The fifth season of "Dexter" belonged to Jennifer Carpenter.
Following a fourth season that brought a supporting actor win for John Lithgow and a nomination for star Michael C. Hall (Carpenter's former husband), Season 5 focused more on Carpenter's Deborah and her refusal to realize her brother is a serial killer. An Emmy nod this year would be Carpenter's first.
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Carpenter carried all of last season's angst about the search for a team of men who murder women – and the vigilante duo killing the killers. She tracked down the duo – Dexter and an avenging victim (Julia Stiles), but decided to let them go without seeing their faces. Her decision narrowly prevented her, yet again, from finding out the truth about Dexter.
The decision to let the pair go, Carpenter says, felt "out of character." But she justified it by remembering that Deb had been abducted herself, and had seen video of the men's crimes.
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"We all act out of character from time to time," she told TheWrap. "And grow from it, hopefully."
One thing she may not be able to justify much longer? Deb's not figuring out Dex. Carpenter told us that realization is "due" – maybe in the upcoming sixth season, which features rapper Mos Def, Colin Hanks, Edward James Olmos, and a plot involving religion.
Do you feel like your character is the moral center of the show?
That's a heavy burden I guess… but I certainly feel like she's the heart of it, and adds a lot of balance and adds a lot of insight into just how dysfunctional Dexter is, considering that they came from the same family.
She certainly holds tight to her morals. She's a cop and feels like she has a great understanding of what's right and wrong, and by honoring that she's honoring the legacy of her father, which seems to matter most to her.
Deb may be the smartest person on the show, yet she can't see what her brother is doing. Do you ever go to the writers and say, "My character is too intelligent to not figure this out?"
I have a tool that helps me justify her not knowing and it's worked for me up to this point. I feel like it's due. But I feel like because Dexter is her only connection to her past she doesn’t look too closely. And it's always the wife or the parents with the son living in the basement — the people who were closest to the person doing the horrible things — who are in the dark.
There are plenty of distractions going on in that [police] office to keep me focused on something else. I think she has all the pieces but she wouldn’t dare put them together. Yet. This season I don't know if the tool's going to be enough for me anymore. But we'll see.
He's odd. He's always been odd. He comes from a really difficult situation and I've learned more about that. The fact that he and his brother were trapped in a shipping container watching their mother be killed with a chainsaw. Isn't that enough? Do I have to look at it further and come up with the fact that he's a serial killer, too? That's an excuse you could ride for a long period of time and I willingly let him ride it.
Last season Deb caught Dexter and Julia Stiles' character, Lumen, without seeing who they were, and decided to let them go. Since she released those vigilantes, is it possible she would be okay with Dexter killing people, too?
I had a really hard time justifying that moment. And I still have a hard time justifying that moment. Would I be okay with it if I found out Dexter was a serial killer? I don’t know. I'm glad it's not up to me. I feel that that decision is in the writers' capable hands and they will justify it, and it will be the hardest thing I've ever played but I look forward to doing it. Is there room for it? Certainly. My instinct today is she would put her handcuffs on him. But it changes from day to day.
If you caught him, it could have been the end of the story. When you've been that close to catching him, how much longer can the show go on?
The writer's room is operating where the best idea wins. Each of them are powerhouses of talent of their own. And what little I'm hearing is as exciting as it's ever been. … You're really getting into the guts of everybody this year.
How do you feel about your Emmy chances?
I feel like I've been really lucky in my life. Just being allowed to work. And I have learned an immense amount and I'm incredibly committed to this show and this part.
I have so many people in my life that I would love to thank publicly, but I thank them privately all the time.