Mike G, walking in the footsteps of a serial killer, on the set of Dexter

My friend Mike G sent around a photo a few days ago of himself on the set of the Showtime series Dexter. I’ve never seen the show, as I don’t think think that rooting for a protagonist that happens to be a serial killer would contribute toward making me a happier, more optimistic person, but, as I’ve always fantasized about being able to walk onto the set of a well-known television show, I immediately wrote to Mike, asking for the details. What follows is his response, accompanied by a few of the photos that he snapped while on the set.

In 1993, I was enrolled in the art school at Eastern Michigan University and working for a local home health agency doing direct care for developmentally disabled adults, a job that I kept for a good part of ten years.

While working for the home health agency, I met a part of the Reynolds family, a brother-sister duo who had many siblings through natural and adoptive means. Scott was two years older than me, and Jennifer was the same age. Like me, they were working their way through college by preparing meals, passing out medications, and wiping soiled behinds. Even though we hit it off from the beginning, dealing with difficult/trying situations has a way of solidifying relationships, and, almost twenty years later, we’re still friends. “Forever-friends,” as Jen likes to call us.

Scott was an aspiring actor who was studying dramatic arts and actively participating in shows on campus. As far as I could tell, he was pretty good. He tried to get me on stage as well, but my phobias made sure I wasn’t going to have anything to do with it.

After college, Scott married and moved out to LA to get acting work. Until he could convince someone to put him in front of a camera, he got work as a staff writer on Touched by an Angel. He did that for a few years and then got a big break! An offer came in for him to work on a new military drama called E-Ring (the title referring to outermost ring of the Pentagon.) The show starred Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper. Unfortunately this show struggled and was dropped after its first season.

The demise of that show led Scott to working as a staff writer on the Showtime series Dexter. He gradually moved up the chain until he achieved his current position as producer of the series. A lot of hard work and lots of talent got him where he is today.

Not being a big fan of television, I hadn’t seen any of the Dexter series until I promised him I’d start watching back episodes during the fifth season. It took me all of two weeks to get up to speed. I was an instant fan of the show and quickly organized viewing parties each week.

Scott has invited me repeatedly to visit the set of the show, but my timing was always off and I was never in town while they were actively working. Recently the stars aligned and I finally got on set, inviting my celebrity-blogger friend (Pink is the New Blog) and mega Dexter fan, Trent Vanegas who is also a Michigan native living in LA.

On the day of our studio visit, they were shooting a scene with nudity so the set in use was closed to everyone who wasn’t essential to the shoot. Bummer. That setback didn’t mean that we couldn’t run around like fan-boy geeks sitting on couches, rummaging through desk drawers, and climbing on boats though.

On the sets, the thing that stuck me the most was the amount of detail that set designers put into everything. Each set was simply amazing. From children’s drawings on the refrigerator to award plaques on the walls, nothing is overlooked. Everyday life and personality is referenced everywhere. The other thing that was immediately obvious to both Trent and me was that everything looked a LOT smaller in person than it does on TV. Dexter’s kitchen is tiny when compared to my memory of the show. So is the police station. Even the boat seemed smaller than I expected it to be.

After visiting the sets and satisfying our photographic needs, we went off to grab a bite to eat and absorb the awesomeness of what we had just experienced. We also posted obligatory teaser photos on Facebook to brag about it. It’s my plan to visit again, only this time I’ll be sure to bring better camera equipment.

First of all, how cool is it to hear about an EMU grad going off to make it as a successful producer in Hollywood? (I just hope that, as a result of this post, he’s not suddenly beset by folks from the EMU Development Office.)

