The actor who played a fan-favorite character on Dexter was actually a cop in real life. Dexter ran for eight seasons on Showtime from 2006 to 2013 with an ensemble cast led by Michael C. Hall. Dexter returned with its first sequel series Dexter: New Blood in 2021. While it has been announced that Dexter: New Blood will not be returning for a second season, another Dexter spinoff, a prequel series titled Dexter: Origins, is currently in development. Origins will chronicle Dexter Morgan’s early days as a forensic specialist at Miami Metro PD, but it’s unknown if any of Dexter’s original cast will appear in it.
A particularly important absentee could be the only member of Dexter cast with actual law enforcement experience. Beyond Dexter, the actor in question often plays various types of police officers in his roles because he actually has almost 15 years of on-duty experience as a cop in New York City. Based on his authoritative, no-nonsense presence on Dexter, combined with his passion for discovering the truth, it’s not hard to imagine the actor as a police officer in real-life. Ironically, some of his biggest roles have also been for characters on the other side of the law.
David Zayas Was Actually A Cop
David Zayas (Angel Batista) was an actual police officer while he got his start in professional acting. Zayas decided to join the Air Force when he was only 19 years old. That decision instilled a commitment to service that led Zayas to later became a New York City police officer. Zayas attended acting school while he was still a police officer, holding onto the dream that he could one day act in film and television. Although Zayas was committed to his responsibilities as a cop, he knew once he began his lessons that acting was his true calling (via NPR). The actor first got his start in professional acting on a police drama called The Beat that aired in 2000.
Zayas eventually got more prominent roles on the HBO prison drama series Oz before landing a part on Dexter in 2006. Other than his role as Angel Batista on Dexter, Zayas has played some type of law enforcement in dozens of other film and television productions. According to Showtime, Zayas got his big break in acting when he met Philip Seymour Hoffman at the Labyrinth Theater Company in New York City. He was then able to land supporting roles as cops in NYPD Blue, Law & Order, and New York Undercover soon after. He worked as both an actor and a police officer in NYC until his career took off with the role of Enrique Morales in Oz, a character who ironically is the leader of a prison gang.
David Zayas’ Real Life Made Angel Batista Better
Not many actors who play police officers have over a decade of experience in law enforcement. David Zayas is a rare exception whose real-life expertise and first-hand knowledge as a cop made his performance as Angel Batista in Dexter more authentic and believable. Zayas was able to accurately analyze the fictional crime scenes as Angel and set the tone inside the Miami Metro Police Department. Since starring in all eight seasons of Dexter, Zayas appeared on the Fox series Gotham, the Netflix series Bloodline, and the CBS crime dramas FBI and Blue Bloods. Zayas returned to his role as Angel Batista in two episodes of the first Dexter spinoff series Dexter: New Blood, highlighting just how successful his portrayal was.
Sources: NPR, Showtime