“I love playing her because I learn a lot from her. She sort of acts without thinking, which is a luxury that I don’t really have. I like that she is always operating from her gut. I really admire her. She’s good at her job and she’s relentless about making sure her personal life is in tact. She does a lot of work on herself as a woman, as a friend, as a sister, and as an aunt.”
Jennifer Carpenter in a December 2011 interview for Parade.com.
In a few short weeks, on September 30th, the new season of Showtime’s critically lauded hit series “Dexter” will return for its seventh season. Fellow fans that I’ve spoken with are anxiously waiting, as am I, to find out what fate will befall the show’s main character portrayed by actor Michael C. Hall. The subject of this week’s short, but I hope informative blog is not, however, about the series. Instead of speculating on what the writers of the series have dreamed up for the new season, I am focusing on actress Jennifer Carpenter, who plays the multi-dimensional, foul-mouthed character of Dexter’s sister, Deborah Morgan. Her character has evolved over the seasons from police officer, to detective, to becoming the Lieutenant of the Miami Metro Homicide division. No matter what her position on the force, she has always proven herself to be an extremely dedicated, hard working, and persevering character, who, in this blogger’s opinion, draws the viewer into caring about more than just which cretin will be the next to be executed on Dexter’s table.
Carpenter was born Jennifer Leann Carpenter in Louisville, Kentucky, on December 7, 1979. While attending Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, it was during her junior and senior years of high school, that she first received formal training when she studied drama at the Walden Theatre Conservatory. While at Walden, she appeared in the Conservatory’s production of William Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the role of Helena. It was during those formative years that Carpenter fell in love with acting and made up her mind that she had no interest in pursuing a career in anything else. Her decision to study acting might have been shaped years earlier by the actions of her aunt. According to Carpenter, her aunt, who used to babysit for her and her sister, would drop them off at acting auditions when they were young children, in the hope that, if the auditions panned out, the people in charge of the production would watch the siblings during rehearsal time.
After high school graduation, Carpenter attended the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City. While at Juilliard, she made her Broadway debut playing the character of Mary Warren in a revival of Arthur Miller’s iconic play “The Crucible.” After leaving the bright lights and big city of New York in 2002, she made her way to the epicenter of where film magic happens, Los Angeles, California. Despite her drive and determination, she wound up waiting tables for the better part of a year. Eventually, she began to get work in movies such as “D.E.B.S,” and the Keenen Ivory Wayans directed film “White Chicks.” Before she landed the role of Dexter Morgan’s sister Deborah in 2006, she was cast in “Queen B,” a television series co-staring Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) and directed by Danny Devito (Taxi). Fox ultimately passed on the project, so the show never progressed beyond the pilot episode. Sad news for Carpenter at the time, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for those of us who are devotees of Dexter. Carpenter has completely embodied the role of Deborah Morgan for all six seasons of the series, and personally speaking, this blogger can’t imagine anyone else in the role. The first time I became fully aware of Carpenter and her acting prowess was in 2005 when I went to see the movie “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” As an aside, it was actress Laura Linney, (The Truman Show) who Carpenter worked with on “The Crucible,” that recommended her to director Scott Derrickson (Sinister) for the part. She gives a completely unsettling performance as the demonically possessed Emily in a role that is physically brutal. A starring role in the 2008 horror film “Quarantine,” a guest spot on the television series “The Good Wife,” and a small role in the film “Gone,” are among the projects that have helped to fill the gaps while Dexter is not filming.
The seventh season of Dexter hasn’t begun yet, but the eighth season will reportedly be its last, so what will life hold in store for Jennifer Carpenter after the series finale? She won both the 2006 MTV Movie Award for Best Frightened Performance and the Scream Awards 2006 Breakout Performer Award. In 2009, at the 35th Annual Saturn Awards, which honors the best films and television shows in the fantasy, horror, and science-fiction genres, Carpenter earned the award for Best Supporting Actress on Television for “Dexter.” Once Dexter has finished its run, it is inconceivable that this fine actress will not be offered other outstanding roles, and as to what other awards she’ll be able to garner, that is anyone’s guess – a Golden Globe? an Oscar? In this blogger’s opinion, she unquestionably has the talent to reach those heights.