Warning: If you're still catching up with "Dexter," discussion of the "Dexter: The Seventh Season" Blu-ray release means spoilers ahead.
Those who've already watched the seventh season of "Dexter," arguably one of the series' best, will likely agree that one of the many high points was the performance by guest villain Ray Stevenson. His Isaak Sirko was as violent as, well, pretty much every other bad guy or woman in the show's run, but Sirko also revealed an emotional twist that resonated with serial killer Dexter Morgan.
So what made Stevenson — the tough guy actor best known for his performances in the HBO series "Rome," and movies like "Thor" and "Punisher: War Zone" — sign on to play the gay mobster whose professional and personal life led him to clash with Dexter?
"I had worked with ('Dexter' producer and writer) Scott Buck on 'Rome.' He called me up at home — I live in Europe — and he starts to break it down, saying, 'All right, there's this character…' I knew the importance and the value, the prestige of 'Dexter,' nine episodes, lead-bad-guy sort of thing, that it wasn't 'villain of the week,' and also the quality of the people involved," Stevenson tells Yahoo! TV.
"[Buck] started saying, 'There's this guy. He's head of the Ukrainian mobsters, and a business associate, one of his best friends, gets killed in America. We later find out by Dexter.' I'm going, 'Uh huh, mm hmm.' Then he goes, 'Rather than send a team of hit men, he's worse than any of the hit men he could send, so he goes himself.' I'm going, 'Yeah, OK.' Then he hits me with the bombshell, that [Sirko] had to keep this secret all his life, especially from the people he worked with, that this was actually his family, the love of his life. I sat there on the phone, and I said, 'I'm in. I want to do it.'"
Stevenson, who reprises his role as Volstagg in the upcoming "Thor" sequel "Thor: The Dark World" and is currently filming "Divergent," the film adaptation of the first book in Veronica Roth's dystopian young adult novel series, says he appreciated the writing of a role that avoided clichés.
"There's always been a propensity [in TV shows and movies], especially involving figures from the underworld when they're homosexuals, that they always have to have some sort of deviant quality. ... [Sirko] was a cold, stone mobster, a killer, but it doesn't mean that he's sexually deviant. He's homosexual, and he's had to keep it a secret, but he's basically a man whose heart has been ripped out of his body. He's lost the love of his life. Of course, he comes [to Miami] himself. It's more important than anything else — than money, status, power — indeed, it costs him his life, but it's worth it."
And, given Dexter Morgan's (Michael C. Hall) own need to keep his life secret and his own difficulties with connecting emotionally to anyone until he met fellow serial killer Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) in Season 7, Stevenson says he thinks Sirko and Dexter bonded in a way that means they could have been friends under different circumstances.
"Completely. I think this is the real genius of the story," says Stevenson. "I was very proud of the fact that I didn't end up on [Dexter's] table, because it actually led to a point where you had a guy who was … a murderer, a cold-blooded, emotionally detached human being, but who still had the capability of such a love in his life.
"This is probably the first time that Dexter ever felt the real potentiality to have this, too. Then [Dexter] asked, 'But was it worth it?' and Isaak says, 'Oh, God, yes.' It was just beautifully crafted."
Watch the trailer for the final season of "Dexter":
"Dexter: The Seventh Season" on Blu-ray (Showtime Networks, CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution) is available now. The new season of "Dexter" begins June 30.