Sarah Michelle Gellar joins Dexter prequel because everything old is new again

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Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
The original 2006 series of Dexter.
The original 2006 series of Dexter. Credit: Showtime

Buffy’s Sarah Michelle Gellar is the latest star to sign onto the Dexter prequel in the works.

The series is to be called Dexter: Original Sin and will follow the misadventures of a young Dexter Morgan as a newbie in the Miami police department, as well as a relatively green serial killer.

The series will be set in 1991, about 15 years before the original 2006 series. Fans might recognise 1991 as the year Dexter had his “first kill”, a nurse who was slowly poisoning his adoptive dad, Harry. The flashback scene was included in the third episode of the first season.

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The core series featured many scenes of Dexter remembering Harry’s guidance in channelling his urge to kill into a code where he only dispatched wrongdoers. The prequel will likely lean into these story beats.

The original showrunner, Clyde Phillips, will lead Dexter: Original Sin, which is expected to stream on Paramount+.

The young Dexter will be portrayed by Irish actor Patrick Gibson, who takes over from Michael C. Hall. Gibson is best known for his role on Shadow and Bone as Nikolai, as well as on The OA and in the Australian streaming film The Portable Door.

Patrick Gibson in The White Princess.
Patrick Gibson in The White Princess. Credit: Starz

The two biggest stars to join the series so far have been Christian Slater, who will play the younger version of Harry (James Remar had the role in the 2006 series), and Grey’s Anatomy’s Patrick Dempsey, who will be a new character created for the prequel, Captain Aaron Spencer.

Gellar is slated to have a special guest star role as the boss of Dexter’s department, CSI chief Tanya Martin. She posted on Instagram a picture of her copy of the script of the pilot episode which was written by Phillips and is to be directed by Michael Lehmann.

Gellar is most closely associated with her role as Buffy in the iconic 1990s series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

She had also appeared in a raft of movies from that era, including I Know What You Did Last Summer and Cruel Intentions. More recently, Gellar played a school principal in Do Revenge, a 2022 ode to 90s teen movies. She has also starred in the supernatural show Wolf Pack.

Sarah Michelle Gellar stars in Wolf Pack.
Sarah Michelle Gellar stars in Wolf Pack. Credit: PARAMOUNT+/MTV ENTERTAINMENT INC.

The series will also feature four other characters who are younger versions of their counterparts in the original series, including Maria LaGuerta (Christina Milian now, Lauren Velez previously), Angel Batista (James Martinez, taking over from David Zayas), Vince Masuka (Alex Shimizu, replacing C.S. Lee).

Molly Brown (Senior Year, Billions) will play Deborah Morgan, Dexter’s adoptive sister who had a thorny dynamic with her at least not-biological brother because she was romantically in love with him.

Jennifer Carpenter played the character in the 2006 series. For three years during Dexter’s run, Carpenter and Hall were married.

The original 2006 series of Dexter.
The original 2006 series of Dexter. Credit: Showtime

Dexter: Original Sin follows the 2021 series Dexter: New Blood. That show picked up the story of Dexter years after the first show’s finale in 2013 in which Debra had died and he had faked his death. The final shot of the series sees Dexter as a lumberjack somewhere far from the sunny climes of Florida.

Dexter: New Blood found the character in a small town in upstate New York, 10 years later. He had not killed anyone at that time but his urges (dubbed “the dark passenger” in the lore) are stirred when his estranged son Harrison finds him.

The sequel series ran for 10 episodes and marked the end of Hall’s involvement with the show. Dexter — SPOILER — was killed off by Harrison in the finale. A planned second season focused on Harrison was scuttled in favour of the prequel.

Dexter: Original Sin was revealed in February 2023 when its former network Showtime was merged into parent company Paramount’s streaming brand, Paramount+.

At the time, the studio also flagged that other Dexter spin-offs were being considered, including one centred on one of the show’s most memorable villains, the Trinity Killer, played by John Lithgow in a chilling and effective performance.

Exploiting the Dexter intellectual property, adapted from a series of eight books by Jeff Lindsay, is part of Paramount’s streaming strategy as studios, networks and streamers look to familiarity and “sure bets” during a period of contraction across the industry.

Paramount+ appeared especially keen on reviving the titles from Showtime’s halcyon days of the noughties when it had several zeitgeisty series on the air. There was talk of another L Word spin-off, set in New York.

Not long after the Dexter prequel was revealed, rumours emerged that the network was also looking to bring back legacy series, Weeds and Nurse Jackie.

PR Art of the Showtime original series BILLIONS (Season 2, Gallery). - Photo:  James Minchin/SHOWTIME - Photo ID:  BILLIONS_S2_PRArt_02.R    Pictured:  Damian Lewis as Bobby "Axe" Axelrod and Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades
There are four Billions spin-offs in development. Credit: James Minchin/James Minchin/SHOWTIIME

A Weeds follow-up has been teased on and off since the Mary-Louise Parker series ended. In 2019, Starz announced a sequel was in development, which would follow the Botwins 10 years down the track, but nothing eventuated.

A Nurse Jackie sequel has moved ahead but it’s shifted streamers from Paramount+ to Amazon Prime Video. Star Edie Falco will return as the pill-popping careworker who, 10 years later, has lost her nursing licence. The show will be written by Liz Flahive (GLOW) and Abe Sylvia (Palm Royale).

Paramount was confirmed to be developing up to four spin-offs based on Billions, one of Showtime’s most successful series. The show was set in the high-stakes and big personalities world of New York finance with Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti as the top-billed of the 2016 drama.

One of the mooted spin-offs was to be set in Miami and in the world of private jets, as well as another called Billions: London. The fourth was to shift into another gear, called Trillions.

Between Dexter, Nurse Jackie, The L Word, Billions and potentially Weeds, the new line-up at Paramount+ looks a lot like the old one at Showtime.

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