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Actress Charlotte Rampling arrives at the premiere screening of Showtime's "Dexter" Season 8 at Milk Studios on June 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Charlotte Rampling as Dr. Vogel.

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Charlotte Rampling on Dexter’s Dr. Vogel, Staring Down Michael C. Hall, and Getting Called Hot

Who is Dr. Vogel? We know she's an expert in psychopaths helping Miami Metro track down a serial killer called the Brain Surgeon (he — or she? — scoops out the part of the brain that processes empathy). We also know that she helped Harry create Dexter's code. But who is she, really? Another Dexter groupie? A psychopath herself? Or just a well-meaning doctor played by Charlotte Rampling — an actress who never plays a well-meaning anything — to throw us off the scent of a bigger series-finale twist? These are the questions we'll be asking ourselves all season. In the meantime, we spoke to Rampling, who only started watching Dexter when she was offered the part, about staring down Michael C. Hall and happily accepting compliments for her wicked good looks.

In the morgue scene, Dr. Vogel and Dexter basically have a staring contest. I imagine the producers pursuing you for this part thinking, There’s only one woman who can stare down Michael C. Hall.
Out-stare Michael [laughs]. And that’s what was fun, actually, with this part: It’s this wonderful kind of sparring match, of probing another person. And Vogel’s story is so wonderfully complex and beautiful, and you only really find out toward the end what it really is all about. It gives great fascination.

At this point, we know she helped Harry create the Code. But there’s a feeling that she may be a serial killer or psychopath herself. Something’s up.
Yeah, I mean, everyone’s convinced from my end — people that I know that know I’m doing it — that I’m going to be a killer and I’m going to be a baddie. But that’s the whole excitement of the show. I vehicle darkness well, so the casting is obviously not a surprise. It’s obviously in me and I bring it out.

Right, but your very casting could be a red herring. Because why would they cast someone who’s known for playing bad people if she were going to actually turn out bad? It becomes a mind game.
Well, that’s good. That’s what it’s all about. You’re never quite sure with characters I play, where the hell they’re going to go. Unfortunately, there is not much I can say. I know the arc of Vogel’s character from the beginning to the end, although I didn’t know what my end was going to be [when I took the part]. But I knew the main arc.

I love that even though you’re playing a totally buttoned-up, suit-wearing neuro-psychiatrist, your good looks still come up in the very first episode. Deputy Matthews says, “Quite a looker, that one.” Does that ever get old or offensive?
No, on the contrary — especially as you get older, if somebody says that, you’re very pleased. We must be very careful when we say that somebody giving you compliments about your looks should be offensive. I think women really should look at why they’re being offended by that.

Because women tend to get overlooked for the other things that are of value about them.
I think when you’re a younger woman, it’s more complex. Because you know that as a beautiful woman you are a sex object as well as maybe being interesting. You are beautiful and you’re being lusted after, always. I think that’s where it becomes the offensive thing. But would you rather be ugly and not looked at?

That’s a good point. There’s a part in your documentary, The Look, where you talk about how silly it is that you’ve been called brave for doing photo shoots without makeup. It reminds me of people calling Lena Dunham brave for being naked on her show, which is also silly. Have you watched Girls?
No, I haven’t. I’ve read a lot about it, and I was very interested, actually, to watch it. What cable is it on?

HBO.
Well, why haven’t I — because I’ve watched HBO, it’s never come on. Maybe it’s not on now, while I’ve been here?

It should be on demand at least.
Should it? Well, I’d like to see that. I’ll see if I can get it before I go [back to Europe].

I’m surprised you’re staying at the Chateau Marmont, since you dislike L.A. Isn’t it too trendy for you?
Oh, no, no, on the contrary. I want it to be trendy. You can be in a trendy place and not actually participate. You can just wander around the trendiness. You don’t have to necessarily join in, but you can watch it. Or you know the party is going on downstairs and that’s rather nice, but you’re just sitting upstairs in your lounge.

You’ve said before that you can be seen as “not very communicative, mysterious, distant.” That can also describe Dexter, and even Michael C. Hall himself — or what he projects. Have you managed to crack him?
One mysterious person looking at another mysterious person equals what? Another mystery. [Laughs.] He was a major appeal to me about the show. When they asked me to do it, I didn’t know the show, so I spent an entire Sunday looking at a lot of the tapes to get into it, and I found him absolutely fascinating. I liked very much the brother-sister relationship that was going on and the rest of the cast was excellent and the writing — but it was him, he absolutely fascinated me.

It seems like you’re going to be a sort of mother figure to his character. And you’ve played a mean mom in Melancholia. Are you only willing to take mom roles if they're bad moms?
You’re an actor and you say, Oh, well, I can play everything. Yes and no. I don’t want to play everything. So I’ll seek out roles that I’ll say, “This is edgy. This is fun. This is wicked. This suits me.” Mother is more about my real life; I’ve been a mother. And the mother roles are usually undervalued.  I’ve played the wicked mothers; I’ve played the serial-killer-type mothers now. They have to have an edge on them. They can’t just be everyday moms, because I never thought of myself as an everyday person in cinema — I’m an everyday person in real life, like anyone. But not in what I project out there. I want something more exciting.

Photo: Kevin Winter/2013 Getty Images