Clyde Phillips Explains What "New Blood" Stands For, Reveals What Will Be Determinative In Showtime's Decision For Season 2

"We're going to get a whole new set of numbers later in this month", Clyde said.


Website Collider recently had the chance to speak with showrunner Clyde Phillips about season finale of Dexter: New Blood. He explained how they kept the finale script under wraps from a majority of the cast and crew, how Jennifer Carpenter and John Lithgow returned to the franchise, a potential second season and more.

Collider: I would love to talk about the show's new title. In your mind, does the "New Blood" stand for Dexter returning to his killing ways, or Harrison inheriting his father's legacy in a sense?

Clyde Phillips: Well, you asked a question and then answered it, because you're right. Careful viewers will notice on the opening titles that where it says Dexter and then New Blood below it, that each episode there's more blood dripping from the Dexter into the New Blood. And in the tenth episode, the opening title, New Blood is filled with it. So it does have to do with Dexter killing again. He hasn't killed in 10 years. And concomitant with that, Dexter either successfully or unsuccessfully passing on his legacy. And that's to be determined.

Collider: That ending, I think, is maybe not a surprise, but a big ending for sure. Did you have that visualized in your head before it was even written down, or were there ever any alternative endings that you considered?

Clyde Phillips: No, that was the ending. And I think we owed it to the audience. Dexter escapes. After a while, it gets to be too much. I mean, I don't know if you know, but I did the last seasons of Nurse Jackie. And here's a person who, everybody she touches ends up getting screwed over. And so, we internally decided to end it, which doesn't happen very often. You try to keep shows going as long as possible.

It's the same thing here. I mean, Harrison says a very important thing in their confrontation when he says, "Open your eyes and look at what you've done," meaning all of these innocent people. That if you weren't who you are, Dexter, they would still be alive, Doakes and Lundy and Rita and Deb, LaGuerta. And there might be a couple of others that I don't remember.

And that's also a little bit of an Easter egg. Because in the pilot of the show, 100 years ago, Dexter, the first person he kills is his choirmaster who has killed kids that are in his choir. And Dexter screams at him with superhuman force, "Open your eyes and look at what you've done." And it became inevitable. It became the way it had to end.


Collider: In the confrontation between Dexter and Harrison, I noticed that the language that Dexter's using felt very much like the way that an addict would respond during an intervention. Dexter has that line where he's like, "Well, I can stop. I can stop at any time."

Clyde Phillips: But he says, if I may interrupt, he says, "But with your help." And then Harrison says, "I'm not your goddamn caretaker." And that's when people are ... You make a great analogy. That's what you end up saying to an addict when you've had enough. And that's what happened.

I don't want to make this about Nurse Jackie, but that's why it was such an easy transition for me to go from Dexter to Nurse Jackie, because they're both addicts. And they both hurt innocent people inadvertently all the time. And so, when Harrison's saying, "I'm not your goddamn caretaker," that's really the end of it. That's really, "There's no way out of this, and I can't let you go. And I don't want to be right. I want to be normal." I mean, how awful for a 16-year-old kid to have to think that way and to be in such pain. And that pain is caused by who Dexter is.

Collider: Do you think that's in part why Angela decides to let Harrison go at the end rather than haul him in? Because she witnesses this whole event.

Clyde Phillips: Yeah. That's a great question. I went round and round with that scene. Don't forget, she's just come from Kurt's tomb and just seen her worst nightmare. Her missing persons' board is now all actual dead people. She's broken inside. And I think what happened — and Julia Jones who plays Angela, did an incredible job with this — is I think her humane side came out. Her motherly instinct, perhaps, came out, or her parental instinct came out. And here is a deeply damaged kid that she can do something good for. And then Harrison finally accepts that and says, "Tell Audrey I said goodbye." And Angela says, "I can't, because I haven't seen you." That's really moving. And I wrote that line two months after I wrote the script. It just came to me one night, and I jammed it into the script. And it was before we started shooting, so it was able to work. And we shot that scene very early in the schedule. So the actors really were completely on their feet.

We purposely shot the therapy scene, if you remember that, [in] Episode 6, in the middle of a snowstorm. And we were so desperate to have snow, but we wanted the actors to be able to connect and have a very heartfelt deep scene so that when we, the following week, shot the final scene, Jack Alcott would have gone through the Michael C. Hall masterclass and be better prepared to hold his own for himself and against his father.

Collider: Talking about shooting out of order, how secretive did you have to be in terms of keeping the finale events, especially that scene, under wraps? Because when I spoke to Clancy Brown last week, he mentioned the script for this episode was kept back from him, so he was completely in the dark. How many people did you decide to keep it under lock and key away from, or if it was mostly just the people involved that knew what was going to happen?

Clyde Phillips: Well, so I should say, we had the entire crew sign NDAs. Now occasionally, because I snoop around social media all the time, occasionally somebody like a local hire will say, "Harrison shoots Dexter at the end." But it's on some obscure website. And let them think what they think.

But the script was heavily redacted. The script is, I think, 56 pages. And we only distributed 46 pages of it other than to the department heads who had to get the rifle and get the location and get all the right stuff. Most of Showtime still hasn't seen the ending. Just the creatives and all of the PR publicity people have seen it, so that they can talk about it. If there were a Showtime building, which there isn't right now, because COVID, most of the building will not have seen it [until] Sunday night.

