Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you haven't seen the Season 7 "Dexter" finale, titled "Surprise, Motherfucker!"
All season long, "Dexter" fans had a hunch that Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) would end up on Dexter's table. The theory started with the Season 7 premiere back in September, when LaGuerta -- Captain of Miami Metro Homicide -- found a blood slide at the scene of Travis Marshall's (Colin Hanks) murder that bared a striking resemblance to the blood slides kept by the famed Bay Harbor Butcher, Sgt. James Doakes (Erik King).
With each new episode, LaGuerta seemed to be getting closer to finally unmasking Dexter's "Dark Passenger," and fans expected a big showdown between Dexter and LaGuerta in the Season 7 finale. What many didn't expect, however, was that it would be Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) -- not Dexter -- who killed LaGuerta in order to protect her brother.
Below, actress Lauren Velez speaks exclusively about her character's shocking death, the emotional unscripted moments that made their way into last night's thrilling finale, what it was like having King back for the finale, and why it's safe to say that Deb is now a killer.
When did you first find out LaGuerta was going to get shot and that this would be the character’s final season?
I think I found out Season 7, Episode 9. I didn’t have a lot of time to get ready for it. It was shocking, but not surprising. I had a feeling all season -- from the very beginning when she was on Dexter’s trail -- that she was going to meet her maker.
A lot of fans also sensed that LaGuerta was in danger this season, but many of them thought -- or assumed -- that Dexter would be the one to kill her. Were you surprised that it ended up being Debra?
I was really surprised because Debra and LaGuerta always had this uneasy friendship. And it was sort of at times like a mentor kind of relationship. And even though they didn’t get along often times, I always felt like they had this very deep connection.
But in some ways, it was almost fitting that it was Debra and not Dexter, because Debra would do anything to protect her brother. And the thing about Dexter is that everyone -- with the exception of Doakes -- everyone at the station has this sort of protective thing about him. They think Dexter's such a good guy and I feel like Debra did what she had to do to protect not only her brother, but also the man that she was in love with. And even though Dexter was intending to do it himself, I don't think he was really going to do it. I really feel that he wouldn't have gone through with it and Debra had to do it so that he would have his hands clean of that death ... because LaGuerta didn't meet the code and Dexter only kills people who are bad. Debra killed the person that was going to bring him down and take him away from her for the rest of her life. Once she professed her love for him, we already saw all season that Debra would do anything to protect him. So to me, it seemed like she was the right choice.
Where do you think Deb goes from here? Is she a killer now, too, like Dexter?
Oh, she's absolutely a killer now. She has blood on her hands. Now she has this truly unholy alliance with Dexter. Where before they were just bound by their childhood together and being brother and sister, now it’s like a pact that they’ve made.
LaGuerta was a mentor for Deb throughout the seasons. They were the only girls in a boys club. How much do you think this murder will weigh on Debra’s conscience?
I think it's going to haunt her. I think it's absolutely going to haunt her. Because if you remember the first season, Debra was still in blues and LaGuerta promoted her to detective. I think absolutely it's going to weigh on her in more ways than she can even imagine.
You, Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter have been working together for seven years. What was it like shooting that emotional final scene with them?
It was really hard. It was really hard and so sad. And Jennifer really struggled with it. And that last bit where she runs and she embraces LaGuerta once she shoots her and she can't believe it -- that was very genuine and unscripted. And that came out of a real moment that I think she had not only as an actress, but also saying goodbye to the character and her disbelief that this is the end.
Did you and Jennifer talk about the scene after you shot it?
No, we actually didn't talk about it at all. We talked about it a lot beforehand, and we really bonded over it, because it was so difficult for both of us -- especially being the only two women on the show left since Rita (Julie Benz), who also met an untimely death. It was a really big deal for both of us and we were both scared and sad and heartbroken that this was the end of our working together and the end of the LaGuerta/Deb relationship.
What was your dynamic like with Jennifer Carpenter on set?
Her nickname is Skittles! [Laughs.] Jennifer and I have a song that we were working on for the last seven seasons and every season we came up with one sentence for the song ... we still haven’t finished it. But we always had a wonderful, wonderful relationship. I just think she is one of the most professional actresses I've ever worked with. She's always incredibly prepared, always ready, always in it. And it's always great to work with somebody like that.
It was one of the most touching moments of the episode when Deb ran to LaGuerta -- after shooting her -- and hugged her and sobbed. Were there any other moments like that where the actors improvised?
The one thing with LaGuerta -- and it was off-camera -- but I asked ["Dexter" executive producer] Scott Buck to add the line where LaGuerta says to Debra: “You’re not like him!” Because I really felt that was LaGuerta’s plea. And woman-to-woman she was just saying, "You're not this killer. I know you. And after all of these years together, I know you are not this. You're a good cop, you're a good person." That was one thing that I added.