Oh, and I think I might give Dexter a shot now. Knowing that it’s filmed in the same studio where such classics as The Facts of Life and Silver Spoons were brought to life, intrigues me. (While murder is never good, I’ll admit that the thought of it taking place on the same stage where Edna Garret once dished out heart-felt life lessons to the likes of Molly and Tootie, gives me a perverse thrill… Wouldn’t it be cool if they could somehow do a time traveling cross-over episode, where Dexter came to school as a science teacher, or something? Or, better yet, what if he did away with Blair Warner before she could give the other girls hits of that “marijuana cigarette” that she carried around in her hollowed-out lipstick?) Also, for what it’s worth, I can totally see how, after having written for Touched by an Angle, one might gravitate toward something like Dexter. It makes perfect sense to me, especially given the religious undertones that I’ve been told run through the Showtime series.

If you want to see the rest of the photos that Mike took while on his tour of the set, I believe his Facebook album is open to the public. Or, at least, he told me to direct people there.

update: It doesn’t have anything to do with Dexter, but, for those of you who find yourselves desperately wanting to know more about Mike G, I’d suggest starting with this video of his parents.

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16 Comments

  1. b
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    so jealous i may have to kill him (joke)….

  2. Eel
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Mark, does it hurt that your friends invite other bloggers on excursions like this?

  3. dirtgrain
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Nice story Mike. Thanks.

  4. Edward
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I would contribute $100 toward an effort to get Dexter, in this upcoming season, to kill Blair Warner. But why stop there? Why not an entire season of him hunting down the actresses from the Facts of Life?

  5. Mike G!
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    To be fair, Trent lives in LA, knows all about the industry, and he’s a huge fan of Dexter. If Gov Snyder invited me to walk around the capital with him, I’d invite Mark – who would have many more intelligent questions to ask of him than I would.

    …now that I think on it, I don’t think I’d have ANY intelligent questions to ask of the governor.

  6. Mike G!
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and thanks for giving me the honor of appearing on your blog, Mark. I miss the experience and it’s made me want to get back into the blogosphere to talk about inane, inconsequential things like Spiderman Snuggies again.

  7. b
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    i like stories about spiderman snuggies…

  8. Knox
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    If Dexter were to seek out and dispose of Lisa Welchel, the actress who played Blair Warner on The Facts of Life, I’d suggest that he drown her in hot sauce. Given her history, it would be appropriate.

    http://www.nospank.net/n-m92r.htm

  9. Elf
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    This is for Mike G.

    http://www.okcenemies.com/post/24212685498

  10. Meta
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of religion on Dexter, the following comes from NPR:

    Every season Dexter confronts a soul brother, another serial killer. The difference between Dexter and his victims is that he has tamed his “dark passenger,” the killer instinct that drives him relentlessly to murder. Maybe “tamed” is too strong a word. He has compromised, turning his killer instinct into a force for the good. Or, at least, he’s turned it into a force for justice where ordinary justice has failed.

    This season is particularly interesting. For the first time, Dexter, an atheist who bases his actions on a logical, deductive approach, faces faith; the killers are acting in the name of their own distorted version of Christian faith, and believe to be completely justified. Their role is to bring the end of the world by precipitating the actions depicted in Revelation. Clearly, the show is a parody of faith-based murders that have stained the history of civilization, and still do. In particular, it skewers apocalyptic sects, a topic I examined in my book The Prophet and the Astronomer: Apocalyptic Science and the End of the World.

    In a conversation between Dexter and Brother Sam, an ex-con turned-earnest-preacher, the issues are laid bare. Brother Sam says: “I can’t prove to you that God exists; but science can’t prove that God doesn’t exist either.”

    There you have it, the age-old argument between science and religion: the faithful claiming that you can only find God in ways that exist beyond the plane of scientific deductive thinking, while putting the burden of proof on the scientist, pointing out that science is good at proving what does exist, but has little to say about what doesn’t.

    An atheist would reverse the argument and state that the burden of proof is on the believer. “If you are sure God exists, then prove it to me. I can’t find any evidence.”

    Carl Sagan used to apply a similar logic to the question of extraterrestrial alien life when he said that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Quite often his quote is misused to explain why science can’t say anything about God: the fact that we have no “evidence” cannot be used to disprove His existence.

