[SPOILER ALERT: The following interview features detailed talk about events that happened in tonight's episode of "Dexter."]
The sixth season of Showtime's hit series "Dexter" has only two episodes left to air and as the various story threads are wildly driving to the season finale, Executive Producer Scott Buck teased to us, "There's some big stuff we're setting up towards the end. It'll take two years to deal with." With a two-season renewal recently handed down from Showtime, Buck assured us that Dexter (Michael C. Hall) will continue on his journey of catching (and, as only Dexter can, punishing) serial killers while also working out some of his own personal demons.
First, however, our Jim Halterman talked with Buck about tonight's 'Ricochet Rabbit' episode as well as this season's religious arc, how they kept the secret on set about Edward James Olmos's Professor Gellar, how much of the colorful language of Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) is scripted and what Buck has to say about critics who say the series peaked with the John Lithgow-Trinity season.
Jim Halterman: Why was religion chosen to be the theme of the show this season?
Scott Buck: You know, I had looked at it just like Dexter, so it didn't necessarily begin with being about religion but beginning with what do you want to pass on to your kids? You don't think about that until you have kids and once you do have kids it becomes a big thing. So just putting myself in Dexter's place that was the thought that took hold. Dexter is someone who has always been an atheist [and] who's never even considered the idea that there might be something else out there. But then being hit with the idea, is that something that I really want to pass on to my son? Do I want to pass on simply nothing, a belief in nothing, or is it possible there's something more out there?
JH: And now who's the expert on your staff on the Book of Revelations since that's played such a big role?
SB: It's interesting because we have an extremely diverse staff as far as beliefs. We have everything from born again Christians to atheists to people of the Jewish belief to people who follow a more Eastern philosophy. Scott Reynolds was probably our 'go to' source as far as Biblical quotations, but we certainly all studied the Book of Revelations just so we could write about it as well.
JH: Specific to [tonight's 'Ricochet Rabbit'] episode, why was it important that Batista (David Zayas) be the one who gets captured at the end of the episode and not anybody else on the show?
SB: I think we chose Batista simply because he's probably the most beloved member of the department so it would just make it feel more urgent, I think rather than if anyone else was in that situation.
JH: Deb now knows that Matthews (Geoff Pierson) was involved with the prostitute's death but really can't - or shouldn't - go to LaGuerta (Lauren V�lez) since LaGuerta has been helping Matthews keep his involvement quiet. What's coming up?
SB: She's not going to just let it drop. She will follow up on this and it will go in a direction that is very unexpected for her. It does not necessarily go well.
JH: Deb's therapy sessions have been really compelling because it seems as she's getting to know herself better she's also getting closer and closer to a truth that we're all dying for her to find out. I'm curious where this is all leading...
SB: It's kind of a fun story for us and I think we do end it in a very satisfying, fun big way. We're not going to just toss this story aside. We're going in a very specific direction with this so, yes, it does definitely lead somewhere.
JH: Does Deb have a dark side that maybe we haven't seen yet? Maybe one that could be as dark as Dexter's or is that not possible?
SB: I would say not as dark as Dexter's but I think we all have a dark side which is why we all sort of like Dexter in a way because most of us lock our dark side away and don't act on it. Deb, I think, is just like the rest of us with a certain amount of darkness inside of her certainly.
JH: I love Deb's colorful language and frequent F-bombs. Is that a hundred percent scripted or does Jennifer sometimes throw her own spin on things?
SB: I would say it's 75 percent scripted. Occasionally something will land on her lap that she doesn't feel is right and she certainly has earned the right to come to us and say, 'That it doesn't sound right to me.' And we will always make those changes for her and she'll make changes sure.
JH: The whole 'Sixth Sense' thing with Edward James Olmos was a shocker for me. Unlike some, I did not see it coming...
SB: I know a lot of people did but hopefully that did not diminish the joy of Dexter's discovery.
JH: Talk to me about the choice that you were going to make that a part of this season and how tricky it was to pull off.
