×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Mindhunter’ Cast on the FBI’s Obsession, Getting Personal and the Moments That Most Got Under Their Skin

Back in the 1970s, the focus of solving crimes was still very prominently on the “who” and the “what.”

It was men like John E. Douglas and Robert Ressler, the first FBI criminal profilers on whom the lead characters of Netflix’s “Mindhunter” are loosely based, who paved the way for the “why” — a new way of investigating some of the most heinous crimes.

“This is one of those situations where you kind of have the best of both worlds. You can base the guy on someone who is real, but you can decide what best fits our story – the story we’re trying to tell,” Holt McCallany, whose character Bill Tench is drawn from Ressler’s work, tells Variety.

For example, Ressler did not support the death penalty, something McCallany says he was surprised to learn when he read Ressler’s books. (“Ressler thought that John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy should be put in a separate facility where they could be studied and interviewed and their psychology further explored,” he notes.) But in order to draw more conflict between the veteran Bill and Jonathan Groff’s fresh-faced Holden Ford, Bill became the kind of “old school” cop who saw things in a bit more black-and-white terms – especially in the beginning.

Groff says that the conceit of “Mindhunter” was always going to “keep all of the personal lives of the FBI agents fictional and then have all of the extremely insane details of the killers be 100% factual.” This means that while much of the dialogue in scenes featuring Holden interviewing serial killers like Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton) were taken directly from real transcripts of those prison meetings, the time spent at home with the FBI agents were designed to offer a more fully-fleshed out view of each person’s life.

McCallany shares that he thought it was important for the show to go home with the characters. “I don’t think those guys can do those jobs without taking their work home with them. They become obsessed with trying to find those killers, and they’re thinking about it all of the time,” McCallany says. “It does become an obsession. They pay a price for that, and so do the people closest to them.”

In the course of its first 10 episodes, “Mindhunter” reveals Holden’s struggles with a new relationship, Bill’s inability to connect with his autistic son (though they don’t use that word, given the 1970s setting), and Wendy’s (Anna Torv) secret relationship with another woman. “Wendy’s got a very specific function, and it was nice to be able to pop out of that for a little while and see the person in there,” Torv says of her character, who was inspired by Dr. Ann Burgess, a forensic nurse and crime victim expert.

Part of the excitement of the project for Groff was that with the exception of the first scene, “there’s no visual violence or flashy murder,” he says. “David [Fincher] really trusts his audience – that they’re intelligent and patient and interested enough to stick with a show that will tell you the ‘why.'”

Even without seeing the crimes, there is a lot about “Mindhunter” that stayed with the cast long after they stopped shooting. “Those Kemper scenes were just so bloody brilliant,” says Torv. “I’ve never seen anything like that on television.”

For Groff, too, it was a Kemper moment that had him the most unnerved. “The gasping moment at the end is someone standing up in a bed,” he says of when Holden finally visits Ed in the hospital, and Ed gets in his personal space. “It’s so interesting to me and such a testament to how [Fincher] was able to build something over the course of 10 hours that you’re asking the audience to go on this very cerebral journey with you. The moment of action at the end is so chilling.”

“Mindhunter” is streaming now on Netflix.

More TV

  • The First -- "The Choice" -

    'The First' Canceled at Hulu After One Season

    Hulu has grounded the space exploration drama “The First” after one season, Variety has confirmed. The series hailed from Beau Willimon and starred Sean Penn and Natascha McElhone in Penn’s first regular television role. “The First” was set in the near future and followed the first human mission to Mars. Hulu gave the show a straight-to-series order in [...]

  • Nicole Maines Supergirl Trans Hollywood Portrait

    TV Roundup: 'Supergirl' Drops First Look at Nicole Maines as TV's First Trans Superhero

    In today’s TV News Roundup, The CW releases a first look at Nicole Maines on “Supergirl” and Variety unveils an exclusive look at Gabriel Iglesias’ new comedy special.  FIRST LOOKS truTV has released the first trailer for season 2 of Emmy-nominated series “At Home with Amy Sedaris.” The variety sketch comedy returns Tuesday, Feb. 19 at [...]

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. The deal suggests that Apple sees docu [...]

  • Fyre Festival Documentaries: The 10 Most

    Fyre Festival Documentaries: The 10 Most Outrageous Moments

    It is perhaps only fitting that two documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival, one of the most high-profile fraudulent failures in history, would arrive during the same week — a fitting cap on a tragicomedy of errors that, as both films outline in excruciating detail, unfolded like a slow-motion plane crash in the spring of [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Unveils Financial Data for DTC Unit, Sets April 11 for Investor Presentation

    Disney has rejiggered its business segments for earnings reporting to make room for the new unit housing its global streaming operations. Disney on Friday released restated earnings for fiscal 2018, 2017 and 2016 to give investors and financial analysts better visibility into its spending on the launch of the Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and other [...]

  • annapurna logo

    Annapurna TV Taps Amazon's Patrick Chu as Senior VP, Promotes Ali Krug

    Annapurna TV has brought on Patrick Chu as the division’s new senior VP. Prior to that, he had served as an executive for Amazon in drama, production, and development, where he oversaw small-screen adaptations of “Hanna” and “The Hunt.” He will develop and produce new TV projects, focusing on drama, at his new role at [...]

  • Emmys: Why The TV Academy Finally

    Why the TV Academy Finally Ended Emmys DVD Madness, and Who Might Benefit the Most

    Three years ago, Netflix overwhelmed Television Academy members by sending out a 20-pound shipment of DVD screeners. It was an exercise in excess, as insiders suggested that the streamer spent as much as $4 million to produce and ship the multiple boxes. Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos hated the idea of sending out these [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content