Would you think less of me if I told you I just got off the phone with Julie Benz and tears are streaming down my face?
If so, I'm clearly joking as I am the consummate professional journalist, thankyouverymuch.
Many Dexter fans are still struggling to come to terms with what was possibly the most shocking death we've ever seen on television last Sunday.
As Jennifer Carpenter (Deb) advised, you will need therapy after this finale, and really, who better to get it from than Julie Benz herself? Especially when she hints that—stop the presses—one option for next season may be to jump forward in time? Hmmmm...!
Read on for a scoopy little one-on-one therapy session with Julie, as she takes you through the five stages of grief...
"I've been living with news of [Rita's death] a lot longer than everybody else, so I'm in a different place in the grieving process over Rita than everyone else. I really have been grieving Rita, and what she stands for for Dexter, but I do have acceptance."
STAGE 1, DENIAL: Is there any chance Rita is alive? Was it a dream? That she'll be back as a ghost?
"There has been no talk of me coming back to the series in any way. A lot of people have been begging me to tell them that I'm going to come back, and I'm like, 'Rita's dead!' Rita is dead and Trinity killed her. There's all these theories that Dexter did it, or Deb snuck in and did it, but I don't think it could get any more obvious that Trinity killed Rita. Rita is dead. And there has been no talk of Rita being a ghost. No one's approached me about coming back."
STAGE 2, ANGER: Why, why, why? Why Rita? And why did her death have to be so horrifying? She deserved better! What were the writers thinking?
"It is tough, and my first reaction was, 'You're killing the mother of the show! You're killing the woman who's suffered more violence than anybody!' She suffered more violence than Dexter ever suffered. Dexter witnessed the death of his mother, but he didn't suffer any physical violence. Rita was beaten and raped by an ex-husband on a regular basis, and yet she still has this innocence and sweetness about her.
"And the death was such a graphic image. I think that's why everyone has such a physical reaction to it. When they first told me I was dying, they didn't tell me how I was dying, and I thought I was going to be the jumper off the building, which for some reason isn't as graphic. I did feel anger about them taking this innocent, sweet woman in such a violent and terrifying way—which we know from the woman in the bathtub in the first episode.
"And with the baby. All of us were on the set, and we know we're making a TV show, but you see a little baby and fake blood, and it was still a very disturbing image. But it's a poetic way to go, poetic of course, because it's a direct reflection of Dexter as a child and there's poetry in that if you can get past that, which I think is what they were going for."
STAGE 3, BARGAINING: If we don't get more Julie Benz on this show, can we get her on another awesome TV show?
"That's the question, isn't it? There are rumors out there that I left Dexter for a film career—I did not leave Dexter. I don't know anybody in their right mind that would choose to leave Dexter. I did not choose to leave. I love being on television, especially a show like Dexter. I love FlashForward, Grey's Anatomy, Mad Man, 30 Rock. I'd love to be a part of a show where they don't think it's cool to kill me!"
STAGE 4, DEPRESSION: How did the cast react to the news you were leaving?
"There were a lot of tears the whole last week. When I found out, I called Jennifer [Carpenter] right as I was leaving the offices, and she thought I was playing a joke. She couldn't believe it. She was shocked. And then the producers told the rest of the cast because after telling Jennifer I just said I can't do it. It's too hard. I get really emotional thinking about it. It was my family and my favorite place to go every day.
"I relate it to Cinderella and she's at the ball and she's having the time of her life. But it's midnight and she has to leave even though the ball is still going on. It doesn't change her experience because she enjoyed every minute of it but it is time to go home and that is sad."
STAGE 5, ACCEPTANCE: How do you feel about Rita's death now? Do you think it will serve a greater purpose?
"When you make a bold move to kill off a main character, and a bold move to kill off the mother of a newborn, it's a fifty-fifty shot, and kudos to them for taking that risk. So many other shows, so many other networks would have shied away from it. I really hope that it pays off, because I would really hate to see Rita's death be in vain and to lose viewers. I hope it catapults the show to a whole other level. I hope it opens the story up to so much more drama. I hope it opens Dexter up to finally releasing the Dark Passenger within him—let's see the monster that he really is.
"So I have acceptance. In the long run of Dexter, I think it's opening up season five for amazing stuff. As sad as it is that Rita's gone, it's just going to catapult the show into a whole other area. Creatively, it's a brilliant decision."
Final thoughts? And what will happen to Harrison?
"It's been such a great four-year run. I know there are a lot of people saying they won't watch this show anymore, but please just watch. I will be tuning in because I am deeply concerned for my children.
"I assume Astor and Cody will go with their grandparents, but what about Harrison? I know that one option is to have them jump ahead in time. They have the option of taking the story creatively wherever they want. But of course I worry about Harrison. The first thing I said when they told me about Rita's death was, 'What about the children?!' I felt like a real mother, and I will be tuning in to make sure that Harrison is taken care of."
So how exactly would a time jump work? Would you like the series to pick up with Harrison as, say, a teenager? Or is it best to make Dexter the single father of a newborn? Or ship Harrison off to a foster home? Is there another option we haven't thought of yet? Of course there is. Comment below with your thoughts on season five and how much you will miss Julie...
Be sure to get both John Lithgow's and show runner Clyde Phillips' takes on Rita's death in our exclusive interviews.