And we did the same thing at the end of Season 4, when the Trinity Killer killed Rita in the bathtub. And we kept that only on my computer. And Showtime had to come over and read it at the studios at Sunset Gower, read it in my computer and give notes, looking at my computer, because we couldn't let that get out anywhere. Until we were a couple of days before shooting, we had let the department heads know that we needed a bathtub, we needed blood and we needed a baby. We needed all this other stuff. So it was similar to that, so we had some experience in doing that.


Collider: One of the elements of the finale that is very touching is seeing Debra holding Dexter's hand as he passes. I would love to know when the idea for Debra being his new conscience came about because I really loved, but I was also happily surprised by, how much of Jennifer we got in the show. She and Michael have some really fantastic scenes together. And I loved how the camera would film her kind of breaking space a lot of the time, playing with that element a lot. So I was just curious as to when that idea came in the process and whether it changed based on her availability.

Clyde Phillips: It came right away and that we made sure she was available. When I went and pitched to Michael two and a half years ago now, that was in the pitch, and that we made sure she was available.

She elevated the set, when she was there. Michael and she are such good friends. You know their history, and they are such good friends. And she's such a great person that she would elevate and care about the crew. And one of the things we had to keep reminding ourselves all through the writing and the shooting is that she's imaginary. So you can't hold the door open for her. You can't pass her a teacup. And she made that her own in her own way. The idea at the end, I had them holding hands and then Dexter letting go. And then Jennifer said, "Can we try one where I'm pulling my hand away from Dexter, to see if it's more emotional? Let's try it." And of course, we said yes, and that's what we used. It was a great idea.

Collider: You mentioned that you had pitched to Michael two and a half years ago as of this point. I'm assuming you brought this and the ending to him. How much input did he have in the scripting process, or how much of it was a collaboration? Because I feel like Dexter is just as much him as it is the writing.

Clyde Phillips: Michael's an executive producer in the show, and it's not a vanity title. He's involved with everything. He's in our music Zooms. And he looks at all the cuts. He looked at the outlines. He looked at the scripts, gave notes on the outlines, gave notes on the scripts. Sometimes it was a story point. Often, Michael's note is, "Clyde, can I just say this with my face? Do I have to say this?"

Also, another thing is in the editing process, once we're done shooting — because we're all shooting, editing remotely. I was editing on Martha's Vineyard. And we'd see a moment where this could be a good moment for voiceover. And so, I would sit, and I would... Because I could do his voice. I would record it into my iPhone. I'd send it to the assistant editor. She would come [and] edit into the picture, send it to Michael. And if he liked it, he would record it and we'd have it three hours later. It was amazing. And so, Michael was very involved in casting. He did what we call the chemistry reads with the principles, with Julia Jones who played Angela, with Jack Alcott.

There's a scene in the first episode where Jim Lindsay sits down behind the counter at Fred's Fish & Game and spins in his chair the way he used to do it in the laboratory at the police station. That was Michael's idea. It was his idea at the moment. So there was no lead time. So next thing I know our amazing prop person, Jen Gerbino, got a chair there. And he's spinning it. And it's another one of these Easter eggs for the audience. They're all over the place. In fact, there are more Easter eggs in the show than I even know. I see stuff on social media, and they're saying, "Well, they used that name in Episode 3, Season 2. Here's a link to it." And we didn't even know it. We just used the same name twice. Over 10 years, you get to do that.

Collider: I was pleasantly surprised too, to see Batista back. We get some fun scenes with him and Julia, and then obviously the finale. Were any people that you thought about bringing back, but couldn't find a way to make it work?

Clyde Phillips: There weren't. We have Lithgow come back. And the way we got Lithgow is I just called him. He's a friend of mine, so I called him. And he said, "Clyde, I'll be there tomorrow, just say the word." And then David Zayas, who plays Batista ... Again, you have to remember a lot of the characters from the first eight seasons are dead. So there's not a lot of them that we could have brought back. And Batista was the most important one because of his relationship with LaGuerta and what he brings to ... as you saw, what he brings to the finale, I thought, was really important. I didn't want to just start throwing stuff and gimicking it up. You can cross that line. And I think we stayed on the dignified side of that line.


Collider: Is this the definitive end of Dexter, or are there any potential plans for a sequel, a Harrison show? Anything that you can talk about? Or is this it?

Clyde Phillips: Well, it is really Showtime's call. And speaking of calls, if they were to call me and say, "Look, this is a huge asset for Showtime." I think, and I underline the word think, I think Dexter is their number one asset. If they were to call me and say, "We want to do Harrison. Are you interested?" Much like when they called me to say, "We want to reboot Dexter, and you're the guy," I would drop everything to do it.

I mean, the show's hugely successful for them this season. And we're going to be getting some big numbers in January and all the people that DVR-ing the show so they can binge it. We're going to get a whole new set of numbers later in this month. And I think that could well be determinative in Showtime's decision. And if they want to do it, again, I got a lot of stuff going on, and I'll drop everything to do it.


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