We are living in the golden age of television – the limited series in particular – and The Alienist, a psychological thriller debuting tonight on TNT, is poised to become the next jewel in the crown.
Based on the award-winning novel by Caleb Carr, The Alienist follows Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) – a brilliant and obsessive “Alienist” who holds the key to hunting down a never-before-seen ritualistic killer murdering young boys. (For those not in the know, an Alienist is basically a psychiatrist – a new and controversial field of study in New York City’s “Gilded Age,” when the series is set.) Luke Evans and Dakota Fanning also star in this gripping, turn-of-the-century murder mystery.
Fangirlish attended The Alienist‘s Los Angeles premiere and had the chance to chat with Evans, Fanning, and several other stars about their character’s relationships to the central murder mystery and what makes this series a must-see.
Dr. Kreizler is determined to solve a string of serial killings in The Alienist, but he won’t be able to do it alone. His main partners in crime (or anti-crime, as it were) are newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) and police secretary Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning).
Evans described Moore as a man who has more than his share of troubles. “He is an illustrator for the New York Times. He is a highly functioning alcoholic. He’s been jilted by his lover – his fiancée – for another guy, and he’s struggling very hard to deal with it,” he said.
Despite these issues, Moore will quickly find himself an important part of Kreizler’s investigation. “[John’s] best friend is a psychology doctor who thinks very differently to him, but they have a loyalty to each other. He’s drawn into this murder investigation – very unwillingly – and feels as a friend he has to stay part of it,” Evans explained. “He finds a purpose and a reason to be there, and it sort of works out for him – bur it’s a very long and arduous route that he has to take to get to the finale.”
Dakota Fanning’s Sara Howard is a secretary who aspires to be something more – particularly when she finds herself able to provide integral information to Kreizler. Executive Producer Rosalie Swedlin explained, “Sara Howard was brought up by a father who wants her to be successful in a man’s world, so even her upbringing was well ahead of its time. […] Her main aspiration is to become the first female detective in the New York police department.” That’s one development we would love to see play out on-screen (#girlpower).
Dakota alluded to the struggles her character faces, speaking of how the period piece elements are even more interesting with their relevance to the present day. “I think there’s also so many themes and so many issues that are addressed during this time period in New York City that are so relatable to today, for better or for worse,” she said. “I think it’s always interesting to watch film and television that’s set in the past – you kind of see the things that you’ve taken for granted and learn from things, or see how things haven’t changed as much as you thought they might have.”
“I think it’s always interesting to watch film and television that’s set in the past – you kind of see the things that you’ve taken for granted and learn from things, or see how things haven’t changed as much as you thought they might have.” – Dakota Fanning
Laszlo, John, and Sara will find friends and foes throughout the city as they try to track down a killer. There’s Stevie Taggert (played by Matt Lintz) – Kreizler’s ward, whose street smarts might just come in handy. “Before he got taken in by Laszlo, [Stevie] was very troubled and he actually got in trouble with the law. This is where Kreizler came in, and Stevie became his ward. Although he was reformed, he still had that street knowledge and street cred that might flash out in various scenes that you’ll see,” Lintz said. “He can really play in with the people in the street to help figure out the questions that need to be answered.”
Then there are the Isaacson brothers, Jewish immigrants who will prove integral to the team. “Lucius [Isaacson] is a detective in the New York City police department. He along with his brother Marcus develop forensic tools that are pioneering the field of crime scene investigation,” said Matthew Shear. “They’re Jewish, so they’re sort of treated with contempt in the police department, but Commissioner Roosevelt introduces them to Dr. Kreizler and they become part of this team that drives the story.”
Kreizler will also receive support from Cyrus Montrose (Robert Wisdom), part of his domestic staff and an extended member of the investigative team. “Cyrus has a very deeply supportive role – like a big brother and old, old friend,” Wisdom said. “I see and hear things that are important for the survival of Daniel Brühl’s character, so it’s a really special role.”
Though The Alienist is set in New York, filming took place a world away in Budapest. Many of the cast spoke of the wonderful time they had filming there – not to mention the incredible set the production put together.
“I’ve never seen a set like this,” Lintz said. “It was like five or six blocks of New York City in detail. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Luke Evans was also blown away by the city and the production. “I’d already shot a movie in Budapest – loved it, and really enjoyed the city, so I was happy to go back,” he said. “It was a perfect backdrop. […] We had this incredible backlot which was the lower east side of New York City. I’d never seen anything like it, and I’ve worked on some of the biggest movies of the last ten years. Some of them had sets that were breathtaking and this was no exception. And this was television – so it says a lot about television, doesn’t it?”
Watch the full interviews below:
The Alienist premieres tonight, January 22, at 9:00pm ET/PT on TNT.
Featured Image via Entertainment Weekly