Do you like the way LaGuerta went out?
I do. I thought it was really fitting. I feel it was the only way for her to go out. Had she just sort of left and been transferred somewhere else, I think it wouldn’t have been as satisfying. I think her picking up the trail where Doakes left off and really trying to bring justice was incredibly fulfilling and ultimately really satisfying to the character. She proved that she was willing to die for what she believed was right and what she believed was good, which was bringing down evil.
Do you think Debra and Dexter will have a hard time covering up LaGuerta’s murder next season?
I have no idea how they are going to figure this one out. The writers have always done a spectacular job of coming back and working out whatever happened the previous season. But it's going to be interesting to see what happens between Debra and Dexter and how it all resolves, and I really think that Angel Batista [David Zayas] -- who said he was retiring this season -- I don’t think he’s going to retire ... I really think he's going to come back and try to figure out what happened to LaGuerta.
Season after season, LaGuerta protected Dexter. Even when Quinn came to her with his theory that Dexter had ties to Trinity.
Even with Doakes -- the most important person in her life -- LaGuerta kept saying, "You are so wrong." And I think that's why she pursued this in this season with such a vengeance, because she had to exonerate him -- she had to clear Doakes' name and make herself whole. In some ways, LaGuerta always blamed herself for Doakes' death. If she had just listened to what he was saying, he might be alive.
What did you think of LaGuerta's arc this season?
I was really happy with the trajectory, because she always believed that Doakes was innocent. She knew it, she intuited it, she knew there was something that was so wrong about this. And it changed everything she felt about Dexter. Because in the very beginning, she was so protective of him and when she recognized him for the killer that he was, she completely shifted gears and the only thing she could think of was, "I don't care what it costs -- and it may cost me my life -- but he's going down."
It's a wonderful arc because, all along, we've always thought that LaGuerta was this manipulative political animal and she was, but at the end of he day, she wanted to be a good cop and she was a good person. Everything that she said to Debra --"You're not like him, you're a good cop and a good person" -- LaGuerta was on the side of right. And that was the most important thing to her.
It’s sad that after protecting Dexter all of those years -- and being in his corner -- he's the one who led to LaGuerta's death.
Oh my God. It’s so tragic. But again, these two people -- Doakes and LaGuerta -- both knew the truth about him. And they were willing to die for it. Dexter is a serial killer and yes, he's loveable and he kills only bad people, but at the end of he day, both of them were just cops. And they decided to take an oath to protect and serve and that oath was bigger than both of them.
Your pal Erik King was back on last night’s episode for the first time since Season 2. What was it like having Doakes back at Miami Metro?
Oh my gosh. It was unbelievable! From the moment he appeared on set, it made the entire experience complete. He just brought back this wonderful, incredible energy that I feel, in some ways, we've been missing since the Doakes character was killed off. And it was a wonderful sort of complete circle.
[Check out an exclusive photo of Velez and King on set below.]
So those were all new scenes?
Those were new scenes! Which is really fun trying to go back to who those characters were five years ago.
Do you think that LaGuerta and Doakes are in heaven together?
[Laughs.] I like to think that they're in heaven together. I like that. Drinking some mojitos!
Who do you think will replace LaGuerta as Captain?
Oh, that's an interesting question. Masuka [C.S. Lee]! Wouldn't that be hilarious?
Was there an actor on the show this season that you didn't get to have scenes with, but wanted to?
I didn’t get to work with Ray Stevenson [Isaak Sirko] at all and that would've been great! And Yvonne Strahovski [Hannah McKay]. I thought she did really wonderful work and it was very compelling. I would've loved to work with her.
What was it like working with Michael C. Hall for seven years?
It was just great. Michael is such a great guy. He's wonderfully professional and I think what people don't know about him is that he's just got this wonderful sense of humor -- he's sometimes just like a kid. And that's just such a delightful thing. It's funny because we actually all got together as a cast for the first time outside of any kind of professional thing -- we got together for a send-off for LaGuerta and the result of it was making this hilarious little video clip for my next project, which is about La Lupe. It's just this great little clip and you can see in it how much fun we had together. That was the best send off they could've given me.
[Watch the La Lupe/LaGuerta send-off video below]
Is there a show on television at the moment that you’d love to work on?
I'm addicted to "Homeland!” I think it’s brilliant. And next, I'm going to do a project about La Lupe, the Queen of Latin Soul. It's a biopic about a Cuban singer. And after that, I'm going to do Shakespeare in the Park! It's something that I've been wanting to do for a really long time and I've never been able to do it, because "Dexter" generally shoots during the summer.
Do you think the show will pick up some Emmy nominations next year?
I hope so. [Laughs.]