John Lithgow Initially Turned Down ‘Dexter’

Dexter came back! The iconic, witty, and often violent horror series ran for eight seasons on Showtime from 2006 to 2013. Then it celebrated a 10-part revival, Dexter: New Blood, in late 2021. Michael C. Hall adeptly played the titular character alongside John Lithgow as Arthur Mitchell, aka Season 4’s antagonist, the Trinity Killer.

Lithgow won a Golden Globe and a Primetime Emmy award for portraying the deacon-by-day/serial-killer-by-night character. The 76-year-old actor’s accolades for playing Mitchell might never have happened if his agent and lawyer didn’t get on his case about it.

‘Dexter’ director Clyde Phillips and producer John Goldwyn really, really, really wanted John Lithgow

When they pitched the role of the Trinity Killer to Lithgow, showrunners Clyde Phillips and John Goldwyn said way more than they should have, as Lithgow told GQ. The two men shooed Lithgow’s agent out of the room and told him the entire plot of Season 4 with the Trinity Killer. This included the final twist in the end where Mitchell kills Dexter’s wife and leaves their son, Harrison, in a pool of her blood, which factors into the revival series.

Lithgow had a lengthy conversation with them. He even asked, “Okay, what happens to the baby?” Lithgow kept prodding to get more information about his character.

Even though Phillips and Goldwyn spilled the beans — and swore him to secrecy, which Lithgow fulfilled — about the entire character arc, the thespian turned them down.

John Lithgow’s agent and lawyer talked him into the Trinity Killer role

John Lithgow holds his Emmy for his work on Dexter
John Lithgow holds his Emmy for his work on Dexter | Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

During his interview with the showrunners, Lithgow realized they were trying to convince him to take the part. Despite getting the low-down and receiving “way much more information than” Dexter’s showrunners had intended, the actor turned them down. 

“Having heard all of that, I said ‘no’. I won’t tell anybody about this, but no, I’m not doing that. Then my agent and my lawyer got on my case and said, ‘John, you gotta do this.’ So I said yes, and had a great time doing it.”

Fans of Dexter would agree that Lithgow had a great time performing his role. He’s perfect as he plays a man constantly on the edge until he can’t take it anymore by the Season 4 finale. Dexter’s fascination with the man costs him dearly, though. In 2010, Lithgow with an Emmy Award for Best Oustanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.

John Lithgow returned for ‘Dexter: New Blood’

The actor told GQ, “I met all these wonderful actors in Dexter, this whole company of actors, they had all this information kept from them! So I was the only person who knew.” Lithgow was truthful about keeping the Season 4 secrets under wraps.

He must have enjoyed the actors on the original series so much that he agreed to come back for the 10-episode revival despite Dexter killing Mitchell at the end of Season 4.

Thanks to the power of flashbacks from Harrison, Dexter’s son, the Trinity Killer appears in a brief scene in episodes 7 and 9. These flashbacks would be Dexter’s undoing in the finale, in which his son kills him because Harrison is still haunted by his mother’s death at the hands of the Trinity Killer.

Will Lithgow return for future ‘Dexter’ spinoffs?

Well, never say never. Lithgow, despite his enthusiasm for the series, hasn’t said what, if any, spinoffs are coming. Phillips, the show’s director, said he would love to do another spinoff, but it’s up to Showtime to determine that.

If there are any more seasons of Dexter on the horizon, it will have to focus on his son, Harrison. Will he take up his father’s family business? Or will he fight his demons? There is one plot element from the original series that may play a part here.

Jonah Mitchell, the last surviving child of the Trinity Killer, might still be out there. Jonah had a penchant for murder because he killed his mother in the same way Arthur Mitchell killed his victims. Perhaps we’ll see some flashbacks of Jonah’s in a 10-part series that shows how Harrison takes up where his father left off. Jack Alcott, who played Harrison, enthusiastically said he’d be down for playing Harrison in a spinoff series.

Dexter fans can’t wait.

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