It takes a bit of prodding, but eventually James Remar reveals a Dexter plot twist he just didn't like.
Remar, 59, is a character actor extraordinaire, with standout roles in The Cotton Club, 48 Hours, Sex and the City and two parts in Quentin Tarantino's recent hit, Django Unchained (he swears the two different hired guns he plays in the film — one gets killed at the beginning and one at the end — are not related).
Dexter fans know him as Harry Morgan, adopted father to pathological serial killer/forensic blood technician Dexter Morgan. Harry, who killed himself long ago, appears to Dexter as an embodiment of his inner logic, giving a flesh-and-blood reality to his inner conflicts.
And there was just one twist in the story of Harry Morgan, a cop who scooped a youthful Dexter up at a bloody crime scene and later taught him a "code" for only killing those who killed others, that Remar will admit rankled him.
When the writers revealed Harry had cheated with Dexter's biological mother.
"I never liked it; to be really honest, I didn't see him as that kind of guy," said the actor, who can come across as intense, even over the phone. "I had to go with it as much as I could and just accept the fact that he was a flawed human being."
As Dexter begins its eighth and final season Sunday, Remar continues what may be the most unusual supporting role in television. Not only does he play a ghostly sounding board for his homicidal son, it turns out Harry videotaped therapy sessions with a neuropsychologist discussing Dexter's code and status as a covert serial killer.
"I've always liked the idea of seeing some videotapes of Harry from the past, that a father could leave for his son," Remar said of the scenes, which pair him with standout English actor Charlotte Rampling, playing serial killer expert Dr. Evelyn Vogel.
As the season begins, much of the story centers on Harry's biological daughter and Dexter's sister Deb (played by Jennifer Carpenter, ex-wife of star Michael C. Hall). She's now crumbling under the guilt of having killed her superior in the Miami police force, Lauren Velez's Capt. Maria LaGuerta, after she guessed Dexter's true nature.
The "B" story centers on Dexter meeting Vogel and discovering her work with his father. Once again, Dexter gets a fresh look at his long-dead adopted father through the videotapes, lending more understanding to his own origins.
Ask Remar why we love such characters — serial killers, drug dealers and serial philanderers now star in shows considered among the best on TV — and he points to the way people idolized brutal leaders such as Hitler in their prime. "Human nature can fixate on pretty much anything, provided it satisfies some need," he said. "Michael's embodiment of Dexter, because he's so nice to watch, he's likable. The genius of Dexter is he was assigned a code of conduct where he killed people who won't be missed."
But don't dare suggest that Deb's anger at Dexter (she tells him "I shot the wrong person" the night she killed LaGuerta instead of him) is justified. "Debra made her own choices," Remar said, sounding like the Harry Morgan who Deb always felt favored Dexter in childhood. "You gotta look at these things as social commentary. Debra represents social conscience, law and order. Had she held to her oath, she should have called the police and reported him right away."
Which raises the question hanging over this final season: Will she eventually turn him in, anyway?
Remar can't say. But he will reveal another disagreement with producers: He wishes the series wasn't ending this year.
"I'd like it to go on forever," he said, laughing. "But this way, I wind up in TV heaven."