David Zayas talks about the series, Michael C. Hall and some of the controversy about the show

Dexter has quickly risen to one of the most successful shows on television, despite some controversy surrounding it and despite the fact that it's on a subscriber network, Showtime. Actor David Zayas has been there from the beginning, portraying Detective Angel Batista on the wildly popular series. Dexter: The Complete Second Season will hit the DVD shelves on August 19 and the third season of Dexter is set to premiere on Showtime on September 28 and I had a chance to speak with Zayas over the phone about his role in the series. Here's what he had to say.

You've been on Dexter from the beginning. What was your first reaction when you first read that pilot? Did you want to join up on this right away?

David Zayas: Yeah. It was very well-written. Jim Manos wrote the pilot and he did an excellent job of using the characters from the book that Jeff Lindsay wrote. I read it and it was such an interesting concept, I wasn't sure how the public would perceive it. I felt that it was a great piece of work that I'd love to be on.

So were you familiar with the book before reading the script?

David Zayas: No, I read it after I got the job.

It's not a widely well-known book. How do the series and the book compare to another?

David Zayas: My character, Batista, is hardly prominent in the book. He's hardly in the book at all.

Michael C. Hall has really came out of nowhere, with Six Feet Under and then this, with only a few credits before that. How do you like working with him and how big do you think he's going to be in the years to come?

David Zayas: I think he's going to be very big. He's one of the finest actors I've ever worked with. He's very focused, he knows exactly how to track the course of his performance. He's very knowledgable of what needs to be done at certain times. Not only that, but he's got such a great attitude, so the sky's the limit with Michael.

You film this season in a half-season format, I believe it's 12 episodes a season. It seems to be really catching on with the cable networks especially. Is this a more ideal way to shoot under instead of going for 24 or 22 episodes a season?

David Zayas: I think the positive thing about doing 12 episodes is that we can really get to the core of our storylines, from beginning to end, without people saying, 'Oh god, it's dragging on.' In 12 episodes, you actually get two or three good storylines and explain them and come to a conclusion in 12 episodes. We have such good writers, maybe they'd be able to do that in 24 episodes, but I think 12 is a good way to get these storylines done.

I thought it was pretty interesting when CBS picked up the show in an edited version last year, during the strike. There was a lot of controversy over that, with people protesting. What was you and the cast's take on that? Was it something that you guys discussed, as a cast?

David Zayas: No. We didn't even think about it (Laughs). We weren't shooting at the time when they made that decision and so we just heard about it, saw it on CBS. I think it was a good thing. What people think, that's none of my business. I just do my job and do my performance and people have the choice to watch the show or not to watch the show. We haven't been discussing it as a cast.

This is a lot edgier than you see anywhere else.

David Zayas: Yeah, it's an edgy show but a lot of shows are edgy, a lot of good shows are edgy. You think of a lot of shows like The Sopranos, Oz, which I loved. They're all edgy shows and they're all very interesting. They're willing to take risks and I think that's a great thing.

Oh, I love a lot of these shows on cable, but it seems like the Big Four networks are really missing out and almost stuck in the past. Do you think they might be able to catch up to the trend that these cable stations are starting?

David Zayas: I don't know, because they still have successful shows on those networks, you know. They have the guidelines and what they have but with these new cable shows and new channels coming in like F/X with Damages and The Shield, these great shows. Then we have the pay cable, HBO, Showtime. Showtime is becoming one of the top networks when it comes to programming. But yeah, I don't know if they're going to catch up. I'm not really quite sure but what I do know, as a viewer, I'm going to watch those shows that challenge me and you know it's going to be gritty and it will elicit some kind of reaction, whether it's positive or negative, a reaction is what I want to feel whether it's movies or theater or television.

You were formerly a New York City cop before you came into acting and a lot of your roles have been police-oriented. Are there any other genres you'd like to get into like horror or comedy or anything like that?

David Zayas: You know, it's funny. I'd like to get into everything. I'd love to get into comedy, I'd love to get into horror. I'm so curious about every aspect of what I do for a living, television, film, theater. I'm so curious and so excited to explore other avenues. If it's interesting to me, I'll do it.

I read that you have Jimmy Smits on board for Season 3. How has he been to work?

David Zayas: He's great. I've worked with him on Broadway before and he brings a lot of class to the show because he's such a good actor and he's a great asset to the show.

What character is he playing?

David Zayas: He's Miguel Prado, who's the assistant district attorney in Miami and he gets involved in some shennanigans with Dexter, so we'll see what happens with that.

So is there anything you can tell us about the third season of Dexter, in general?

David Zayas: There's going to be some interesting twists in the discovery that Dexter is going to create a lot of changes in how he looks at things. As for my character, I get a lot more responsibility in police work and there's going to be some new relationships coming... I don't want to give it away too much.

Is there anything you can tell us about Flying By or Burning Mussolini?

David Zayas:Burning Mussolini is a movie I did in Montreal. It's a crime drama that Conrad Pla directed. I had a great time doing it. I don't know when it's being released in Canada or the States. Flying By is good, I had a lot of fun shooting it. It's Billy Ray Cyrus and it's about this country rock band that gets together after a high school reunion and he's trying to get the band back going. It's more of a family movie and it was a lot of fun to do because it was something in would normally never get cast in. I play the bass player in the band. It was a fun thing to do.

Finally, Dexter: The Complete Second Season is out on DVD today and, since there has been some controversy over the show, is there anything you'd like to say to people that maybe haven't caught the show, to have them try to give it a shot?

David Zayas: Well, I think that, in anything you watch, whether it's movies, television, theater, you should go in with an open mind and go in and try to explore this story - because that's what we're doing, we're telling a story. If it's something you don't want to watch, you don't have to watch it. I think that Dexter has the recipe of a really good show. It has good acting, good directing, good writing. Subject matter, I don't judge things like that. As a viewer, I've gone in and seen movies about different subject matters. I don't believe we're glorifying anything, I just think we're telling a story, and it happens to be a story of this person who is a serial killer. I don't find anything controversial about it. The war in Iraq is controversial and that's real life and they should be more worried about that. It's just one of those things where I don't have much to say about it.

That's about all I have for you, David. Thanks so much for your time today.

David Zayas: My pleasure. Thank you so much for calling me.

You can find Dexter: The Complete Second Season on DVD shelves starting today, August 19 and watch for the third season of Dexter on Showtime starting on September 28.