    There is, however, a very crucial difference between using science to prove the existence of aliens and using it to prove the existence of gods. Aliens, weird as they might be, still follow the laws of nature, being creatures with a biochemistry and metabolic rates. They can interact with our sensors and thus be detected. Gods, on the other hand, are, by definition, beyond the laws of nature: they don’t interact physically with sensors and other detecting devices scientists may use to find out what’s “out there.”

    At the crux of this argument is a fundamental incompatibility between scientific and faith-based reasoning. In a sense, Brother Sam’s logic says it all: to those who believe in supernatural presences in the world, a scientific discourse is useless. This may answer a question Dexter asked himself, which went something like, “you’d expect that in an age of science people would stop believing in the supernatural; but that’s clearly not happening.” Essentially, to the faithful, science has very little to say when it comes to the existence of God. They may take antibiotics and send email with their iPads, and they may find the pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope really amazing, but that’s about where it stops. When it comes to ultimate questions, religion has the upper hand.

    You would expect that some sort of pacific coexistence could be achieved, whereby the faithful and the non-faithful agreed to disagree about their beliefs and ways of dealing with reality and life. If you believe in God go on ahead believing, and if you don’t, don’t. Unfortunately, the two worldviews clash too often in everyday life, leading to serious political, educational and even life-threatening disputes.

    The separation of state and church should take care of some of this. In practice, it doesn’t. Things get contentious when religion attempts to influence public policy or school curricula. (Of course, the faithful would perceive this as from a mirror, saying that things get contentious when atheists try to control what their kids should learn in school. It’s concerning that the solution is often home schooling, which takes away any exposure a child might have to different points of view.)

    On TV, this clash was portrayed in a funny conversation — which I paraphrase here — between Dexter and the Mother Superior running the religious school where he wanted to enroll his little boy:

    “You are a Catholic, right?”

    “No, I’m not.”

    “Protestant?”

    “Nope.”

    “Jewish?”

    “No.”

    “Muslim, then?”

    “Sorry, I don’t believe in … anything.”

    To the faithful, not believing simply doesn’t make sense. They are much more forgiving of someone of a different faith than of someone with no faith at all. Atheists are at the bottom of the social chain.

    I am not sure where the writers of Dexter will go as the season progresses. Obviously, they are taking a stance by choosing the killers to be religious fanatics. On the other hand, Dexter is also a killer. And he is godless. One kills for God, the other in the name of his own subjective sense of justice. Both are wrong. I’m hoping that, at least on TV, a compromise of sorts will be achieved.

    It will be very disappointing if Dexter ends up a believer.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2011/10/28/141757714/dexters-killer-commentary-on-science-and-religion

  11. Mike G!
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Elf! Awesome pic and fun site. My boss won’t be happy that you’ve shared this site with me because I’ll be spending a lot of time on it.

  12. anonymous
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    I searched “spiderman fetish” in hopes of finding something to top Elf, and I was successful. Now, though, I can’t bring myself to add the link. After seeing your sweet parents, I just couldn’t do it. If you’re interested, though, Mike, just search “Spiderman has an anal mission.”

  13. Mike G!
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Oh. My. God. I had to look. I couldn’t help myself.

  14. Arturo
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I too watched the video. And it made me have to take a penis dump.

    PENISDUMP:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/numbers-and-letters-australian-game-show-awkward-video_n_1661642.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009

    And when I say video, I don’t mean the Spiderman one. I mean the one of Mike’s family. Sorry.

  15. Mike G!
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Well, dad HAD been working out so I can understand.

  16. bad fan
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    Is there a statute of limitations on your Ypsi exit interviews? If not, I’d like for you to talk with this guy about leaving Ypsi to write for Touched by an Angel.

One Trackback

  1. By Shadow Art Fair 2012 (part two) on July 22, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    […] down and talk with, among other people, Clementine’s beloved second grade teacher, my friend Mike G, and a reader of this site who happens to be running for Washtenaw County Circuity Judge. I […]

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