SB: You only see him through Travis' point of view. And it was an idea that came...we did not start out with that idea. We didn't want to do the typical one big bad guy so we started out with this team. And then it just seemed more interesting if we could parallel it to a little bit more to Dexter's own life. And we were just looking to do something a little different, a little more interesting than what we've done in previous years. And when one of the writers pitched that idea I just gravitated toward it and thought it would be a very smart fun way to do this season.
JH: How challenging was it to keep it a secret?
SB: Well a lot of people, you know there [were] a fair number of people who guessed early on and unfortunately now in the day of Internet it was posted all over but, of course, no one really knew so it was just guessing. But for us it was certainly a challenge [since] most of the people working on the show did not know it. Our directors did not know it. Only Edward James Olmos knew it so he had to be the caretaker of his character and make sure that he was not ever put in any situations that would contradict the fact that he only existed in Travis's head.
There was a scene in an earlier episode, I think episode four, where we see the two sitting in an outdoor cafe and as the director started to set up the shot, he had put a coffee in front of Edward as well and Edward started to drink from the coffee and then our writer of that episode, Lauren Gussis, quickly rushed up to him and whispered in his ear, 'Do you really think you should be doing that?' And he goes, 'No, no, no I shouldn't.' And that was the moment when the directors started to catch on, 'Oh there's a little more to this than I thought.'
And, of course, you know Colin Hanks was not even aware of it until we filled him in about episode eight what was going on simply because his character was not aware that this person didn't really exist and we didn't really want the actor to know that either. But there are others things Edward had to do. There's a scene inside Travis' apartment after Travis had had sex with that girl and you then see her tied up and Edward is standing right next to her. All he told the actress was, 'Whatever you do, don't look at me.' And so that was all it took for that scene but Edward had to be very careful throughout because he was the only one who really knew what was going on.
JH: The Trinity story came back up as well as the Ice Truck Killer this season. Why was it important to revisit those stories?
SB: There are a lot of loose ends still dangling on this show and we're not purposely ignoring them. Everything will be addressed in time but you can't just keep leaving things out there forever and then pretend they don't exist. So this was something that we wanted to tie up a little bit because there was someone out there who must know something odd about Dexter and about his bad character. And we also wanted to do something to get Dexter out of Florida and put him completely out of his element for an episode and it just seemed like a fun thing to do.
JH: Talking about the Trinity season (the series' fourth), was that season a tougher act to follow than you guys thought it might be? Entertainment Weekly had a piece recently where they basically said the Trinity season was the peak of the series.
SB: The series is not over yet so I think it raised the bar for us and I think to me it just sort of makes it more fun and more challenging to do. We've been picked up for two more years so I can't wait to start tackling these next two seasons and to try top the Trinity year in any possible way that we can. I mean we're not going to rest on that and let that be our peak; we're going to try and do the best possible show that we can.
JH: When you read something that basically says 'Oh, you guys peaked two years ago' is that something that you feel like you have to respond to or does it just kind of die there?
SB: No, I don't necessarily feel like I need to respond to it because my challenge is to always to do better and better and better and keep the viewer involved and always make the show compelling and occasionally that means mixing things up and sometimes that means going back to what the show is best at. I'm certainly aware of what some of the critics are saying and I do consider it. I don't ignore those things but it's hard to say exactly how they affect me because I'm always going to try and do the best possible show I can.
JH: In getting the two season renewal, did you have to arc out the next two seasons for yourself and the network?
SB: No, but it was necessary to make it clear that there were two years of life left in the show. The final year you can do all kind of big drastic things because it's your final year but in order to do two more years of show that's already gone six years, that's a very long run for a show like this, but it seemed like such a quirky show to begin with. We did have to make it clear that there was plenty of drama left in the show and not specifically arc anything out ahead of time but there were some conversations certainly.
JH: [Showtime head] David Nevins has said he sees season eight as the last season of the show. Do you see it that way?
SB: I think we're generally dramatically steering the show towards two years and out.
"Dexter" airs every Sunday at 9:00/8:00c on Showtime.