, in real life, turns out to share Deb's dirty laugh but presents a much more striking figure than her tomboyish alter ego. I caught up with the actress at this year's Saturn Awards, after she won for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Program, and she shared with me her thoughts on Dexter's upcoming fourth season and being the thinking man's scream queen…
This season of Dexter sees the addition of John Lithgow to the cast. Can you comment on the changes in store and how they might affect your character?
It feel like we have directors kind of pounding on the door that want to get in because the show is so exciting, so I think maybe that's why it attracts people like John Lithgow – who seems to be a teddy bear.
He's played serial killers at least three times before.
Has he really? I guess I missed them.
In Raising Cain, Blow Out and Buckaroo Banzai.
Look at you. Man! Okay, so he seems harmless. [Laughs.] But look out. All I have to say is that the first scene of the 4th season is amazing. Dexter fans will be very happy I think.
Can you comment on Deb's development in this coming season?
Sure. I think she's been in this constant state of maturity. She has been living in the shadow of her father's career for a very long time, and I think finally for the first time, she feels like she's filling her own shoes, and her colleagues respect her, she respects herself, she's being smarter about her choices in relationships and also work.
Will she be using more profanity than ever?
Actually no. I feel like it should be more calculated and therefore land a little harder.
Quality over quantity?
Exactly. So you kind of wait for it and wait for it, and then bam! – there it is. [Laughs.]
Can you comment on the other projects you're working on right now?
Sure, I just finished a movie called The Factory, with John Cusack. It's sort of a psychological thriller. It's a slight bit of a segway away from the horror films. But still dark.
Can you talk about your character?
Sure, I play his partner. We're both cops in Buffalo. We're trying to put a case away that we've been working on for three years and someone goes missing just as we're about to close the case and it opens a whole new can of worms. There's a really fantastic twist that I hope stays secret. It was great, it was great working with him. It was very cool.
Are you personally attracted to the darkness in the projects you've been involved in lately?
You know, it's funny – I read six pages of Emily Rose, and flew across an ocean to get to that audition within 30 minutes. I wanted that part desperately. And since that film I've not really been seen as anything other than a scream queen.
Albeit one of the finest caliber.
Oh, thanks so much. I'm trying to get into lighter fare. [Laughs.] And I think it's happening. That's what's great about Deb you know: she gets to be a horse of many colors.
In real life, what's your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is probably the people that I love most will leave me. Not spiders. [Laughs.]
As you said, you've been in a number of horror projects. Do you have any favorite fright films? Were you a fan of the genre when you were growing up?
You know, I really wasn't. I'm not really all that brave, but I have to say, I still go to sleep at night and sometimes have flashes of the twins in The Shining. So I'm gonna go with The Shining. The scary thought, actually, is thinking about what they must look like now, you know? Like if you ran into them at the grocery store and you didn't know… [Laughs.]